Figures published in May 2021 taint the country's image as a multicultural society, as the number of violent attacks by the far-right and all forms of discrimination saw a major spike last year.

Germany saw over 23,000 far-right extremist attacks in 2020, nearly a 20 percent increase from 2019, according to the latest German government figures.

Attacks against ethnic, religious, and political minorities sent alarm bells ringing when the numbers clocked in at the highest in 20 years – more so in a year when the country was largely shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The country's Muslim minorities have been particularly targetted with the murder of nine people of immigrant background in the town of Hanau in February 2020. The dead included five Turkish nationals.

Abdassamad el Yazidi, Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Germany says space is shrinking for Muslims to be able to live normal, peaceful lives in the country.

In a damning indictment of the state of Germany, Yazidi tells TRT World that "every day we get reports of attacks on Muslim men and women in the streets, particularly those women who wear the hijab, we see attacks on businesses, almost weekly attacks on mosques."

Abdassamad el Yazidi at his office.
Abdassamad el Yazidi at his office. (Courtesy of: Abdussamad Al Yazidi)

"Even our own Chairman, Mr. Aiman Mazyek, gets regular death threats, the situation is very very dangerous, Muslims in Germany do not feel safe anymore," he adds.

Germany's Interior Minister Horst Seehofer expressed his concern over the rise in far-right violence across the country saying that the government is perturbed about the "particularly serious increase" in the numbers.

He said, "after the murder of Walter Lübcke and the attack on the synagogue in Halle, Hanau was the third right-wing terrorist attack in just a few months," adding that it showed "right-wing extremism is the greatest threat to security in our country."

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer is worried about the increasing number of hate crimes in the country.
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer is worried about the increasing number of hate crimes in the country. (AP)

Walter Lubcke was a ruling party politician in the State of Hesse - he was known for his pro-migrant views and received multiple death threats after openly saying at a public gathering that people were free to leave the country if they opposed helping those claiming asylum. He was killed at his home by a far-right extremist in June 2019.

The attack on the synagogue in the city of Halle saw two people dead and two others injured on the Holy Jewish day of Yom Kippur.

Little political will

Abdassamad el Yazidi believes that the lack of political will to defeat far-right violence, particularly against Muslims, has made things worse. He fears that the 'hate speech' coming from some German politicians often translates into attacks on Muslims living in Germany.

Yazidi is referring to former Press officer Christian Luth of the Alternative for Deutschland, who allegedly said: "We can always shoot them (migrants) later, that's not an issue. Or gas them, as you wish. It doesn't matter to me". The Alternative for Deutschland is seen as a far-right political party in Germany.

Co-chairman of the AFD Alexander Gauland said the German national football team player Jerome Boateng might be appreciated for his performance on the pitch — but people would not want "someone like Boateng as a neighbour." Jerome is of African descent.

 Even Seehofer has some responsibility to assume. After what was seen as a slide of his voter base towards the far-right political parties, Seehofer came out and made rather controversial statements such as "Islam doesn't belong to Germany" – he also loudly protested against a fairly run of the mill, and late in the day, anti-discrimination law which would make it illegal for public officials/workers to discriminate against members of the public. 

Political analysts would later opine that the comments were made in order to bring back voters lost to the far-right, back that is into the fold of centre conservatism. 

German's Anti-discrimination Agency which fields an advice hotline and was instrumental in bringing in the above anti-discrimination legislation, noted a huge increase in inquiries around racial discrimination, nearly 33 percent of all their legal inquiries in 2020 were around racial discrimination.

In November 2018, members of a German far-right group protested against a ceremonial laying of the foundation stone for a new mosque building in Erfurt, Germany.
In November 2018, members of a German far-right group protested against a ceremonial laying of the foundation stone for a new mosque building in Erfurt, Germany. (AP)

The Agency noted that while the Black Lives Matter protest did the global rounds – incidents of racism sky-rocketed in Germany.

And the little political will also translate into dissuasive responses from the police.

Biplab Basu, Counsellor with Reach Out, a civil society organisation based in Berlin which helps ethnic and religious minorities, says that the number of far-right violence is just the tip of the iceberg.

"People do feel rejected by the police, lots and lots of people come to us with legitimate complaints after having been rejected by the police, because the police try to play it down – probably because they have sympathy with right-wing extremists but also because they do not have enough sensitivity training to identify a racist attack or a hate crime," Basu tells TRT World.

Yazidi agrees, "there is a trust deficit, many Muslims wouldn't go to police because they believe that the police wouldn't record their complaint, that's also because the police do not have enough training to identify what constitutes a race-based crime."

Anti-Semitic attacks also saw a rise last year as a direct result of a spike in far-right violence. 

Germany's Jewish Council Chairman, Josef Schuster said, "the latest figures on violent acts and other crimes by extremists, are absolutely alarming and an indictment of Germany."

"Although Germany was less hard hit by the pandemic and responded with less severe restrictions than other European countries, the pandemic appears to have led to a new form of extremism," Schuster added, referring to a worrying new alliance between extremists and lockdown critics in the country. 

Many living on the financial and social peripheries in Germany seem to have lost the test of character posed by the Coronavirus pandemic. In and out of lockdowns for over a year, mainly due to political failings, has taken a huge psychological toll that can be read in these alarming statistics.

Source: TRT World