Right-Wing Extremism? The Puzzling Murder of a German Politician

Walter Lübcke

Walter Lübcke

Source: Spiegel

The brutal murder of a politician in central Germany has led to widespread speculation about the motive and the identity of the perpetrator. Some see it as retaliation for his pro-refugee stance, but investigators have their doubts.

By Matthias Bartsch, Veronika Völlinger and Steffen Winter

When it seemed like the rumors couldn’t get any crazier, along came the name Andreas Temme. The former intelligence officer is known for having been been chatting on a dating site in an internet café in the central German city of Kassel in 2006 as — or just before — the café manager Halit Yozgat was murdered by neo-Nazi members of the National Socialist Underground (NSU) terror group just a few meters away.

If one believes compact-online.de, a website that often spreads absurd theories popular among right-wing extremists, Temme might be connected to the death of Walter Lübcke, the district president of Kassel. The 65-year-old member of the center-right Christian Democrats (CDU) was shot to death last weekend in an incident has left the police initially stumped about the crime’s motives and perpetrator. And that has left the door wide open for conspiracy theories.

The Temme narrative was predicated on the former intelligence officer having had informants in the Islamist scene. According to the theory, former Interior Minister Volker Bouffier (CDU) had supposedly prevented these informants from being interrogated. And Bouffier, as everyone knows, was responsible for Lübcke’s 2009 appointment to district president.

The story makes zero sense, of course, but it was probably launched as a kind of defensive operation. After all, ever since Kassel prosecutors announced on Monday that Lübcke had been shot, countless online forums have been pointing the finger at the right-wing extremist scene.

Back in fall 2015, Lübcke began receiving death threats from right-wing extremists and self-anointed “reichsbürger” — a far-right group that rejects the legitimacy of the modern German state. At a heated town hall that fall about the establishment of refugee housing, Lübcke had argued that building humane shelters for refugees was a question of “values.” And those who didn’t share those valued, Lübcke said, could “leave the country at any time.”

An internet storm quickly brewed but then passed just as quickly. A few months ago, though, things heated up again after Erika Steinbach, a former CDU parliamentarian turned right-wing apologist, tweeted the old Lübcke quote as a way of fulminating against the CDU. The result was yet more threats against the political leader in Kassel.

The investigators are looking into a variety of possibilities. “We are investigating in all directions,” Hesse Criminal Police President Sabine Thurau said after the killing. Leading Hesse investigators emphasize that they take the situation extremely seriously, adding that the police could not repeat the vast failures that characterized the investigations into the NSU murders.

Between 2000 and 2007, neo-Nazis Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos murdered nine people with immigrant backgrounds and one police officer in various parts of Germany. During the investigations into those crimes, security officials essentially ignored the possibility that a right-wing extremist group could be behind them.

Read more:

Suggested reading

Populism in Europe rooted in Islamophobia

The Unaffiliated in Europe are More Open to the Muslims Than the Christians

How Populists are Creating an Unholy Alliance with Christianity


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