ExtremistsExtremists’ crimes in down, but number of extremists rising

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the BfV, in a new report says extremists’ criminal activity in Germany has declined, but that the numbers of potential extremists has risen. The BfV’s annual report especially noted a sharp increase in members of the radical far-right  movement.

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the BfV, in a new report says extremists’ criminal activity in Germany has declined, but that the numbers of potential extremists has risen. The BfV’s annual report especially noted a sharp increase in members of the radical far-right Reichsbürger movement.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) President Hans-Georg Maassen presented their report on Tuesday, saying that the overall news is good.

The report covers 2017.

The report says that politically motivated crimes in Germany declined by 4.9 percent over 2016 — from 41,49 to 39,05. Far-right extremist crimes also declined by an impressive 3 percent, although the number of right-wing extremists remains higher than in 2014, that is, the year before the so-called migrant crisis.

The Daily Mail reports that the number of people deemed potential committers of far-right extremist crimes rose slightly – as was true of the number of those potentially committed to left-wing extremism.

Both Seehofer and Maassen said that it was because of these relatively high number of extremists that Germany should not become complacent about the threat.

Seehofer cautioned that right-wing extremists were not always easy to recognize and could be radicalized “in extremely short spans of time.” He added that the potential for violence of the extreme right had remained “high.” He added that largely because of protests against the G20 meeting in Hamburg last July, left-wing extremist incidents had risen by an “alarming” 37 percent.

Conditions like those in Hamburg should never be allowed to repeat themselves,” said Seehofer.

The report also noted a small increase in the number of Islamists, particularly Salafists, whom Maassen characterized as a “continual high-level threat.” Some 700 “Gefährder” — people who are kept under constant surveillance because they are considered an acute threat — are currently living in Germany. Seehofer said this is the highest number in the last three decades.

The Mail notes that most of the media attention was focused on one particular extremist group: The Reichsbürger movement (see: “German right-wing Reichsbürger movement a terror threat: German intelligence,” HSNW, 24 July 2017; and “Increasing number of far-right extremism cases in German military,” HSNW, 12 April 2018).

The BfV recorded a dramatic increase in the number Reichsbürger, from ,600 to 16,500. Some 900 of them are right-wing extremists.

BfV said the Reichsbürger are of particular concern because many of their members are armed, and because the movement – the Reichsbürgers describe themselves as a “network” — is decentralized, made up of loosely connected, hard-to-pin-down individuals.

We simply don’t know whether someone is flying below our radar screens,” Maassen admitted.

What is problematic is that they use armed violence on behalf of their own desire for sovereignty, whether it’s for the purported German Reich or a state of their own,” Jan Rathje, a political scientist at the Amadeu Antonio Stiftung, told Deutsche Welle.

Rathje identifies “anti-Semitic conspiracy theorizing” at work in the movement. This is a hot-button issue in Germany at the moment after a series of incidents gave rise to fears that anti-Semitism could be undergoing a revival.

Rathje also cautions that the government has “problems” identifying all right-wing extremist crimes as such and that the figures collected by the BfV may be on the low side.

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