Right-wing websites claim that Germany is facing an alleged epidemic of rape cases committed by refugees, fueling panic about the recent influx of foreigners and the safety of women in the country. We investigated one site’s reports and found many problems with them. By DER SPIEGEL Staff
On April 6, 2016, an unidentified assailant attacked a 20-year-old woman on a playground in the German port city of Rostock and forced her to engage in oral sex before fleeing the scene. The woman reported that the man had been dark-skinned.
On Aug. 6, 2016, an unidentified man attacked a 21-year-old female university student from China near the university of Bochum, choked her with a rope and raped her. The woman said the perpetrator had spoken with a foreign accent. The police conducted a manhunt for a suspect with a “Central Asian/dark skin type.”
The two rapes in Germany were picked up by the national media. But one of them didn’t even happen.
The “university rapist” in Bochum, it turns out, did actually exist — and he would go on to attack another female student from China three months later. Ultimately, police captured a 31-year-old asylum-seeker from Iraq, who had lived with his wife and two children in a refugee camp located near the crime scene. A court sentenced him in the first verdict to 11 years in prison.
But the alleged Rostock rapist did not exist. Police had expressed some doubt about whether the incident had in fact taken place in their first press release on the case and a forensic investigation indicated that the woman herself had been responsible for her injuries. In June 2016, the public prosecutor in Rostock closed the investigation, but by then the news of a dark-skinned rapist had already been shared thousands of times on the internet. The Schweriner Volkszeitung newspaper in the state capital even reported on its website about the alleged sex crime, citing “internal sources.” The article began with the words: “The Rostock chief of police is keeping silent.”
Meanwhile, in a report on the Facebook page NonStopNews Rostock, the dark-skinned man became a “Südländer,” a term often used to describe those living in some Mediterranean countries. “Sex crime in Warnemünde? Was a young woman raped? Südländer reportedly attacked woman.”