Political Pyromania

Berlin Arson Attacks Leave Authorities Stumped

Paul Loebe haus source imago
Paul Löbe House, a parliamentary building, has been the target of three of the attacks.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The atacks could indicate the emergence of a new right-wing terror organization in Germany.

  • Facts


    • Incendiary devices have been used in attacks against the German parliament and ruling Christian Democrats’ HQ.
    • The culprits left behind far-right literature containing anti-immigrant tirades.
    • Police and prosecutors are investigating, but no suspects have been apprehended.
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Berlin’s government district has been attacked five times by arsonists in the past few months, raising suspicions that federal buildings are under a sustained attack from far-right extremists.

Each of the incidents occured in the early hours of a Monday morning. Three were directed at Paul Löbe House, a parliamentary office building, while incendiary devices were also thrown at the Reichstag parliament building and at the headquarters of the ruling center-right Christian Democratic Union party. The attacks did little damage and no one was injured.

All three buildings are under around-the clock video surveillance. Police are not saying what, if anything, can be seen on the video recordings, and no one has so far been apprehended.

The bottom line is that seven months after the first incident the attackers haven’t been caught. At four of the five crime scenes, they left behind flyers for a group call the German Resistance Movement. The documents had the crude headline: “The origin of violence is the ignorance of the rulers,” followed by tirades against immigrants.

The wording claims that the “multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-historical constellation of the population” at present in Germany will “tear the country apart and Balkanize it.”

What’s puzzling is that the acts of arson and the messages on the flyers are not congruent.

It’s possible the criminal also left behind flyers after the third attack on November 3, which was only uncovered after a lengthy delay. A worker may have removed them.

A number of investigative authorities have been involved in pursuing the attackers, including the Berlin State Office of Criminal Investigation, the German Federal Police and the Federal Public Prosecutor. On the day after the first attack, it was mentioned in a meeting of the Joint Counter-Terrorism Center. The day after the second attack, the prosecutor’s office set up a monitoring process.

The federal prosecutor’s office is responsible for criminal and terror organizations, but after a review, it did not join the investigation, which the federal government only acknowledged in January. Since then, the Berlin public prosecutor’s office has been investigating the case as first-degree arson.

According to the police, there were 13 cases of politically motivated, right-wing arson in 2014. The domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, said: “The message of the flyers can be ascribed to intellectual right-wing extremism.”

What’s puzzling is that the acts of arson and the messages on the flyers are not congruent, the office said, adding, “The text suggests the writer is a person who deals intellectually with political issues. The arson attacks, on the other hand, are a use of violence that tends to be more ascribable to a spectrum of persons who are more action oriented.”

The German Resistance Movement was unknown prior to the attacks, according to the Berlin city administration. Interestingly, there supposedly was a German Resistance Movement in the 1950s in East Germany, in the form of a one-man anti-communist movement that never took any action.

Investigators believe a single person committed the crimes. “There is no knowledge of the existence of a terrorist organization with a several members,” city administrators said.


This article originally appeared in the newspaper Der Tagesspiegel. To contact the author: joern.hasselmann@tagesspiegel.de

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