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Germany condemns far-right 4 years on from Hanau shootings

February 19, 2024

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and other top politicians lamented far-right political support on the fourth anniversary of the mass shooting in Hanau. The perpetrator killed nine people, then his mother and then himself.

A crowd gathered at a cemetery in Hanau to commemorate the shooting in the city on February 20, 2020, four years to the day after it. German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser is visible in the front row, second from right in the picture.
The shooter killed nine people in an attack motivated by racism, before turning the gun on his mother and then himselfImage: Hasan Bratic/picture alliance

Leading German politicians on Monday commemorated the fourth anniversary of the mass shooting in Hanau online and in person, with Interior Minister Nancy Faeser attending a memorial at a cemetery in the western city. 

Faeser laid a wreath and tried to console relatives of the nine victims killed by a shooter motivated by racism who subsequently killed his own mother and then himself. 

"We stand at your side," Faeser said at the ceremony, also alluding to the recent reports of far-right figures discussing desires to deport people from Germany and the widespread protests triggered in part by the news.

"Nobody in Germany should have to feel as if they need to consider leaving this country," Faeser said. "We as the state are the guarantor for all people being protected, no matter where they come from." 

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser hugging a woman wearing a headscarf at the ceremony in Hanau, February 19, 2024.
Faeser spoke at the ceremony and also sought to console members of the publicImage: Boris Roessler/dpa/picture alliance

Hanau Mayor Claus Kaminsky and other officials also attended the memorial in the state of Hesse. Kaminsky alluded to a website set up by city authorities, whose URL translates roughly to "Hanau stands united," saying it aimed to "keep the memory of this event alive and also help point us towards the future."  

Scholz pledges resistance as 'right-wing extremists are attacking our democracy' 

Most leading German politicians, including Chancellor Olaf Scholz, marked the occasion online. 

"Four years ago a right-wing extremist brutally killed nine people in Hanau," Scholz wrote. "His impetus was hatred, his motive racism."

"Right-wing extremists are attacking our democracy. They want to alienate citizens, even drive them out. We will never allow this!," Scholz said. 

This is a reference to the recent reports of far-right figures gathering at a hotel near Berlin to discuss, among other things, their desires to expel some people from Germany based on where they originally came from. 

Public outrage following the reports, which came amid strong performances from the far-right AfD (Alternative für Deutschland) in opinion polls, have prompted regular widespread protests.

Defiance in Germany: Can mass protests stop the far right?

The AfD dipped markedly in the latest round of polling last week, to roughly 19 or 20% from around 23 or 24%, but these figures would still put the party second overall were an election to be held now and if the numbers held.  

Faeser also alluded to this in Hanau on Monday, saying that the warnings from the shooting were all the more current at present. 

"That's because the precursors for extremist right-wing violence, which are even emanating their inhuman hate from our own parliament, have become louder and stronger in the last four years," she said.

Buschmann and Baerbock call for lessons to be learned

Justice Minister Marco Buschmann said "we must learn from this failure," describing racism as "a poison that can never be allowed to spread in our society."

And Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock posted images of the nine victims along with the "#saytheirnames" message designed to try to ensure they are remembered. 

"Remembrance means investigating, changing, and taking appropriate steps. Remembrance is simultaneously an assignment for us, to daily solidarity against hate," Baerbock said. 

The 2020 shooting caused shock and outrage in Germany, both because serious gun crime remains relatively rare and given the country's 20th century fascist legacy under Adolf Hitler.

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser places a large wreath of flowers, with a banner in the colors of the German flag attached, at the memorial ceremony in Hanau. February 19, 2024.
Interior Minister Faeser laid a wreath at the memorialImage: Boris Roessler/dpa/picture alliance

Eight of the victims had a "migration background," meaning they or at least one parent did not have German nationality at birth; and one victim was a Romani German citizen. 

The shooter was a gun enthusiast, who acquaintances later said made no effort to hide his political inclinations. His father was also jailed last year, having refused to pay legal fines after being judged to have harassed the victims' relatives.

msh/wmr (AFP, dpa)

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