The current intelligence report offers little reason for optimism. The scene of the so-called Reich citizens is growing. Right-wing terrorist ideologies find supporters online, some of whom still live in their children’s rooms.
Right, left, Islamist, anti-Semitic, diffuse: extremism is getting more and more shades in Germany. This is shown by the report for the protection of the constitution for 2021, which was presented in Berlin on Tuesday.
Right-wing extremism: The number of people with right-wing extremist attitudes has increased slightly again. According to the report, the number of people in the right-wing extremist spectrum grew by around 1.8 percent to 33,900 people within a year.
The slight increase has nothing to do with the fact that the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution now classifies the AfD as a suspected case of right-wing extremism. Because the report only covers the development in 2021, and last year the party had sued preventively against the observation as a suspected case. The judgment of the Cologne Administrative Court, which now allows the Federal Office to monitor suspected cases, was not issued until March 2022.
“Siege” ideology in Germany is becoming increasingly important
The AfD youth organization (Junge Alternative/JA) and the “supporters of the formally dissolved group of people ‘der Flügel’ (suspected case)” are listed in the report as “other potential right-wing extremists in parties”. The Office for the Protection of the Constitution assigned 7,500 people to this category last year. The number of people here was 1,100 fewer than in the previous year. The judgment of the Cologne court stated: “In addition to the anti-constitutional understanding of the people of the JA, the statements made by the officials and state associations of the JA also show massive anti-foreigner agitation.” The AfD has now appealed against the suspected case observation.
Attempts by right-wing extremists to use the corona pandemic and the flood disaster in July to win over sympathizers were ultimately unsuccessful, according to the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. The Office for the Protection of the Constitution considers almost 40 percent of right-wing extremists to be violent.
The Office for the Protection of the Constitution is concerned that the right-wing “Siege” ideology that emerged in the USA is becoming increasingly important in Germany – especially among minors who are radicalizing themselves on the Internet. The followers of this ideology wanted to bring about a collapse of the “hated democratic system” “through targeted acts of terrorism against infrastructure, members of minorities and democratic political leaders”.
Growth among left-wing extremists
“Reich Citizens”: According to the report, the number of “Reich Citizens” has increased: from around 20,000 to 21,000 followers. The protests against corona protection measures probably played a role here. The so-called Reichsbürger and Selbstverwalter doubt the legitimacy of the Federal Republic of Germany. They often refuse to pay taxes. The domestic secret service counts groups with names such as the “German Confederation of States” or the “Kingdom of Germany” among the roughly 30 nationally active groups.
Left-wing extremism: The Office for the Protection of the Constitution observed an increase of almost 1.2 percent to 34,700 people in left-wing extremism. The proportion of left-wing extremists who use violence to achieve their goals, or at least approve of it, was just under 30 percent last year. From the point of view of the protection of the constitution, the clarification of right-wing extremist networks and alleged opponents by so-called Antifa research groups is increasingly professional. “In isolated cases there are also contacts in administrative structures through which personal data or confidential information can be illegally obtained,” says the annual report.
Islamists and Islamist terrorists: According to estimates by the Cologne authorities, the following of Islamist groups has shrunk slightly for the first time in many years: by around 1.5 percent to 28,290 people. Salafist groups in particular have become less attractive. The Office for the Protection of the Constitution warns that jihadist-motivated individual perpetrators and small groups continue to pose a great risk.
New observation object on “Delegitimization of the State”
New phenomenon area: The observation object “anti-democratic and/or security-endangering delegitimization of the state”, which was newly set up in April 2021, is listed for the first time in a report by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. In this category, the domestic secret service summarizes very different groups and actors beyond the classic left-right scheme: groups and individuals who spread certain conspiracy theories, some of which are underpinned by anti-Semitism, who cast doubt on the democratic state or who reject it outright. There is still no estimate of how large the number of supporters of this heterogeneous scene is.
Foreign Intelligence Services: According to the report, the main actors are still Russia, China, Iran and Turkey. According to the information, Russian espionage in 2021 was primarily focused on questions of energy supply and European discussion processes on EU sanctions. In recent years, Chinese cyber actors have increasingly tried to obtain personal data, for example from telecommunications companies, insurance companies, travel companies, online services or authorities. Also with the aim of “monitoring and prosecuting” people critical of the government.