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Germany just created hundreds of new intelligence jobs to hunt down far-right extremists and neo-Nazis as part of a tough new approach to tackling the growing problem.
The new plan, announced in Berlin by Interior Minister Horst Seehofer Tuesday, creates 600 jobs, in total — 300 in federal police and 300 in the domestic intelligence services — and comes as a reaction to rising far-right violence in the country. In the past six months, Germany has experienced two deadly acts of terrorism: an attempted gun rampage at a synagogue in Halle that killed two people, and the assassination of a pro-refugee mayor, Walter Luebcke.
Germany has also faced a string of recent scandals involving far-right sympathizers in the army and police, and a new office will be dedicated to sniffing out extremists in the public sector.
“Germany has to become more active against the far-right,” Seehofer told reporters. “As a consequence of Halle, we want to assure the public — many steps are being taken.”
Officials said they would also take a broader approach to tackling right-wing extremism — monitoring entire networks rather than just individuals and widening their focus to look more at online far-right activity.
“In the past, we have concentrated very strongly on violence-oriented right-wing extremism, focusing on certain individuals,” Thomas Haldenwang, president of the domestic intelligence service, told reporters.
“Today, we realize we need a holistic approach.”
Germany has been grappling with surging right-wing extremism in the wake of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision in 2015 allow about one million asylum seekers into the country.
Since then, the country’s far-right fringe has become larger and more dangerous. Officials said last year there were about 24,000 right-wing extremists, about half of whom could be considered dangerous; this year, the total of extremists has risen to 32,200, according to the Tagesspiegel newspaper. Half of all politically-motivated violent crimes in Germany last year were carried out by the far-right, according to official statistics.
Far-right cells have also been busted in the police and military, where their access to weapons and tactical training makes them a particular security concern. Earlier this month, a special forces sergeant was revealed to have been suspended on suspicion of far-right activism, while eight members of an elite police commando unit were linked last month to a network of far-right doomsday “preppers.”
Robert Lüdecke, spokesman for anti-racist group the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, told VICE News that the rough new approach was welcome but “long overdue.”
“For too long, German security circles have solely been focussing on Islamist terror, while too little has been done to combat right-wing violence,” he said.
He said the failures of the German security establishment to confront the far-right had emboldened extremists, while leading the targets of their threats — Muslims, Jews and other minorities, left-wing politicians, anti-racist organizations — to lose confidence in the authorities.
“The right-wing scene has gained a new self-confidence in recent years, and they fear hardly any consequences for their plans,” he said.
Cover image: 20 November 2019, Brandenburg, Frankfurt (Oder): An official of the Federal Police holds a trowel in his hands at a rest stop on the Autobahn 12. (Photo by: Patrick Pleul/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)