Police graves destroyed, defaced with swastikas in Berlin

Vandals spray-painted swastikas on the Berlin graves of two German police officers killed in the line of duty, sparking outrage Wednesday, and an investigation by the domestic security service.

Police graves destroyed, defaced with swastikas in Berlin
The markings on the graves were later covered up by police. Image: DPA

One gravestone was toppled over, both were defaced with red spray paint, and flowers were ripped out of their beds in the overnight attack on a cemetery in the Berlin district of Neukölln.

The late officers are Roland Krueger, a police commando member shot dead during a 2003 raid on a Kurdish-Lebanese crime family, and Uwe Lieschied, shot dead while confronting a robber on the street in 2006.

The interior minister of the city-state of Berlin, Andreas Geisel, voiced his “disgust and shame” about the violation of the graves, which he described as “a wicked act directed against those who died while working to ensure our safety.”

Other police officers restored the graves in the morning, while the BfV domestic security service took over the case because of the illegal Nazi symbol.

Tributes laid on graves

The Christian Democrat politician's Burkard Dregger lay flowers on the desecrated graves on Wednesday afternoon, telling the Berlin Tagespiegel that he was there to honour the memories of the fallen officers. 

“I have no sympathy for such acts of hatred,” Dregger said 

“It was important to me, on behalf of the CDU Group, to plant flowers and talk with relatives. (I wanted) to assure them that we feel very close to them and that we are always with each other to stand by the police if attacked,” he said.

The incident was not the only recent example of desecration of police officers being targeted in the cemetery. 

In November 2016, a plaque commemorating officer Lieschied was damaged by unknown vandals. Later, left-wing extremists admitted to the crime, declaring “We mock dead police officers.”

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German police under fire for using tracing app to find witnesses

German police drew criticism Tuesday for using an app to trace contacts from bars and restaurants in the fight against the pandemic as part of an investigation.

A barcode used for the Luca check-in app to trace possible Covid contacts at a Stuttgart restaurant.
A barcode used for the Luca check-in app to trace possible Covid contacts at a Stuttgart restaurant. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

The case stemming from November last year began after the fatal fall of a man while leaving a restaurant in the western city of Mainz.

Police seeking possible witnesses made use of data from an app known as Luca, which was designed for patrons to register time spent in restaurants and taverns to track the possible spread of coronavirus.

Luca records the length of time spent at an establishment along with the patron’s full name, address and telephone number – all subject to Germany’s strict data protection laws.

However the police and local prosecutors in the case in Mainz successfully appealed to the municipal health authorities to gain access to information about 21 people who visited the restaurant at the same time as the man who died.

After an outcry, prosecutors apologised to the people involved and the local data protection authority has opened an inquiry into the affair.

“We condemn the abuse of Luca data collected to protect against infections,” said the company that developed the Luca app, culture4life, in a statement.

It added that it had received frequent requests for its data from the authorities which it routinely rejected.

Konstantin von Notz, a senior politician from the Greens, junior partners in the federal coalition, warned that abuse of the app could undermine public trust.

“We must not allow faith in digital apps, which are an important tool in the fight against Covid-19, to disappear,” he told Tuesday’s edition of Handelsblatt business daily.