German minister warns of far-right threat as anti-Semitic crime jumps

BERLIN (Reuters) - The number of anti-Semitic crimes committed in Germany rose last year by 13%, Interior Minster Horst Seehofer said on Wednesday, laying the blame squarely on right-wing radicals.

Germany has stepped up efforts to counter far-right groups in recent months, especially after a gunman in the city of Halle killed two people outside a synagogue in October.

"The biggest threat in our country comes from the right. This is a reality...We must remain alert and tackle it," said Seehofer, a Bavarian conservative.

Authorities registered 2,032 crimes with an anti-Semitic background, up 13% from 2018, and Seehofer said more than 90% of those were perpetrated by right-wing radicals, said Seehofer.

Germany's Jewish community expressed shock.

"The attack in Halle last year was a signal," said Josef Schuster, President of the Central Council of Jews, urging politicians and society do more to fight anti-Semitism which, he said, had become commonplace in Germany.

"Especially on the Internet, unrestrained hatred hits us. But also on the streets and in schools the rejection of Jews is a massive problem," he said.

Earlier this month, a Jewish leader warned that many young people in the land responsible for the Holocaust had failed to learn the lessons of history.

Overall, the number of politically motivated crimes rose by 14% last year to 41,177, more than half of which were committed by far-right radicals. Crimes, mostly vandalism, committed by left-wing militants jumped by 23%, said Seehofer.

There have been several high profile attacks in the last year. In February a racist gunman killed nine migrants near Frankfurt before killing his mother and himself. In June 2019, pro-migrant politician Walter Luebcke was found shot dead at close range at his home in Hesse state. A far-right radical confessed to the crime, though later retracted his statement.

Police have also warned that thousands of protesters at rallies opposing lockdown measures against the coronavirus are in large part driven by far-right sympathisers.


(Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Mark Heinrich)