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June 15, 2021 5:12 pm

Far-Right Scene in Germany on the Rise During Pandemic Year, Jewish Group Warns of ‘Growing Threat’

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Protesters demonstrate in front of the Reichstag, during a rally against government restrictions related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, in Berlin, Germany, Aug. 29, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Christian Mang.

The far-right scene in Germany flourished during the 2020 pandemic year as extremists spread their ideas on the Internet and mingled with COVID-19 protestors, according to an annual report by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency.

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer noted that the country is not just in a unique health situation, but also in a special security situation. “We are in an alert state,” Seehofer said at the presentation of the 2020 report by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency.

Seehofer called “right-wing extremism and antisemitism” the greatest threat to security in Germany, which has exacerbated further due to the coronavirus pandemic and the conspiracy theories which emerged. According to the report, right-wing extremists joined civil protests against coronavirus-related protective restrictions. They could push their agenda on the protest “although they were clearly in the minority in terms of the number of people,” Seehofer said.

Additionally, Seehofer expressed concern that the demonstrators marched side-by-side with right-wing extremists and didn’t distance themselves enough.

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Josef Schuster, the head of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, said that the “alert state” which Seehofer was referring to has been felt by Jews for a longer time.

According to an annual report by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany’s intelligence agency, the number of far-right extremists rose by about 4% to 33,300 in 2020 compared with the previous year. Out of the far-right extremists in Germany, about 40% are believed to have a potentially violent orientation to meet political ends. Last year, the total number of right-wing extremist criminal and violent offenses increased by around 5% from 2019.

Schuster remarked that the latest BfV report showed “the shocking extent to which the threat to Jewish life in Germany has further grown.”

Schuster urged law enforcement authorities and the judiciary to take action against antisemitism and extremism. He also emphasized the importance of keeping a close eye on the New Right and right-wing populists.

BfV President Thomas Haldenwang noted that due to the pandemic many groups spread their ideas via the Internet. “It acts as an echo chamber for hatred and agitation,” he said said.

“We cannot let this antisemitism and hate become normalized,” the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said in response to the report.

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