Germany′s Far-Right Rolls Up Its Sleeves | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 17.10.2006
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Germany

Germany's Far-Right Rolls Up Its Sleeves

The Federal Police Office (BKA) has revealed that the far-right threat is a very real one, with the number of violent offenses committed by neo-Nazis climbing steeply.

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A real and present danger

Neo-Nazi brutality is rarely out of Germany's newspapers. In January, a 12-year-old boy with an Ethiopian father was beaten and humiliated by a gang of four far-right youths in a small town in eastern Germany. In April, a German man of East-African origin was left fighting for his life after being attacked in Potsdam. In the run-up to the World Cup, a former government spokesman felt compelled to warn visitors to avoid certain areas or "they might not make it out alive."

Is the country witnessing a revival of xenophobic violence and racism, or are these incidents blown out of proportion by a media all too aware that headlines about Nazis sell newspapers?

While many dismiss the regular reports of xenophobic violence as scare-mongering, statistics revealed by the German interior ministry this week prove that the far-right's gloves are indeed off.

Statistics that speak for themselves

Fremdenfeindlicher Mordversuch in Potsdam Opfer Ermyas M

Ermyas M. was beaten up in Potsdam

Between January and August, some 8,000 offenses perpetrated by right-wing radicals were reported to the BKA -- 20 percent more than the previous year and 50 percent more than in 2004.

While the number of incidents is increasing, the degree of violence is also swelling. In 2006, 325 people had been injured by far-right violence by August, compared to 302 in 2005.

The issue has been catapulted back into public consciousness after the success of the extremist National Democratic Party (NPD) in regional elections in September.

Appearing one day after round table discussions focused on the NPD's encroaching influence were held in Berlin, the figures published by the daily newspaper Tagesspiegel unleashed a wave of calls for the government to clamp down on the country's far-right movement.

The specter of the Third Reich

Charlotte Knobloch Zentralrat der Juden

Charlotte Knobloch compared the situation today to Hitler's Germany

"Anyone who still talks in terms of unfortunate one-off incidents is failing to grasp a danger facing the whole of society," said Charlotte Knobloch, president of the Central Council of Jews. "The aggression has become reminiscent of 1933."

She also accused both politicians and society of deliberately neglecting the spiraling anti-Semitism and right-wing radicalism of recent years despite warnings, saying that these attributes were "firmly anchored in certain sections of the population."

Meanwhile, Sebastian Edathy of the junior coalition partner SPD suggested what he called a "Democracy Summit," which would bring together representatives from political parties, religious communities, unions and grass-roots associations to flesh out a strategy to tackle right-wing extremism.

Petra Pau, head of the Left Party's parliamentary group, proposed the government introduce "an independent watchdog to monitor right-wing extremism."

Wolfgang Bosbach from the CDU rejected the idea of a summit, saying he believed that solution was a combination of stringent sentencing and political education.

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