Berlin has seen a dramatic increase in car arsons so far in 2016, with both politically related arson and non-political arson on the rise.
In 2015, the police reported 179 cases of car being set on fire in the capital, 38 of which were political. But police figures seen by DPA last Friday show 213 cases recorded so far this year, 64 of which are suspected to have been politically motivated.
Authorities believe that the far-left scene are culpable for a large number of the acts, after an ongoing conflict with police started when officers raided an occupied house in the Friedrichshain district in January.
The property – Rigaer Strasse 94 – is legendary in the far left scene, as it is one of the last occupied houses in the capital. But the police raid was criticized as heavy handed, and since then left-wing activists and police have been engaged in tit-for-tat responses.
In June, authorities cleared out the ground floor of the property in an action that was later ruled illegal by a Berlin court.
Police say that they have found evidence at many of the burned out cars that the left-wing scene was behind the criminality, such as graffiti proclaiming “Rigaer bleibt” (Rigaer stays) or “R94,” broadcaster RBB reports.
2011 was the last year when arson against cars was so high.
In July Berlin police arrested one man who they said was behind the burning of three cars in a single night.
Berlin interior minister Frank Henkel described the arrest as proof that police investigations were taking effect. But a news outlet connected to the left-wing scene reported that the man was actually a known agent of state security and that he had been seen giving speeches at far right demonstrations, the Berliner Morgenpost reported.
The Berlin interior ministry later denied the allegation.
Not all of the arson had left-wing motives behind it. One attack on cars belonging to a care home saw seven of them set on fire.
Meanwhile, the campaign bus for a politician from Angela Merkel's Chistian Democratic Union (CDU) was also set alight in August. Police are investigating, but the motive is as yet unclear.
Rise in political violence
In 2015, domestic intelligence agency reported that Germany witnessed a dramatic increase in political extremism. This rise included far right, far-left, as well as Islamist radical groups.
Upon presenting the 2015 report, Interior minister Thomas de Maizière said: “Extremist groups, whatever their orientation, are gaining ground in Germany.”
Political groups have gained membership, and are also more incline to use violence and brutality, he said.
After the arrival of more than 1 million refugees and migrants applying for political asylum in 2015, right-wing activists committed the majority of politically motivated crimes. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution reported that 1,408 acts of far-right violence were recorded, against 990 the previous year.
Incidents have also involved burning down facilities that were either inhabited or on the verge of welcoming refugees.
In December 2015, Die Zeit investigated 222 cases of “aggravated violent attacks” on refugee hostels that either injured people (104) or were intense enough to have done so. Ninety-three of these attacks were arson cases.