A study conducted by two German newspapers and released Thursday found that at least 137 people have been killed by right-wing extremists in the country since reunification in 1990. The number is triple that of official government estimates.
Journalists from the Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel and the German weekly Die Zeit, arrived at the number after reviewing court cases and conducting interviews with judges, lawyers and victims' organizations.
The German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the domestic intelligence agency responsible for monitoring right-wing extremism in the country, cited 47 deaths in its official figures during that time frame. For 2009, the agency lists one homicide at the hand of right-wing extremists, five attempted homicides and 738 injuries.
Officials said those numbers represent only crimes that are offically classified as "politically motivated from the right."
'A Hatred for Everything that Is Democratic Here'
In an interview posted on Die Zeit's website, Frank Jansen, one of investigative journalists who worked on the report, said that while right-wing violence is three times worse in the states that were part of the former East Germany than in the west -- and that statistic has remained constant since the fall of the Wall -- the murders committed by extremists occured in all parts of the country.
The victims generally fall into three categories, the reporters said: the homeless or drunkards, left-wing youth or punks and foreigners who stand out as not being German "because of the color of their skin."
The killers are motivated, Jansen said, by "a hatred for everything that is democratic here, everything that is different."
Jansen said he doesn't fault the federal government for the low official numbers, but instead lays more blame with the police and the court system. When judgments are handed down, the courts need to make clear that the case involved right-wing violence, Jansen said.
Heike Kleffner, a second journalist in the investigation, said in the online interview that for the families of the victims it is extremely important that the dimensions of the right-wing violence are made known.
"Every case that is registered, every attack, whether it's in their area or further away, brings back the memories of their loss," she said.