September 19, 2019

Germany's Neo-Nazi Problem

“How many political murders do far-right extremists have to commit before the German government does something about it?

When the German politician Walter Lübcke was found shot in the head outside of his home near Kassel on June 2, commentators were quick to assert that a right-wing extremist was the most likely culprit. Even the police seemed half-hearted in their calls for restraint in judging the motive of the crime, and the brief suspicion that the culprit had been someone close to the victim was quickly laid to rest. The unanimity of the official response, in one sense, was admirably forthright. But it was also its own national admission of negligence.

Lübcke, a member of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, served as Kassel district president from 2009 until his death and had long been a figure of regional importance. Tributes from local papers emphasize that he was widely liked and had good relationships with his constituents. In 2015, however, he became a favorite target of right-wingers throughout Germany when, in the midst of the refugee crisis, he told an assembly gathered in the West German city of Lohfelden about the planned construction of a refugee camp, and he brushed away dissent by saying that Germany is a country based on Christian values, including charity, and “anyone who doesn’t share these values, anyone who doesn’t agree, is welcome to leave the country at any time. Every German has that freedom.””

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