German president decries 'violence' in politics after attacks

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German president decries 'violence' in politics after attacks
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier delivers a speech during the state ceremony as part of celebrations to mark 75 years of the German Constitution in front of the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany on May 23, 2024. Photo by JOHN MACDOUGALL / AFP

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Thursday he was worried by the growing trend of violence towards politicians after a series of attacks on lawmakers at work or on the campaign trail.


"We must never get used to violence in the battle of political opinions," Steinmeier said at an event to mark the 75th anniversary of the German constitution.

The basic law, promulgated in 1949, was a response to Germany's experience with political violence during World War II, Steinmeier said.

"No one knew better than the mothers and fathers of the constitution how violence undermines a democracy and tears down its foundations," Steinmeier said.

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The threat of political violence had again reared its head in Germany, the president said.

"We have received news of physical attacks on elected officials and politically active people almost every day," he said.

"I am deeply concerned about the coarsening of political life in our country."

READ ALSO: How politically motivated crimes are rising in Germany 

Earlier this month, police arrested a man on suspicion of hitting a former mayor of Berlin in the head during a visit to a public library.

Franziska Giffey, who is now the Berlin state economy minister and a member of Scholz's Social Democratic Party (SPD), was treated in hospital for light injuries.

Giffey's assault came just days after a European member of parliament, also from the SPD, had to be hospitalised after four people attacked him while he was out canvassing.

READ ALSO: Why are German politicians facing increasing attacks?


Senior members of the government have also been confronted by angry mobs in recent months, with Economy Minister Robert Habeck blocked from leaving a ferry by a group of protesters.

In his speech, Steinmeier also recalled the politically motivated murder of the conservative politician Walter Luebcke by neo-Nazis in 2019.

"His death is a reminder of how hate can turn into violence," Steinmeier said.

This week also saw proceedings open against the alleged ringleaders of a group who are said to have planned to storm the German parliament and overthrow the government.

The group of so-called Reichsbuerger, who deny the legitimacy of the modern German republic, allegedly planned to take MPs hostage and had compiled "lists of enemies" to be eliminated, according to prosecutors.



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