A police report seen by German media has found that extreme-right protesters explicitly tried to violently chase down foreigners. Disagreement over whether such a “hunt” took place nearly toppled the German government.
New details have emerged in the investigation into the August 2018 demonstrations in Chemnitz that show extreme right-wing individuals made specific plans to “hunt” migrants and foreign-looking individuals, German media reported.
The news sheds further details on the events one year ago that resulted in Chemnitz taking center stage in discussions on the prevalence of right-wing extremism in Germany and that nearly caused the downfall of Angela Merkel’s national coalition government.
A ‘great readiness to use violence’ in Chemnitz
According to research by German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, and broadcasters WDR and NDR, the Saxony Criminal Police Office evaluated chat messages exchanged between known members of Chemnitz’s extreme right scene between August 26 and 28.
On August 26, a German national was killed in a stabbing in Chemnitz. Non-German nationals were suspected of the crime, with a 23-year-old Syrian national recently convicted of manslaughter in the crime.
The stabbing led to a week of far-right protests in the city that drew neo-Nazis from across Germany and saw migrants or foreign-looking individuals chased in the streets.
Social media was also used to draw right-wing extremists from across Germany to Chemnitz to take part in anti-immigrant protests
The Saxony report summarized that the demonstrations were marked by “great readiness to use violence against police officials, people with actual or immigrant backgrounds, political opponents and journalists,” the Süddeutsche Zeitung said.
The report also stated that the chat participants used the word “hunt” (“Jagd”) repeatedly as the events in Chemnitz were ongoing, and described wanting to or having violently attacked people of immigrant background.
The document also states that the chat participants boasted among themselves about having successfully hunted supposed migrants.
The chats point to “the actual implementation of violent criminal acts against foreigners,” the report read.
The right-wing violence in Chemnitz unleashed a debate over whether or not foreigners and foreign-looking individuals had been specifically targeted and pursued.
Evidence against doubts that shook the government
The then-president of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, Hans-Georg Maassen, disputed the idea that such a hunt had taken place and openly questioned the authenticity of videos showing foreign-looking individuals being chased.
Maassen was initially promoted into a different position before being forced into retirement. The events almost toppled Merkel’s government.
The doubts expressed by Maassen, a member of Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), as well as his closeness to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, triggered a crisis that nearly brought down the government coalition. The co-governing Social Democrats (SPD) demanded his removal. Maassen was eventually forced into retirement.
The Saxony police report is part of an investigation into the August 2018 Chemnitz events and is in the hands of the attorney general’s office for further evaluation.
Death sparks demonstrations
The demonstrations were sparked by a deadly brawl that broke out in the German city of Chemnitz in the early hours of Sunday (August 26). What started out as a war of words resulted in a 35-year-old man being stabbed to death. Hours later, spontaneous, anti-migrant protests took over the streets of Chemnitz.
A German-Cuban man was stabbed in an altercation involving 10 people, several of whom were of “various nationalities,” police sources said. The victim, named only as Daniel H., was apparently well-known among various political groups in the area. Two men in their 30s were also stabbed and seriously injured, and a 22-year-old Iraqi and 23-year-old Syrian are in custody over the killing.
Police reinforcements called
By Sunday afternoon, some 800 people had gathered to protest the man’s death, including far-right groups. Authorities said the crowd was largely uncooperative and threw bottles at police officers. Police reinforcements had to be called in from nearby cities. The mobilizations were spontaneous and are thought to have surfaced following calls to demonstrate on social media.
German authorities said that those far-right groups spread misinformation on the internet. Among the false claims was that the victim of the knife attack died protecting a woman.
Protests and counterprotests
Thousands of far-right and counterdemonstrators faced off in a second day of protest Monday. Several people were injured as objects and fireworks were hurled. Video footage showed the far-right “Pro Chemnitz” movement holding a banner with a quote from early 20th-century poet Anton Günther reading “German and free we aim to be.”
‘No place for Nazis’
Counter-demonstrators denouncing right-wing extremism also took to the streets of Chemnitz. Among the protesters were Antifa, who clashed with right-wing demonstrators.