From the NSU to anti-Semitic attacks: How racist and far-right terror in Germany is rising

A man suspected to hold far-right views killed nine people in a shisha bar and a cafe in Germany, where there has been an upsurge in racially motivated and anti-Semitic attacks in recent years.

From the NSU to anti-Semitic attacks: How racist and far-right terror in Germany is rising
A demonstrator in Berlin holds a sign that says 'stop right wing terror' after the Hanau shootings. Photo: DPA

The attack late on Wednesday was the deadliest of its kind in Germany since 1980 when a neo-Nazi planted a bomb in a bin at the Munich Oktoberfest, killing 12 people.

We looked at other incidents that point to a worrying rise of far-right attacks in Germany.


Recent attacks

On October 9th, 2019 two people are shot dead and two seriously injured when a gunman tries to storm a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle as Jews mark the holy day of Yom Kippur.

Unable to enter, Stephan Balliet shoots dead a female passer-by and a man in a kebab restaurant.

Balliet had previously outlined anti-Semitic views in an internet post.

READ ALSO: 'It doesn't change my feeling about Germany': Jewish community fearful but defiant after Halle attack

– On June 2nd, 2019 a local pro-migrant politician from the central city of Kassel, Walter Lübcke, is shot in the head at his home.

The suspected assassin, Stephan Ernst, is linked to a neo-Nazi movement.

– On September 26th, 2016 far-right sympathiser Nino Koehler sets off two homemade bombs outside a mosque and a convention centre in the eastern city of Dresden, but no one is hurt.

He is sentenced in August 2018 to nearly 10 years in jail.

– On July 22nd, 2016 an 18-year-old German-Iranian with far-right links shoots dead nine people at a Munich shopping mall before turning the gun on himself.

Police say David Ali Sonboly was “obsessed” with mass murderers like Norwegian right-wing fanatic Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011.

READ ALSO: After Hanau: How can Germany deal with extreme right wing terror

'Nothing learned?': A protest against anti-Semitism and far-right terror in Hamburg in October 2019. Photo: DPA

Racist acts on the rise

In 2018, xenophobic and anti-Semitic criminal acts in Germany increased by nearly a fifth, according to the Interior Ministry.

That year it recorded 7,701 xenophobic and 1,799 anti-Semitic criminal acts, nearly 90 percent of which were carried out by the far right.

In Dresden, eight neo-Nazis suspected of planning attacks on foreigners and politicians have been on trial since September 2019.

They are among hooligans, neo-Nazis and skinheads from Chemnitz in the eastern state of Saxony, the scene of various anti-migrant incidents in August 2018.

The number of attacks committed by the far right in Saxony increased by 38 percent in 2018.

READ ALSO: Chemnitz: Portrait of a city shaken by anti-foreigner riots

Last week, 12 members of a far-right cell were arrested as part of an anti-terrorist probe and suspected of having planned large-scale attacks on mosques.

2000s: Immigrant murders

Between 2000 and 2007, nine people of immigrant origin were murdered in Germany by a far-right militant cell called the National Socialist Underground (NSU).

The cell's only survivor, Beate Zschäpe, was sentenced to life in jail in July 2018.

The victims included eight men with Turkish roots and a Greek migrant.

The investigation into the affair, which  focused on score-settling between gangs, has been marked by a series of scandals including suggestions that the secret services ignored leads pointing to the neo-Nazi scene.

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Swedish prosecutors upgrade Almedalen knife attack to terror crime

Prosecutors in Sweden are now treating the murder at the Almedalen political festival as a terror crime, with the country's Säpo security police taking over the investigation.

Swedish prosecutors upgrade Almedalen knife attack to terror crime

In a press release issued on Monday evening, the Swedish Prosecution Authority, said that the 32-year-old attacker, Theodor Engström, was now suspected of the crime of “terrorism through murder”, and also “preparation for a terror crime through preparation for murder”. 

Engström stabbed the psychiatrist Ing-Marie Wieselgren last Wednesday as she was on her way to moderate a seminar at the Almedalen political festival on the island of Gotland. 

Although he was a former member of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement, police said his motive seemed to be to protest against Sweden’s psychiatry services, who he felt had treated his own mental illness badly. 

The release gave no details as to why the 32-year-old was now being investigated for a more serious crime, but terror expert Magnus Ranstorp told the Expressen newspaper that the shift indicated that police had uncovered new evidence. 

READ ALSO: What do we now know about the Almedalen knife attack? 

“The new crime classification means that they’ve either found a political motive for the attack which meets the threshold for terrorism, and that might be a political motive for murdering Ing-Marie Wieselgren,” he said. “Or they might have discovered that he was scouting out a politician, or another target that could be considered political.” 

Engström’s defence lawyer said last week that his client, who he described as disturbed and incoherent, had spoken in police interrogations of having “a higher-up target”.