Fears Of Far-Right Terror In Germany
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
The recent murder of a politician in Germany has increased fears of far-right terrorism there. The victim is a prominent supporter of Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision to welcome asylum-seekers fleeing conflict in the Middle East. His confessed killer is an avowed neo-Nazi. Here's NPR's Deborah Amos in Berlin.
DEBORAH AMOS, BYLINE: The execution-style killing of politician Walter Lubcke signals a new phase in the ultra-right movement, says Hajo Funke, who studies extremism in Germany.
HAJO FUNKE: Of course I was surprised - so cold-blooded, so prepared, so decisive. That kind of killing is a new step. And that is what, for me, is right-wing terror, full stop.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING, BELLS RINGING)
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking German).
AMOS: At the time of Lubcke's funeral in mid-June, officials were still calling the death a mystery. Then, a dramatic break in the case in the past few weeks - the arrest of an avowed neo-Nazi, Stephan Ernst, with a history of violence against immigrants. He joined Combat 18, an extremist group, in jail.
Ernst confessed to investigators that he had killed Lubcke. He said he planned the murder alone, motivated by comments the politician made in 2015 in support of refugees in Germany. The remarks came in a town hall meeting where Lubcke challenged far-right agitators, says Mohamed Amjahid, a political reporter for Die Zeit newspaper.
MOHAMED AMJAHID: There is this famous town hall where he was telling people in the audience, if you don't like human rights, you should go. He was very tough.
AMOS: Lubcke quickly became the target of online hate. Then the town hall video surfaced again earlier this year, posted by a member of German's far-right political party, the AfD, the alternative for Germany. And that led mainstream political leaders to charge that the AfD shared blame for Lubcke's death. Hajo Funke says the AfD set the stage.
FUNKE: There's a clear, indirect link, being utterly against all Muslims - Muslims in this country, Muslims around the world. Unleashing of resentment is one of the conditions for murder and for violence.
AMOS: According to media reports, in 2006, the killer sent a contribution to the AfD wired from his bank account with a note that read, God bless you.
ARMIN-PAUL HAMPEL: Armin-Paul Hampel - I am a member of Parliament and the speaker of foreign affairs.
AMOS: Hampel was elected in 2017, a politician with the AfD. He condemns Lubcke's murder but says the motive had nothing to do with the AfD's message that all refugees have to go home. He insists these refugees cannot integrate into Germany because they bring a different culture to the country.
HAMPEL: How should we be able to manage these differences? Impossible - we won't make it. And we know that we won't make it. Do we really want a melting pot from all nationalities, or do we want to keep our identity?
AMOS: And he dismisses any suggestion Germany's first political assassination in decades is part of a larger movement.
HAMPEL: I still don't see in Germany an organized right extreme terror organization.
AMOS: But the statistics tell another story, says Daniel Koehler, who heads a German institute in Stuttgart that studies extremist groups. When we spoke on Skype, he said there are more than 12,000 neo-Nazis in Germany - organized, violent and dangerous.
DANIEL KOEHLER: Statistically, there are three violent, far-right attacks every day in Germany, so that is just significant. And we have no other form of violent extremism that presents such a threat.
AMOS: The victims have been mostly immigrants and refugees, he says. Now, some other politicians have received death threats and are feeling under direct threat of violence by the far-right.
Deborah Amos, NPR News, Berlin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.