Eye on the Right Neo-Nazi Offenses Up in 2009, Violence Drops
This week preliminary figures were released showing a rise in offenses committed by extreme right-wingers in Germany. Can the figures help German politicians figure out whether the greatest threat comes from the right, the left or from Islamic extremists?
Just days after neo-Nazis put a young Turkish man in the hospital, preliminary figures have been released that indicate the number of criminal offenses committed by right-wing extremists in Germany is likely to have risen in 2009 -- although the number of violent attacks actually decreased.
Over the Christmas weekend, three skinheads in Viersen, a town near Düsseldorf in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, beat an 18-year-old Turkish man after he apparently offended them. The badly injured teenager was hospitalized while the perpetrators, aged between 18 and 19 years old, remain at large. It's an example of the criminal offenses motivated by extreme right-wing politics that make it into the annual tally of such incidents by the German Interior Ministry.
Early figures released by the ministry indicate that there were 12,066 right-wing incidents recorded between January and October 2009 -- slightly more than in the same 10-month span in 2008. However, the vast majority -- almost two-thirds, or 8,369 incidents -- were propaganda-related. The number of violent attacks actually fell, from 639 to 572. A total of 576 people were injured due to activities by the extreme right.
National Numbers will Rise even Further
The final official figures are not scheduled to be released until early next year, and the numbers will most likely rise even further before the final tally. In 2008, in total, incidents related to right-wing extremism were at their peak, with a total of 19,894. Of these, just over a thousand were violent.
Last year in Germany there were around 156 right-wing organizations with an estimated 30,000 members and associates, according to the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Membership in these kinds of groups has been falling for several years now, going from around 38,600 in 2006 to 30,000 in 2008.
Also of increasing concern to German police are left-wing extremists. There are not as many of these as there are right-wing extremists, but the number of offenses motivated by extreme left-wing politics also rose over the past few years, from 2,765 in 2007 to 3,124 in 2008.
Which Extremists Are More Dangerous?
Media coverage of left-wing extremism in Germany has also increased. Earlier in December, after a series of what appeared to be politically motivated arson attacks, Kristina Köhler, a member of Angela Merkel's ruling Christian Democrats (CDU) and the newly appointed German minister for family affairs, senior citizens, women and youth, came under fire from opposition parties for putting right-wing, left-wing and Islamic extremism on the same level. She told national weekly Welt Am Sonntag that during coalition talks between her party and the Free Democrats (FDP) they had decided to make existing programs aimed at combating right-wing, left-wing and Islamic extremism more balanced. In the past, Köhler had criticized the programs as being one-sided.
Germany's DDP news agency reported that opposition politicians rejected Köhler's calls. Green Party co-chair Claudia Roth pointed out that the potential for violence from within the right-wing extremist scene "completely overshadowed" similar potential among left-wing or Islamic extremists in Germany. Petra Pau, a member of the Left Party and a vice president of the German Parliament, accused Köhler of reacting on ideological grounds and dimissed any such plan as being shortsighted.
cis -- with wires