Extremist violence ‘exploded’ in record year for refugees

It is now official: 2015 smashed all records for political violence, as the far right attacked refugee homes and the far left responded by attacking them in turn, Interior Ministry figures show.

Extremist violence 'exploded' in record year for refugees
Left-wing violence at the Blockupy protest in Frankfurt in March 2015. Photo: DPA.

The crime statistics released by the Interior Ministry on Monday revealed that 39,000 politically motivated crimes were committed in 2015, a surge of almost 19 percent on the previous year.

A majority (23,000) of these crimes had a far-right motive behind them. That figure in itself is an astonishing 34.9 percent higher than in 2014.

Meanwhile 9,600 of the crimes were attributed to the far-left scene, a rise of more than 18 percent on the previous year.

Figures for political violence have been recorded separately from other crimes since 2001, and the 2015 stats are a new record high.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière described the figures as “practically exploding”, saying that extremist violence posed a threat to German society.

Most of the recorded crimes involve the spreading of propaganda or inciting hatred. But violent crime also hit a record high.

Police recorded 4,400 violent political crimes in 2015, an increase of 30 percent.

Of these crimes, 20 have involved investigations of attempted murder, with several of the targets being police officers and refugees.

The crime figures also showed that attacks on refugee homes had increased by a factor of five. In 2014 there were 199 recorded cases, but in 2015 this jumped to 1,031.

Included in this category of crimes were the spraying of swastikas and other neo-Nazi symbols on refugee centre walls, as well as arson attacks.

According to the Interior Ministry, most of those convicted of these crimes were men between the ages of 18 and 30, living near the refugee centres and who had never been found guilty of a crime before.

“It is a sign of the polarization taking place in communities,” said de Maizière, adding that investigations are made all the more difficult when perpetrators have no previous criminal history.

The number of solved cases of attacks on refugee homes lay at 26 percent in 2015, the figures show – a number de Maizière admitted was “too low”.

Hate crimes – those directed against specific social groups, such as Muslims, Jews, or homosexuals – also soared by 77 percent in comparison with 2014.

The Interior Minister said there was a brutalization taking place in German society and condemned the “gutter talk” taking place on the internet.

He also cast doubt on the idea that the criminality would die down as fewer refugees enter the country.

In the first three months of 2016, 350 attacks on refugee homes were recorded, he said, three times the number for that period in 2015.


Former Nazi camp guard, 101, gets five-year jail sentence

A German court on Tuesday handed a five-year jail sentence to a 101-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard, the oldest person so far to go on trial for complicity in war crimes during the Holocaust.

Former Nazi camp guard, 101, gets five-year jail sentence

Josef S. was found guilty of being an accessory to murder while working as a prison guard at the Sachsenhausen camp in Oranienburg, north of Berlin, between 1942 and 1945, presiding judge Udo Lechtermann said.

The pensioner, who now lives in Brandenburg state, had pleaded innocent, saying he did “absolutely nothing” and was not aware of the gruesome crimes being carried out at the camp.

“I don’t know why I am here,” he said at the close of his trial on Monday.

But prosecutors said he “knowingly and willingly” participated in the murders of 3,518 prisoners at the camp and called for him to be punished with five years behind bars.

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More than 200,000 people, including Jews, Roma, regime opponents and gay people, were detained at the Sachsenhausen camp between 1936 and 1945.

Tens of thousands of inmates died from forced labour, murder, medical experiments, hunger or disease before the camp was liberated by Soviet troops, according to the Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum.

Prosecutors said the man had aided and abetted the “execution by firing squad of Soviet prisoners of war in 1942” and the murder of prisoners “using the poisonous gas Zyklon B”.

He was 21 years old at the time.

Contradictory statements

During the trial, S. made several inconsistent statements about his past, complaining that his head was getting “mixed up”.

At one point, the centenarian said he had worked as an agricultural labourer in Germany for most of World War II, a claim contradicted by several historical documents bearing his name, date and place of birth.

After the war, the man was transferred to a prison camp in Russia before returning to Germany, where he worked as a farmer and a locksmith.

He remained at liberty during the trial, which began in 2021 but has been delayed several times because of his health.

Despite his conviction, he is highly unlikely to be put behind bars, given his age.

His lawyer Stefan Waterkamp told AFP ahead of the verdict that if found guilty, he would appeal.

More than seven decades after World War II, German prosecutors are racing to bring the last surviving Nazi perpetrators to justice.

The 2011 conviction of former guard John Demjanjuk, on the basis that he served as part of Hitler’s killing machine, set a legal precedent and paved the way for several of these twilight justice cases.

Since then, courts have handed down several guilty verdicts on those grounds rather than for murders or atrocities directly linked to the individual accused.