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Far-right extremists blamed for surge in anti-Semitic crimes in Germany

"The biggest threat is still the threat from the right," Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said.
A woman lights a candle next to the entrance of a synagogue in Munich during a protest against anti-Semitism in October 2019. Christog Stache / AFP via Getty Images file

MUNICH — Right-wing extremists were to blame for a large rise in anti-Semitic crimes in Germany last year, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said Wednesday following the release of the country's annual crime report.

Jewish groups and politicians condemned the increase, which recorded 2,032 reports of anti-Semitic crimes in 2019 — up by 13 percent from 1,799 in 2018.

"The biggest threat is still the threat from the right," Seehofer said, adding that crimes by right-wing extremists accounted for more than half of all politically motivated crimes.

Right-wing extremists were responsible for more than 90 percent of the anti-Semitic crimes and a similar percentage of anti-Islamic crimes, he added.

"We must remain alert and tackle it," Seehofer said, adding: "It is an order of magnitude that accompanies us with concern, with great concern."

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Overall, the number of politically motivated crimes rose by 14 percent last year, to 41,177, more than half of which were committed by far-right radicals, the report said. Seehofer said crimes by left-wing radicals had also jumped, by 23 percent.

Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews, urged politicians and the public to do more to fight anti-Semitism, which he said had become "commonplace in Germany."

He added that the killings of two people by a gunman outside a synagogue in the city of Halle in October "was a signal."

The coronavirus pandemic had an "intensifying effect," he said. "Supporters of conspiracy myths and opponents of the measures against the pandemic do not even shy away from relativizing the Holocaust. Special attention must be paid to growing right-wing extremism."

The attack in Halle was one of several high-profile attacks in the last year.

In February, a racist gunman murdered nine migrants near Frankfurt before killing his mother and himself.

In June 2019, pro-migrant politician Walter Lübcke was shot to death at close range at his home in Hesse state. A far-right radical confessed to the crime, although he later retracted his statement.

Police have also warned that thousands of protesters at rallies opposing lockdown measures meant to reduce the spread of COVID-19 are in large part driven by far-right sympathizers.

CORRECTION (May 27, 2020, 11:45 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misstated the number of anti-Semitic crimes reported in Germany in 2018. According to the Interior Ministry, 1,799 such crimes were reported, not 1,768.