MYPLACE researcher Robert Grimm at Manchester Metropolitan University .
For more information on the MYPLACE project, visit the project’s website: HERE
The German Verfassungschutzbericht 2011 (Annual Report on the Protection of the Constitution) has been released on the 18th of July 2012. The annual report is compiled by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and has been published since 1969. The Annual Report on the Protection of the Constitution assesses threats to the German Constitution and offers an overview of politically motivated crime and extremism in Germany. The report uses statistics from the Kriminalpolizeilicher Meldedienst – Politisch Motivierte Kriminalität KPMD – PMD (Criminal Investigation Registration Service – Politically Motivated Criminality). These statistics are compiled by local federal police forces.
Until 2001 the Office for the Protection of the Constitution defined political crime narrowly as actions threatening the German Constitution and the democratic order. Since 2001, the definition also includes politically motivated offenses that are directed against people because of their political opinion, nationality, ethnicity, race, religion or sexual orientation.
The Report distinguishes between several ‘phenomena’ of politically motivated offenses. These include:
- Politically motivated crime ‘right’,
- Politically motivated crime ‘left’,
- Politically motivated crime ‘committed by foreigners’.
Frequencies of politically motivated crime ‘left’ and ‘right’
In 2011, the Federal Criminal Office registered a total of 30,216 politically motivated offenses. Of these, 21,610 were categorized as motivated by extremist ideology. 16,142 of extremist offenses were associated with far right political motivation while 4,502 offenses were associated with extreme left political motivation. Far right politically motivated crime was therefore more than three times higher than far left motivated crime in 2011 (see Table 1).
The office further differentiates the crime data in types of offenses. These comprise of violent crime (homicide and attempted homicide, grievous bodily harm, robbery, arson etc.), propaganda offenses and incitement to popular hatred. Propaganda offenses include the production, re-production, public display or distribution of symbols and slogans associated with forbidden political organisations (§ 86a § 86b Strafgesetzbuch). Of the 16,142 offenses associated with the far right, 11,401 or 70.6% were propaganda offenses and a further 2,381 (14.8%) of all offenses were registered as an ‘incitement of popular hatred and other’. Violent crime accounted for 755 cases and criminal damage accounted for 1377 cases of politically motivated crimes ‘right’ or 4.7% and 8.5% respectively (see Table 2).
Data on politically motivated crime ‘left’ does not include the category propaganda
offense. With 1,889 reported offenses, criminal damage is the largest offense
category (42% of the total) for politically motivated crime ‘left’ followed by
‘other’ (1,416 / 31.5%) and ‘violent crime’ with 1,157 cases or 25.7% of total
offenses (see Table 3). Both, levels of violent crime and criminal damage are
markedly higher among politically motivated crime ‘left’ when compared with
political motivated crime ‘right’ (Table 4). Of the combined cases of politically motivated
violent crime ‘left’ and ‘right’, 60.5% fall under the category ‘left’ while of
the combined cases for criminal damage 3,266 cases or 57.8% were associated
with the ‘left’ (Table 4).
There are fundamental differences between politically motivated violent crime ‘left’ and ‘right’. Nearly half (350 of 755 or 46.4%) of politically motivated violent crime ‘right’ has been registered as racially motivated violent crime. Crimes against the police and other members of state agencies predominate violent crime ‘left’ with over 700 cases or 60.5% of the total. Confrontations with political adversaries account for 217 violent crimes ‘right’ while 546 violent crimes ‘left’ have been committed against members of the political right.
Geographic distribution of politically motivated crime ‘left’ and ‘right’
MYPLCE has two separate research sites in Germany of which one is located in West Germany and the other in East Germany. It is assumed that areas in East Germany and areas located in West Germany have different propensities towards political extremism. This hypothesis assumes that different historic legacies (post 45 liberal democracy / socialist regime), divergent socio-economic performances since 89 (unemployment rates, salaries etc.) and the dissimilar demographic make-up (low percentage of foreign nationals and ethnic minority groups in East Germany) continue to shape distinct political cultures in East and West Germany.
Politically motivated violent crime ‘right’
In respect to nominal frequencies, there, is no clear difference between West and East Germany. With 149 cases, North Rhine-Westphalia has the highest occurrence of violent politically motivated crime ’right’ (Table 5) in 2011 in Germany. Bremen and Saarland, with each 5 cases, have the lowest number of politically motivated violent crime ‘right’ in 2011. If crime rates are compared in proportion to the number of inhabitants, a slightly different picture emerges. All East German states and Berlin (East and West) have a higher level of politically motivated crime ‘right’ per capita than West German states (Table 6 & Table 7). Compared to the aggregate average of West German states (0.75 per 100 thousand inhabitants) the aggregate average of violent politically motivated crime ‘right’ is more than twice as high among the five new East German states including Berlin (1.86 per 100 thousand inhabitants). There is therefore a geographic pattern in the distribution of politically motivated crime ‘right’ per capita that follows pre re-unification boundaries.
