For the first time since the Third Reich, it appears that a politician has been assassinated in Germany.
On June 2, Walter Lübcke, who was president of the regional council in the city of Kassel in central Germany, was shot in the head at close range and killed at his home. Lübcke was a member of chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party and was also a strong supporter of Merkel’s decision to allow more than a million migrants into Germany at the height of the 2015 refugee crisis.
On Saturday, German police arrested a man identified as Stefan E (only partially named in accordance with German privacy laws) after reportedly being identified via DNA traces on Lübcke’s clothing. The federal prosecutor’s office said they were working “on the assumption that the crime has a right-wing extremist background,” and Stefan E has an extensive history with the German far-right.
When he was 20, the suspect was imprisoned for planting a pipe bomb outside an asylum shelter, the Guardian reported. He also was part of a group which attacked trade unionists in the city of Dortmund, and has had contact with the far-right National Democratic Party, as well as the neo-Nazi terror group Combat 18.
The murder is the latest incident of resurgent far-right violence within Germany. Last October, police in the eastern German city of Chemnitz arrested six men suspected of being part of a neo-Nazi cell for their role in plotting attacks on politicians and foreigners. In August of that year, there was also significant violence at a far-right rally in Chemnitz, where protesters attacked those who, in their eyes, did not look German. In November 2017, the mayor of the German town of Altena was stabbed in the neck with a knife because of his pro-refugee stance.
This latest attack has an added significance because it took place in the city of Kassel where, in 2006, the neo-Nazi terror group National Socialist Underground, carried out one of its ten murders — a body count which included a number of migrants and a policewoman. The security services were fiercely criticized for their perceived ineptitude in investigating the NSU’s murder spree, which took place over 13 years.
More broadly, however, the Kassel assassination is just the latest example of the global specter of far-right violence. On Tuesday, two teenagers were jailed in the U.K. for being part of the neo-Nazi group Sonnenkrieg Division — an offshoot of the American neo-Nazi terror group Atomwaffen — and advocating murdering police officers and Prince Harry, who married Meghan Markle, an American actress who is biracial. Last week, in France, police revealed that they had arrested five members of a neo-Nazi group who were plotting to target a place of worship.
In the U.S. meanwhile, there continues to be a steady uptick in confrontations with those who FBI assistant director of counterterrorism Michael McGarrity described as self-radicalized “lone offenders [who are] primarily using firearms.” Over the weekend, for instance, a joint investigation by the FBI and police in Concord, California, resulted in the arrest of Ross Farca, who had made repeated comments about carrying out a mass shooting against Jews and law enforcement. He posted bail on Monday.