German far-right scene grows as ‘extremists infiltrate lockdown protests’

Germany's far-right has grown more radical and violent during the Covid-19 pandemic, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said Tuesday, presenting a report on threats to the country's democratic order.

German far-right scene grows as 'extremists infiltrate lockdown protests'
A Reichsbürger demonstration in Potsdam in November 2020. credit: dpa | Christophe Gateau

Calling right-wing extremism a “major problem”, Seehofer told reporters that the scene had often hijacked more moderate protests against government measures to combat the coronavirus.

“We have to be particularly concerned about the fact that the mainstream demonstrators didn’t draw a line between themselves and the far-right ones,” he said.

The 2020 report from the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the domestic security watchdog, found a 3.8-percent increase in the number of people considered right-wing extremists last year, to around 33,300 people.

About 40 percent of those people – 13,300 – were considered “violent, prepared to use violence or violence-supporting”.

Seehofer noted that although rallies organised by the far right were often called off by the authorities, its supporters infiltrated demonstrations that were permitted to take place.

Crimes linked to right-wing extremism rose five percent last year to more than 22,000, the deadliest of which was a racist mass shooting in the western city of Hanau that left nine people dead.

For the first time, the annual report included a section on the so-called New Right, describing extremists trying to influence mainstream discourse with “pseudo-intellectual” arguments intended to incite racial hatred and explode taboos.

Seehofer has repeatedly described right-wing extremism as the biggest threat to German security and banned several groups with ties to the scene.


A particular focus has been the around 1,000 so-called Reichsbuerger (Citizens of the Reich), who reject Germany’s democratic institutions.

The report also highlighted recurring problems of right-wing extremism among police and the military.

Last week the state of Hesse said it was dissolving Frankfurt’s elite police force after several officers were accused of participating in far-right online chats and swapping neo-Nazi symbols.

Violence by the far left, with attacks against security forces, neo-Nazis and companies, particularly property managers amid anger over rising rents, saw a significant increase as well, to 1,237 cases last year, up from 921 in 2019.   

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New army scandal: Germany vows to punish soldiers caught singing anti-Semitic songs

Germany's Defence Minister on Tuesday vowed to severely punish soldiers stationed in Lithuania who were accused of singing racist and anti-Semitic songs, if the allegations turned out to be true.

New army scandal: Germany vows to punish soldiers caught singing anti-Semitic songs
German soldiers training in Saxony-Anhalt in May. credit: dpa-Zentralbild | Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert

“Whatever happened is in no way acceptable,” said Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

Those implicated would be “vigorously prosecuted and punished”, she added.

The Spiegel Online news site had on Monday reported that German soldiers in Lithuania sang racist and anti-Semitic songs during a party at a hotel in April.

One had also sought to sexually assault another soldier while he was asleep, a scene which was caught on film, said Spiegel.

According to Spiegel Online, the scenes took place at a party at which soldiers consumed large quantities of alcohol. They are also alleged to have arranged a “birthday table” for Adolf Hitler on April 20th and to have sung songs for him.

It is unclear to what extent more senior ranked soldiers were aware of the incidents.

Three soldiers have been removed from the contingent stationed in the Baltic country and an investigation is ongoing to identify other suspects, said the report.

The German armed forces have been repeatedly rocked by allegations of right-wing extremism within their ranks.

Kramp-Karrenbauer last year ordered the partial dissolution of the KSK commando force after revelations that some of its members harboured neo-Nazi sympathies.

SEE ALSO: Germany to compensate gay soldiers who faced discrimination