ExtremismThe Killing of Walter Lübcke: One Year Later, Some Questions Remain

Published 1 June 2020

One year ago, Walter Lübcke, a member of Angela Merkel’s conservatives, was shot and killed in his garden, allegedly by a far-right extremist. Germany stepped up measures at tackling extremism, but has it been enough?

It seems Walter Lübcke had no chance of escape when his alleged killer, Stephan E., moved in on him early in the morning of 2 June 2019.

According to federal prosecutors, “under the cover of darkness he approached Walter Lübcke‘s house, where he was sitting on the terrace.” The suspect “crept up on his victim and shot him in head from a short distance with a Rossi revolver.”

The killing bore all the hallmarks of a politically motivated execution. The impression was deliberate; nothing had been left to chance. The 66-year-old conservative Christian Democrat (CDU) politician had been a target of hatred in militant right-wing extremist circles since 2015. At that time, Germany faced a huge influx of refugees into the country and Lübcke was an outspoken advocate of efforts to welcome them and integrate them.

Lübcke’s assassination was different from other killings carried out by far-right fanatics in that it was the first time in postwar Germany that a serving politician had been murdered by a right-wing extremist. There were, however, previous targeted killings of asylum-seekers and members of Germany’s migrant communities.

Lübcke’s death came just under a year after the end of the trial of Beate Zschäpe, one of the key figures in a far-right terrorist cell called the National Socialist Underground (NSU). In July 2018, Zschäpe was sentenced to life in jail for her part in a seven-year killing spree that included 10 murders and two bomb attacks. These had been jointly planned and carried out by Zschäpe and two far-right co-conspirators, Uwe Böhnhardt und Uwe Mundlos, who were both found dead in 2011.

Lübcke’s Killing Reminiscent of NSU Murders
The sentence passed down on Zschäpe did not appear to have any kind of deterrent effect. On the contrary: Lübcke was gunned down in a way that was shockingly reminiscent of the NSU killings, which left nine members of Germany’s immigrant communities and one policewoman dead. All were shot and killed from short range. However, while the victims of the NSU were entirely unaware of the fate that awaited them, Lübcke was well aware that far-right fanatics were out to get him.

Hate mail and death threats against him had become an everyday occurrence since 2015, when he sided with Chancellor Angela Merkel on a welcoming refugee policy. Emotions were running high on all sides after the decision to set up a refugee accommodation center in the small town of Lohfelden, close to the