Transphobic attacks in Germany likely to be under-recorded

An attack on a 15-year-old trans girl in North Rhine-Westphalia has highlighted the problems with reporting transphobic violence in Germany.

The justice emblem on the sleeve of a correctional officer is seen in front of a rainbow flag.
The justice emblem on the sleeve of a correctional officer is seen in front of a rainbow flag. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marcus Brandt

At the end of March, police in the city of Herne in North Rhine-Westphalia reported a violent attack by three 12- and 13-year-olds which left the 15-year-old victim in hospital.

What the police didn’t report, however, was the fact that the victim was a trans girl; this only came to light after the victim and her mother gave an interview to RTL news.

According to trans rights activists, this case highlights the fact that the real figure of transphobic attacks is likely to be a lot higher than the official figures show.

In an interview with Taggeschau, Sarah Ponti of the Lesbian and Gay Association in Germany (LSVD) said that transphobic crimes are on the rise and “among queer-hostile crimes, trans-hostile crimes are the most common.”

READ ALSO: Germany appoints first ever commissioner for LGBTQ issues

The fact that there is hardly any research on this issue means that the causes are also unclear; “Does it have to do with a growing visibility of trans people? Or is trans-hostile sentiment on the rise? Or both?” she said.

Ponti also criticised the lack of specific categories for recording trans-hostile violence, which results in difficulties for the police in assigning offences. This would improve, she said, if transphobia were introduced as a subcategory.

A spokesperson from the Federal Ministry of the Interior explained that the subtopic “Gender/Sexual Identity” has been differentiated since the new year.

READ ALSO: Meet the Bavarian politician fighting for trans rights in the German election

“Since then, corresponding crimes have been recorded separately in the categories ‘ misogynist,’ ‘anti-male’, and ‘gender diversity,'” a spokesman said.

But there are also other hurdles to overcome. The LSVD spokesperson also pointed out that transphobic hate violence is often not recognised by police or prosecutors because transphobic motives are not mentioned in the relevant criminal laws.

According to Ponti, victims often conceal their attackers’ motives, either out of shame or because they do not trust the police.

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German police foil teenage school ‘Nazi attack’

German investigators said Thursday they foiled a school bomb attack, as they arrested a 16-year-old who is suspected to have been planning a "Nazi terror attack".

German police foil teenage school 'Nazi attack'

“The police prevented a nightmare,” said Herbert Reul, interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) state.

Police in the city of Essen had stormed the teen’s room overnight, taking him into custody and uncovering 16 “pipe bombs”, as well as anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim material.

Some of the pipe bombs found contained nails, but officers did not find any detonators, Reul said.

There are “indications suggesting the young man has serious psychiatric problems and suicidal thoughts,” said Reul.

Material found so far in the suspect’s room include his own writing which constituted “a call for urgent help by a desperate young man.”

The suspect was allegedly planning to target his current school or another where he studied previously.

“All democrats have a common task to fight against racism, brutalisation and hate,” said NRW’s deputy premier Joachim Stamp, as he thanked police for “preventing a suspected Nazi terror attack”.

The suspect is being questioned while investigators continue to comb his home for evidence.

Investigators believe that he was acting alone.

They had been tipped off by another teen who informed them that the young man “wanted to place bombs in his school”, located about 800 metres from his home.

The school, as well as another institution, were closed on Thursday as investigators undertook fingertip searches as the locations to ensure that no bombs had been placed on site.

‘Neo-Nazi networks’ 

Germany has been rocked by several far-right assaults in recent years, sparking accusations that the government was not doing enough to stamp out neo-Nazi violence.

In February 2020 a far-right extremist shot dead 10 people and wounded five others in the central German city of Hanau.

Large amounts of material championing conspiracy theories and far-right ideology were subsequently found in the gunman’s apartment.

And in 2019, two people were killed after a neo-Nazi tried to storm a synagogue in Halle on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.

Germany’s centre-left-led government under Chancellor Olaf Scholz took office in December pledging a decisive fight against far-right militants and investigators in April carried out country-wide raids against “neo-Nazi networks”, arresting four suspects.

The suspects targeted in the raids were believed to belong to the far-right martial arts group Knockout 51, the banned Combat 18 group named after theorder in the alphabet of Adolf Hitler’s initials, US-based Atomwaffen (Atomic) Division or the online propaganda group Sonderkommando 1418.

German authorities were also battling to clean extremists from within their ranks. Last year, 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.