Was the brutal attack on AfD lawmaker Frank Magnitz a politically motivated assault, or even an attempt on his life? Some of his fellow party members believe so and blame their political foes for stoking hatred.
Monday's attack on Bremen's Alternative for Germany (AfD) leader Frank Magnitz is not the first time the far-right populist party has been targeted in the northern German city. In the past, windows have been smashed and a car vandalized. Yet the brutal beating of Magnitz does mark a new level of violence in Bremen.
The 66-year-old Magnitz, who remains hospitalized, was reportedly set upon by masked assailants, who struck the parliamentarian in the head with an object. When Magnitz went to the ground, the attackers apparently continued beating him. Passersby ultimately came to his aid.
Bremen's police and state security authorities suspect the attack was politically motivated and have established a special commission to find the culprits.
'Hatred against the AfD'
Leading politicians from all parties in Germany's parliament, the Bundestag, condemned the attack on Magnitz. Representatives from the AfD and lawmakers from the other side of the political spectrum, too, expressed their sympathy for Magnitz, wishing him a speedy recovery. The co-leader of Germany's Left party, Dietmar Bartsch, said on Twitter: "There is no justification for such a crime." Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesperson, Steffen Seibert, said he hoped the culprits would be caught soon.
Magnitz himself has called the attack an attempt on his life. The AfD has shared a picture of him clearly showing a large gash on his head and significant bruising. Alice Weidel, who leads the AfD's parliamentary group together with Alexander Gauland, said in a video shared on Facebook that she was "absolutely shocked by this despicable act" and that "the hatred against the AfD and the media coverage against this democratically elected party is bearing fruit."
Blaming political adversaries
Speaking to DW, AfD co-leader Gauland struck a more moderate tone. "This is an escalation in the ostracism that we experience everywhere," he said. "It's an escalation of the type of undemocratic behavior we are seeing even in the Bundestag." Gauland added that by dismissing his party as undemocratic, "you are essentially inviting thugs to get violent. And that's what happened."
Some AfD members and supporters have singled out politicians from other parties, such as deputy leader of the center-left Social Democrats Ralf Stegner, who has vehemently criticized the AfD in the past, saying that by stoking hatred of far-right populists those lawmakers are partly to blame for the attack on Magnitz.
'Disgrace for Germany'
"I have nothing to do whatsoever with violence. I do not condone it, and I do not justify it. I condemn violence, regardless who is targeted," Stegner told DW. By the same token, he said he believes that opposing enemies of democracy with all peaceful and political means possible is paramount. "I do that too," he said. "And I will not be intimidated." Stegner in turn accused the AfD of polarizing German society and stoking hatred. "The party known as the Alternative for Germany is the one specialized in coarse rhetoric, and in reality they are a disgrace for Germany."
Magnitz said he believes doctors will want to keep him hospitalized until next weekend. As he lost consciousnesses during the assault, he says he has little memory of the incident.