The attack, which claimed the lives of nine people on the night of Wednesday 19 February to Thursday 20 February in Hanau, central Germany, appears to have had racist motives. The federal prosecutor's office evoked indications “of a far right background”.
One more attack. The double shooting of Hanau comes after a long list of acts with "xenophobic motivations" in Germany. On February 14, German police also succeeded in preventing an extremist group from attacking immigrants. On October 9, 2019, far-right terrorism struck in Halle, in the east, when a man tried to open fire in a synagogue. A few months earlier, on June 2, a radical right-wing activist was killed, Walter Lübcke, the prefect of Cassel.
The click of 2015
These four incidents in nine months illustrate the climate of far-right violence that is currently shaking Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel may try to set herself up as a rampart, repeating after the Hanau massacre that "racism is poison, hate is poison", the fact remains that the country had not experienced such an explosion of hate attacks since the bloody outburst of the neo-Nazi group Nationalsozialistischer Untergrund (NSU, Clandestinité nationale-socialiste) in the early 2000s.
But the landscape of the current radical German right has nothing to do with that of the members of the NSU, who perpetrated ten racially motivated murders between 2000 and 2007. “At the time, the far right was essentially composed of what can be called the classical neo-Nazi movement, which advocates the purity of the race and pursues the idea of coming together behind a 'Führer' ”, notes Robert Lüdecke, expert of the far right at the Amadeu foundation Antonio, a center for research and prevention of racism and anti-Semitism, contacted by France 24.
After the dismantling of this ultraviolet cell, Germany experienced a period of calm "mainly due to the redoubled efforts of the authorities to contain extremist activism", believes Robert Lüdecke. But, for this expert, the police focused their attention on those nostalgic for the 3rd Reich, shaved heads and boots on their feet, without taking sufficient account of the hatred that was slowly but surely spreading in the corners of the Internet.
The wave of refugee arrivals in 2015 and 2016 served as a trigger for these extremists who came out of the digital woods to establish themselves in the media landscape. Germany then became aware of the existence of a new far-right scene which appears, at first glance, much more fragmented than the old one. “There are, schematically, three major groups: the traditional neo-Nazis, with organizations like the Dritte Weg, the extremists who present themselves as modern, grouped under the banner of the party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) or the Neue Rechte , and rabid people who have radicalized themselves on social networks or on forums bringing together extremists from all countries ”, summarizes Robert Lüdecke.
An extreme right not so fragmented
AfD has worked hard to give the impression that there was no bridge between these three universes, fitting into the traditional democratic game and banning terms that are too connoted. But for Robert Lüdecke, we must not be fooled. For example, this new right has “replaced the reference to race by that to culture, but it is the same ideological filiation”, he underlines. Instead of excluding in the name of the primacy of the Aryan race, this “modern” extreme right rejects the foreigner to preserve Western culture.
The far-right demonstrations in Chemnitz at the end of August 2018 also demonstrated that all the components of this universe communicate with each other. “In 24 hours, neo-Nazis found themselves demonstrating alongside AfD sympathizers and extremists who did not claim to be from any established movement. This ability to organize a gathering so quickly could only have been possible if all these little people frequent the same sites or forums ”, assures Robert Lüdecke.
Terrorists who “no longer feel alone”
A specificity of the German extremist scene compared to the rest of Europe is the propensity for violence and the passage to the terrorist act. In 2018, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution estimated that half of the people who can be classified as right-wing extremists in Germany present tendencies towards violence, underlines the researcher of the French Institute of international relations Nele Katharina Wissman , in a note on far-right terrorism in Germany published in December 2019.
For Robert Lüdecke, this observation is partly explained by History. "There is a legacy of Nazi ideology which recognizes the legitimacy of the use of violence to defend the purity of the race," he recalls. In the writings of the author of the Hanau massacre, found by the police, reference is made several times to the obligation to defend "race" by force.
The killer of Hanau, like that of Halle or the assassin of the prefect of Cassel, also took action "because they no longer feel alone", notes Robert Lüdecke, who blames the trivialization of hate speech by AfD for this development. This party “played a central role in raising the sauce against 'the elites', foreigners, journalists and by adopting a disinformation strategy, ensuring that the traditional media were not credible”, lists the German expert.
People who have radicalized online thus find the ideas developed on obscure forums in the speeches of a party that has the electoral wind in its sails. "It gives them the impression of being in tune with what they think is a majority of Germans," says Robert Lüdecke.
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