ExtremismGermany’s Domestic Intel. Agency: Right-Wing Extremists Greatest Threat to the County

Published 9 July 2020

A new report by Germany’s domestic intelligence (BfV) agency says right-wing extremism now poses the greatest threat to security in the country. BfV said that the number of right-wing extremists in Germany has increased from 24,100 in 2018 to 32,000 in 2019. As worrisome, the number of extremists who are prepared to use violence to achieve their aims keeps growing, and now stands at 13,000. The number of left-wing extremists has increased from 32,000 to 33,500 but only 9,000 of them are regarded as committed to violence. Anti-Semitism continues to be central to right-wing extremist movement, and 94 percent of anti-Semitic crimes in Germany in 2019 were committed by members of these movements. Islamist terrorism is still a threat, but it is declining: 28,000 Germans are affiliated with Islamist Jihadist groups, but only 650 are regarded as potentially violent.

Right-wing extremism poses the biggest threat to security in Germany, the country’s interior minister said Thursday at the presentation of the 2019 report by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency.

In Berlin, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and the head of Germany’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, or BfV—the German domestic intelligence agency) Thomas Haldenwang presented the organization’s most recent findings, which showed that right-wing extremism in Germany sharply increased last year.

According to the report, the BfV identified 32,080 right-wing extremists in Germany in 2019, up from 24,100 the year before.

The BfV classified 13,000 of these cases as prepared to use violence, 300 more than in 2018.

Right-wing extremism, racism, and anti-Semitism continue to increase in Germany, Seehofer said.

These areas are the biggest threat to security in Germany,” he said.

Seehofer pointed to government action over the last year, saying no other government in Germany had done more to fight far-right extremism.

Süddeutsche Zeitung notes that in recent months, several extreme far-right organizations were banned for views or activities deemed anti-constitutional.

For the first time this year, the BfV report also reviewed the activities and member of the radical Flügel (“Wing”) faction of Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

The AfD, a populist extreme-right, vehemently anti-immigration party, is a coalition of traditional German nationalists, neo-Fascists, and anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers. In the September 2017 election, they were overtly and covertly helped by the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence branch, and the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency – the same outfits which helped Donald Trump win the 2016 election – and, for the first times since the end of the Second World War, gained enough seats to enter the Bundestag, where they are now the third-largest party.

The extremist AfD’s Flügel faction officially disbanded earlier this year after the BfV put the group under surveillance, but the agency estimates the faction retains the loyal membership of around 7,000 individuals, which is about 20 percent of the AfD.

The BvF report details a significant increase in right-wing extremists in Germany in 2019.

Racism and anti-Semitism emerge to a very considerable degree out of right-wing extremism,” Seehofer said. “Over 90 percent of anti-Semitic incidents can be traced back to right-wing extremism.  And, therefore, it is not an exaggeration to say this is the biggest security policy concern in our country.”

The report also noted an increase in left-wing extremists, listing 33,500 extremists from the far-left end of the spectrum in 2019 compared to 32,000 the year before.

Characteristic of the left-wing extremist scene is its pronounced heterogeneity,” the report said. “The left-wing extremist scene can be divided into two camps — violent and non-violent left-wing extremists.”

The BfV recorded 6,449 criminal acts motivated by left-wing extremism in 2019, up from 4,622 in 2018, a near 40 percent increase. Just over 900 of these crimes were considered violent.

Islamic terrorism also remains a significant threat, the report found.

The danger of [Islamic] terrorism in Germany is still very high,” Seehofer said, adding that the BfV had identified nearly 650 cases of the threat of Islamic terror last year.

Attacks and planned attacks in Germany and Europe are, however, declining overall, the report said.

BfV director Haldenwang noted that the coronavirus crisis had pushed recent right-wing attacks in Germany out of the news cycle, but said the security agency continued in its work preventing such events.

Among far-right extremists there exists a “competition” as to which attack can result in the highest number of victims, Haldenwang said.

We’re talking about breaking a ‘high score’ of number of victims,” he said. “We have to break this trend.”