Europe

Germany marks one year since far-right extremist attack in Hanau

Germany has marked the one-year anniversary of the mass shootings in Hanau with a memorial event.

Senior government officials and religious leaders are among fifty people gathering on Friday at the congress centre in Hanau, near Frankfurt to mark the event.

Nine people were shot dead by a far-right extremist at two shisha bars in the city on the night of 19 February 2020. All of the victims had foreign backgrounds, in the single deadliest racially motivated attack in postwar Germany.

The 43-year-old gunman is then believed to have killed his own mother at their home before committing suicide.

Germany’s Interior Ministry said they were treating the shootings as an act of domestic terrorism, which came just four months after a far-right gunman targeted a synagogue in the city of Halle, killing two people.

The attack caused widespread shock across Germany and rekindled fears of right-wing extremism in the country.

Anti-racism campaigners called for a crackdown on hate speech after it was revealed that the attacker had published a racist “manifesto” online before committing the shootings.

Police had also found documents full of conspiracy theories and extreme right-wing views at the suspect’s home. According to Germany’s public prosecutor’s office, the suspect acted alone, although an investigation is still ongoing.

“It was a hate crime, a racist hate crime”, Chancellor Angela Merkel recently said, promising “to improve the structures of the state to combat right-wing extremism”.

Relatives of the victims have demanded a “full explanation” from the authorities, and have questioned why the perpetrator had possessed a weapon legally despite suffering from severe psychological problems.

“We need a stronger awareness on the part of the authorities” that “extreme right-wing attacks, for example against Muslims, are not abstract threats, but concrete threats,” said Aiman Mazyek, president of the Central Council of Muslims.

At Friday’s commemoration, the head of Germany’s Protestant church, Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, also called for vigilance and awareness of hidden racism in society.

“We have almost forgotten again what happened back then,” he said in a video message, “but the relatives of the victims are suffering to this day.”

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was also due to speak at the memorial event in Hanau to express solidarity with the victims and their loved ones.

Overall, right-wing extremist crime in Germany in 2020 reached its highest level since 2001. There were more than 23,000 acts with racist, antisemitic, or anti-democratic motives last year, according to Petra Pau, a vice-president of the German Bundestag.

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