June 20, 2019 / 11:55 AM / a month ago

German mayors get death threats after suspected far-right murder

BERLIN (Reuters) - At least two German mayors with pro-migrant policies have received death threats by post, police said on Thursday, a few weeks after the murder of a senior local politician by a suspected far-right radical.

FILE PHOTO: An honour guard stands next to the coffin of Kassel District President Walter Luebcke, who was shot dead by a suspected far-right extremist,, during his funeral in Kassel, Germany, June 13, 2019. Swen Pfoertner/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

The close-range shooting of Walter Luebcke at his home in central Germany on June 2 and the arrest of a man officials say had far-right sympathies has shocked Germans and the government has said it should be a wake-up call.

German police said at least two local mayors had received death threats in the mail but declined to confirm media reports that the anonymous threats warned of “purging” and ended with the words “Sieg Heil” and “Heil Hitler”. It was unclear if there was a direct link to the Luebcke case.

Among those targeted were Cologne Mayor Henriette Reker, who was stabbed in the neck in 2015 by a right-wing extremist while campaigning, and Andreas Hollstein, mayor of the small western town of Altena who was knifed in 2017.

In a nation with a prevailing “never again” contrition over the Nazi-era Holocaust, such incidents are especially shocking.

“We cannot tolerate such a brutalization,” said Mathias Middelberg, spokesman on interior affairs for the conservative parliamentary party, adding people who called for violence and murder or who sanctioned these crime should be punished.

Luebcke headed the Kassel district government and was a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU).

Germany is home to some 12,700 potentially violent far-right radicals, according to the BfV domestic intelligence agency. A Civey poll this week showed 60 percent of Germans think the government is doing too little to tackle the problem.

Conservative CDU party chief Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) shared the blame for Luebcke’s murder by legitimizing a language of hate that fuels violence.

One prominent AfD lawmaker has criticized the Holocaust memorial in Berlin commemorating the 6 million Jews murdered by Nazi Germany as a “monument of shame”. AfD co-leader Alexander Gauland last year dismissed the Hitler era as “just bird shit in more than 1,000 years of successful German history”.

The AfD capitalized on anger over Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door immigration policy from 2015-16 that has led to the arrival of more than a million migrants.

The party is now the third biggest in the German parliament and the official opposition, and is expected to make gains in autumn elections in three eastern German states.

It is particularly strong in Saxony, where the most violent neo-Nazi demonstrations in a generation took place last year in the city of Chemnitz after the killing of a Cuban-German citizen was blamed on two immigrants.

Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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