A record number of far-right attacks were perpetrated in Germany last year, according to a former government spokesman turned campaigner. Uwe-Karsten Heye, the founder of pressure group Gesicht Zeigen! (Show your Faces), said about 600 people were attacked by neo-Nazis last year.
Speaking in Berlin Monday, Heye warned about a rise in right-wing extremism, particularly in eastern Germany. According to Heye, there were 11 attacks on businesses run by immigrants in the eastern state of Brandenburg in 2007. "Behind the attacks is a strategy by neo-Nazis to destroy livelihoods and drive out immigrants," he said.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, 130 asylum seekers, immigrants and homeless people have been killed by right-wing extremists, Heye told reporters. During Monday's press conference, he criticized government cuts between 1998 to 2002 to help vicitims of neo-Nazi violence. It was imcomprehensible, he said, that the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, for example, cut the number of specialist pyschologists who help victims of neo-Nazis from six to three.
Heye, who was the spokesman of Germany's Social Democratic-Green coalition government between 1998 to 2002, is the founder and chairman of Gesicht Zeigen!, which was set up to fight xenophobia. He caused an uproar in the German media in the run-up to the World Cup in 2006 when he suggested parts of Germany were no-go areas for foreigners.