SHARE
COPY LINK

CRIME

Germany arrests Covid protesters for kidnap plot

German investigators on Thursday said they had arrested four members of a far-right anti-lockdown group for planning violent attacks, including a plot to kidnap the country's health minister.

Jürgen Brauer (l), Attorney General in Koblenz, speaks next to Johannes Kunz, President of the Rhineland-Palatinate State Criminal Police Office, during a press statement on the investigations into the
Jürgen Brauer (l), Attorney General in Koblenz, speaks next to Johannes Kunz, President of the Rhineland-Palatinate State Criminal Police Office, during a press statement on the investigations into the "United Patriots" chat group. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

The suspects from the “Vereinte Patrioten” (United Patriots) group are accused of “preparing explosive attacks and other acts of violence” as well as the “kidnapping of well-known public figures”, prosecutors in Koblenz said in a joint statement with the Rhineland-Palatinate police.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach confirmed he was among their targets and had received police protection.

The main aim of the group was to “destroy power supply facilities in order to cause a prolonged nationwide blackout”, the investigators said.

“This was intended to cause civil war-like conditions and ultimately overthrow the democratic system in Germany,” they said.

READ ALSO: Germany stages country-wide raids against ‘neo-Nazi networks’

Investigators had identified five suspects aged between 41 and 55 and on Wednesday carried out searches leading to four arrests and the seizure of around two dozen guns, including a Kalashnikov.

They also seized ammunition, around €8,900 ($9,700) in cash, gold bars and silver coins and foreign currency worth more than €10,000.

The Vereinte Patrioten group includes members of the far-right Reichsbuerger (Citizens of the Reich), who reject Germany’s democratic
institutions, as well as opponents of the government’s anti-virus measures, the prosecutors said.

Responding to the news, Lauterbach said some protesters against Covid-19 measures had become “highly dangerous”.

A small minority have “not only become radicalised but are now about more than Covid and… are intent on destabilising the state and democracy,” he said in a statement.

Germany’s centre-left-led government under Chancellor Olaf Scholz took office in December pledging a decisive fight against far-right militants after criticism that the previous administration had been lax on neo-Nazi violence.

Investigators last week swooped on alleged neo-Nazi militant cells across Germany and arrested four suspects in what Der Spiegel magazine called “the biggest blow against the militant neo-Nazi scene in the recent past”.

READ ALSO: Suspected neo-Nazi charged with plotting German ‘race war’

A suspected neo-Nazi was also charged this week with attempting to set off a “race war” in Germany with planned attacks using explosives and guns.

Germany’s protests against coronavirus measures have at times drawn tens of thousands of demonstrators, attracting a wide mix of people, including vaccine sceptics, neo-Nazis and members of the far-right AfD party.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

CRIME

Ukrainian Holocaust survivors find safe haven in Germany

Borys Shyfrin fled as a young child, along with other members of his Jewish family, from the Nazis.

Ukrainian Holocaust survivors find safe haven in Germany

More than eight decades on, the Ukrainian Holocaust survivor has been forced from his home once more – but this time he’s found a safe haven in Germany.

Shyfrin is among a number of Ukrainian Jews who lived through the Nazi terror and have now fled to the country from which Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich launched its drive try to wipe Jews out.

He never wanted to leave Mariupol, where he had lived for decades. But Russia’s brutal assault on the Ukrainian port city made it impossible to stay.

“There was no gas, no electricity, no water whatsoever,” the 81-year-old told AFP from a care home in Frankfurt, recalling the relentless bombardment by Moscow’s forces.

“We were waiting for the authorities to come… We waited for a day, two days a week.”

Bodies of people killed by bombs and gunfire littered the streets, recalled Shyfrin, a widower who had lost contact with his only son.

“There were so many of them… no one picked them up. People got used to it – no one paid attention.”

People scraped by finding what food they could, with water supplied by a fire engine that made regular visits to his neighbourhood.

Shyfrin’s apartment was damaged during the fighting in Mariupol – defended so fiercely that it became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance – and he spent much time sheltering in the cellar of his building.

Became homeless

The elderly man eventually left Mariupol with the aid of a rabbi, who helped the local Jewish population get out of the city.

He was evacuated to Crimea, and from there, travelled on a lengthy overland journey through Russia and Belarus, eventually arriving in Warsaw, Poland.

After some weeks in Poland, a place in a care home was found in Frankfurt.

In July, he was transported to Germany in an ambulance, with the help of the Claims Conference, a Jewish organisation that has been aiding the evacuation of Ukrainian Holocaust survivors.

Shyfrin, who walks with the aid of a stick, is still processing the whirlwind of events that carried him unexpectedly to Germany.

The outbreak of war was a “very big surprise”, he said.

“I used to love (Russian President Vladimir) Putin very much,” said Shyfrin, who is a native Russian speaker, did military service in the Soviet Union, and went on to work as a radio engineer with the military.

“Now I do not know whether Putin is right to be at war with Ukraine or not – but somehow, because of this war, I have become homeless.”

Shyfrin was born in 1941, in Gomel, Belarus.

When he was just three months old, his family fled to Tajikistan to escape German Nazi forces who were occupying the region.

Many of Belarus’s Jews died during the Holocaust, in which the Nazis killed a total of six million European Jews.

In neighbouring Ukraine, the once-large Jewish community was also almost completely wiped out.

After the war, his family returned to Belarus and Shyfrin completed his studies, did military service, and settled in Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, in the mid-1970s.

“Traumatised”

The pensioner seemed philosophical about the twist of fate that has forced him to leave his home.

“Well, it’s not up to me,” he said, when asked about having to flee war for the second time in his life.

His most immediate concerns are more practical – such as how to access his money back home.

“I can’t even receive my honestly earned military pension,” he said.

He recently moved to a new care home run by the Jewish community, where there are more Russian speakers.

As well as helping Shyfrin on the final leg of his journey, the Claims Conference provided him with financial assistance.

It has evacuated over 90 Ukrainian Holocaust survivors to Germany since the outbreak of the conflict, a break from the organisation’s usual work of ensuring that survivors get compensation and ongoing support.

The body had long been helping to run care programmes for Holocaust victims in Ukraine.

But, as the conflict intensified, it became clear such care programmes could no longer be sustained, particularly in the east, said Ruediger Mahlo, the Conference’s representative in Germany.

“Because many of the survivors needed a lot of care and could not survive without this help, it was clear we had to try to do everything to evacuate (them),” he told AFP.

Getting them out involved huge logistical challenges, from finding ambulances in Ukraine to locating suitable care homes.

For many of the frail Holocaust survivors, it can be a struggle to grasp the fact that they have found refuge in Germany, said Mahlo.

They are fleeing to a country that “had in the past persecuted them, and done everything to kill them,” he said.

“Certainly, they are traumatised,” he said.

SHOW COMMENTS