German authorities raid suspected members of far-right group

German authorities raid suspected members of far-right group

Country is home to more than 24,000 far-right extremists, more than half of them potentially violent

Neo-Nazis protest in Berlin, October 10, 2009. (AP Photo)
Neo-Nazis protest in Berlin, October 10, 2009. (AP Photo)

German authorities said they carried out raids Tuesday on suspected members of a potentially violent far-right group.

Federal prosecutors said the apartments of six suspects and four other people who aren’t suspects were searched. The raids took place in four German states.

The suspects are alleged to have founded a group called “Storm Brigade” last year as a sub-organization of an outfit called “Wolf Brigade.” Prosecutors said in a statement that the group’s stated aim is the “re-invigoration of a free fatherland” in accordance with a “Teutonic moral law,” and that they suspect it may be prepared to use violence.

Prosecutors said the aim of Tuesday’s raids was to gather more evidence and determine whether the suspects had weapons.

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency recently reported an increase in the number of those identified as far-right extremists alongside a sharp rise in anti-Semitic acts of violence. In its annual report, released this June, the BfV agency stated that incidents of anti-Semitic violence increased by 71.4 % in 2018. It also said that the number of far-right extremists rose by 100 to 24,100 people. The agency stated that more than half of them are potentially violent.

Felix Klein address the ‘Berlin wears a kippah’ protest, April 25, 2018 (courtesy BMI)

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said at the time that “we can find in almost all areas of far-right extremism hostile attitudes toward Jews … it’s a development that we must take, very, very, very seriously.”

Worries about the authorities’ inability to combat anti-Semitic violence led Germany’s anti-Semitism commissioner, Felix Klein, to state in May that he could no longer recommend that Jews wear a kippa everywhere and any time in Germany. He retracted his statement following a public outcry. In response, German tabloid newspaper Bild printed a cut-out kippa for readers to wear in solidarity with their Jewish neighbors.

In late June, an extremist shot to death Walter Luebcke, a longtime member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right party. The murder was described by government officials as an “alarm signal” that highlights the threat posed by the far-right.

In this June 13, 2019 file photo a picture of Walter Luebcke stands behind his coffin during the funeral service in Kassel, Germany. (Swen Pfoertner/dpa via AP)

Germany has to “face up to the specters of its past,” Merkel told CNN in an interview last month. Because of that past, she said, “we have to be more vigilant than others.”

“Unfortunately there is to this day not a single synagogue, not a single daycare center for Jewish children, not a single school for Jewish children that does not need to be guarded by German policemen.”

There has been a significant divergence between German Jews’ perceptions of anti-Semitism and those of federal authorities. In a 2016 survey of hundreds of German Jews who had experienced anti-Semitic incidents, 41 percent said the perpetrator was “someone with a Muslim extremist view” and another 16% said it was someone from the far left. Only 20% identified their aggressors as belonging to the far-right.

In May, however, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said that supporters of far-right groups were responsible for about 90% of the 1,800 recorded anti-Semitic incidents recorded in Germany in 2018.

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