Germany cracks down on far-right with raids

Mainz, Germany – GermanySecurity services are stepping up efforts to monitor and contain the threat posed by modern far-right extremists amid a rise in politically motivated hate crimes.

Earlier this week, the country’s domestic intelligence service designated the youth wing of the country’s largest far-right party as a dangerous extremist group.

According to a professor of politics at the University of Mainz in Germany, who studies far-right extremism, the seriousness with which authorities are taking the issue has increased dramatically in recent years.

“Politicians and security apparatuses have played down or understated the scale of the problem for decades. Thankfully, that’s starting to change under the last administration,” he said.

Demonstrators hold German flags reading “We the people” during a rally by far-right groups in Berlin on October 8.John MacDougall/AFP via Getty Images File

A number of criminal investigations are underway into a small but potentially dangerous group of Far-right Reichsbürger extremists who allegedly plotted to overthrow the government and install an obscure crown prince, influenced by a florid right-wing mix. Conspiracy theories.

The country’s domestic intelligence service, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (known by its German acronym BfV), has labeled the youth wing of the Alternative for Germany, or AfD, extremist.

A decade after being established as a traditional party critical of the EU and integration, the far-right AfD is now firmly a part of Germany’s political landscape. A poll by German public broadcaster ZDF on Friday gave it 17% of the national vote – enough to become the country’s third-strongest party.

Experts on far-right extremism in Germany tell NBC News that the rise of the far-right is real and dangerous, with ex-military personnel and active police officers holding guns who are allegedly involved in a conspiracy. AfD’s popularity has changed. Political thought and the central parties were dragged to the right.

The AfD party rose to prominence during the 2015 refugee crisis when then-Chancellor Angela Merkel Invited millions of immigrants., mostly fleeing the civil war in Syria and settling in Germany. More than a million people arrived, sparking anti-immigrant sentiment across Germany. Europe.

Its youth wing, the Young Alternative for Germany (known by its German acronym JA), whose members are under the age of 14, is the first German group to be declared extremist since the Nazi era. described as “incendiary and que- To be kept under official supervision By the domestic intelligence service in 2021.

The AfD may choose to fight the extremism ruling in court, and despite its “well-documented” links to even more radical far-right activities, it still enjoys considerable support nationally. What some might consider a mainstream, respectable party.

“The AfD is the strongest party in some regions of the East and enjoys a very respectable level of support at the national level. Their large delegations in the Bundestag, the European Parliament and most state parliaments give them legal protection but also funds and media. also give access to so that their position is quite strong.

In the former East Germany, which reunified with the West in 1991, it has the support of about a quarter of the electorate, often making it the strongest party in the eastern regions.

Ahead of the 2021 federal elections in Germany, Found the Bertelsmann Foundation One survey found that just under 8 percent of German voters had “right-wing extremist attitudes.” Among AfD supporters, the figure is almost four times higher.

Björn Höcke at an AfD event
Björn Höcke, chairman of the far-right AfD, who has the support of about a quarter of voters.Bodo Schackow / DPA via Getty Images

AfD denies that it promotes extremist views.

Neither the AfD nor the Young Alternative responded to NBC News’ requests for comment. But in a statement posted on the party’s website on Wednesday, co-leaders Tino Kruppla and Alice Wedel said: “There is no progressive radicalism in the AfD,” adding that the BfV’s youth wing is extremist. The decision to give was an “outrageous move.”

The rise of right is felt throughout society.

Of the 60,000 politically motivated crimes recorded by German police last year – including anti-Semitic crimes and targeting asylum seekers – 41% were committed by far-right extremists. The number of recorded hate crimes rose by 10 percent in 2021 and three-quarters were motivated by far-right ideology, officials said. said earlier this month.

In unveiling the figures, Interior Secretary Nancy Fesser said she would immediately propose new, tougher gun laws.

And 79 percent of people polled by the German Center for Integration and Migration Research, a state-backed think tank, said German democracy is more at risk today than it was five years ago.

On Tuesday, Germany’s federal prosecutor’s office said it had detained three more suspected far-right anti-democratic extremists in connection with an alleged plot. Reichsburger – or Citizens of the Reich – movement, accused of an alleged plot to overthrow the government.

The three are suspected of membership in a terrorist organization, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement. In December, 25 people 3,000 officers of the group were arrested in an operation that carried out firearms, ammunition and detailed planning.

While some believe the group can achieve its goal, experts say it’s dangerous.

“There was a high probability of loss of life. With more and more of these groups, we see that they are members of the military or ex-soldiers or ex-police,” said CeMAS, a German group that monitors right-wing extremism. said Miro Dittrich, an expert in

As with the far right wing Across Europe, another driver of the movement was resistance to pandemic restrictions and lockdowns.

“A lot of people joined the movement and said people would rise up, but nothing ever happened,” Dittrich said.

“So the inner part of the group believes that there is a plan, a conspiracy to exterminate the Germans and that this is war and that the use of violence in times of crisis is justified.”

There is a more subtle but less important side to the rise of Germany’s far right: a shift to the right in the language and politics of mainstream parties, according to Vincent Valentiem, a political scientist at the University of Oxford in England who studies How does politics change? social standards.

“So part of the increase isn’t that people are becoming more radical, it’s that people who already hold these views are talking about them more in public. It indicates that there are others who express their views, that they are acceptable,” he said.

Valentine argued that in the past 10 years there had been a substantial shift in voting trends and attitudes, but equally important was the emboldening of those who were already opposed to immigration and radical Islam. were concerned – and right of center has changed. Accordingly

“It’s also influenced the way other politicians speak – the centre-right counters some of the right-wing rhetoric. It’s a very powerful mechanism for changing social norms. We have a lot of evidence that a As the far right became successful, the rest of the parties moved closer to their views on immigration.

Andy Eckhardt reported from Mainz, and Patrick Smith reported from London.

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