Far-right terrorism is not something that Germany can simply sweep under the carpet, but rather an alarming reality that all European countries must first face and then act against
Far-right extremism is a substantial and serious threat to our free society; these were the words of Germany’s Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer shortly after a heinous murder had shocked his country. Earlier this month, District President of North Hesse Dr. Walter Lübcke was assassinated at his home. The brutality of the act, which many compared to a cold-blooded execution, led to consternation and total disbelief among the population.
Paying respect to Dr. Lübcke and comforting his family were of course the most pressing items on everyone’s agenda, yet law enforcement immediately began the search for his killer. By now we know that thanks to a trace of DNA found on the body of the murdered state representative, a 45-year old man with a long list of past encounters with the law who lives in that part of Germany, too, is considered as the suspect. There is speculation that he did not commit the crime alone; for example, some witnesses mention that there had been two cars speeding away from the murder scene, but nothing has been proven so far.
What is certain, however, is that the suspect has connections to far-right and extremist movements; the debate focuses on whether he acted alone (or as part of a small team) or whether there is a wider, far-right terror cell involved; the latter hypothesis up until today mostly discredited, yet at least one possibility.
Why murder a district president?
Germany’s federal system of government is made up of various layers. In the case of Hesse, the district president (Regierungspräsident) has far-reaching powers and is a kind of in-between official authority with the “Land” and its elected government on the one side, and the next lower level of authority, the Kreis (county councils), on the other side. The Land Hesse has three district presidents and 26 county councils in total. Who is in charge of what depends on a cleverly laid out master plan.
One such issue for which the district president has the authority is the coordination of immigration, refugees and asylum seekers. And exactly this topic might have cost Dr. Lübcke his life. Investigators mention previous death threats and verbal attacks resulting in him being put under police protection at one point in the past.