Politically motivated violent crime ‘left’
In 2011, Saxony (East Germany) has the highest frequency of violent crimes ‘left’ (202 cases) followed by North Rhine-Westphalia (West Germany / 192 cases), Lower Saxony (West Germany / 170 cases) and Berlin (East and West / 156 cases). There is no evidence for a geographic pattern of violent crime ‘left’ that allows to distinguish between East Germany and West Germany (Table 8). Unlike for politically motivated crime ‘right’, the data is inconclusive also when violent crime ‘left’ is measured in proportion to the number of inhabitants. It is perhaps slightly unsurprising, that violent crime ‘left’ per capita is higher in urban states. With just under 12 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, Bremen has by far the highest score of politically motivated crime ‘left’ in 2011. Berlin has the third highest level; it is followed by Hamburg in fourth position. Thuringia has the lowest per capita rate of politically motivated violent crime ‘left’ of all German states in 2011 (Tables 9 & 10). The overrepresentation of violent crime ‘left’ in urban states can partly be explained with offense typologies. Violent crime ‘left’ is closely associated with offending behavior during politically rallies and demonstrations. These are generally taking place in major cities. Unfortunately, the report’s data does not allow comparisons between urban states and large German none-state cities such as Frankfurt and Munich for instance.
The Annual Report on the Protection of the Constitution offers a reasonable insight into the frequency and distribution of rightwing and leftwing politically motivated crime in Germany. However, the data that is used in the report has some limitations.
The data sets are based on crimes reported to the police. Victim organisations argue that a large number of offenses go unreported. Vulnerable population groups, such as asylum seekers for example or migrants with informal employment and resident status, will be unlikely to report politically motivated crimes. It must be therefore assumed that the number of politically motivated crime (‘right’) is substantially higher (Kleffner and Holzberger; 2004)
Another issue has to do the registration and definition of crimes as ‘politically motivated’. The registration of politically motivated crime is not centralised but takes place on the local state level. The definition of what constitutes a ‘politically motivated’ crime is open to debate and interpretation and may be applied differently in local contexts. Consequently, the comparability of the data across federal states is limited (Rühl and Heckmann ;2002)
State level data says little about the actual presence of politically motivated offenders. Some offences take place in a concentrated fashion during demonstrations (the annual May demonstrations in major cities for instance or the annual commemoration of the bombing of Dresden in February 1945). These events draw in offenders from other parts of Germany. The geographic distribution of politically motivated crimes, therefore, may not be indicative for a higher propensity towards political extremism among the population in any given state.
Individual states have heterogeneous social and economic characteristics. Propensity towards politically motivated crime may vary between urban and rural areas or structurally weaker areas and locations that experience relative prosperity and economic growth. This is evident to some degree when considering the three urban states Berlin, Bremen and Hamburg that have higher rates of politically motivated crime ‘left’ than most other states. To adequately map politically motivated crime, a more detailed and fine-grained analysis of local socio-economic contexts may therefore be better suited than state level analysis.
The frequency of violent politically motivated crime is relatively low to allow for a robust data analysis. Exceptional events (the G8 summit in Mecklenburg in 2007) or annual demonstrations (anti-nuclear protest in Lower Saxony) and political rallies may skew the data towards particular states. The extraordinary confrontation between the police and the radial left on the 1st of May 2011 explains for instance the huge increase in politically motivated crime ‘left’ for Bremen in 2011 (Table 10).
And finally, one is tempted to ask in how far politically motivated violent crime ‘left’ and ‘right’ is comparable given their different motives, targets and, more importantly, the way in which members of these groups are policed in Germany. It would be interesting to investigate the relationship between politically motivated violent crime ‘left’ and policing and crowd control strategies during political rallies and demonstrations. It can be assumed that pre-emptive and non-confrontational policing will have a positive impact on offending.
While not conclusive, the statistical data in the Annual Report on the Protection of the Constitution is indicative of politically motivated crime in Germany. To shed further light on the geographic distribution of political crime in Germany, this data should perhaps be complemented with longitudinal political crime trends and be cross-referenced with election results of populist parties.
The German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution publishes an Annual Report on the Protection of the Constitution. This report assesses threats to the German Constitution and offers an overview of politically motivated crime and extremism in Germany. The report includes statistical data about politically motivated crime ‘left’ and ‘right’.
In 2011, registered politically motivated crime ‘right’ outweighs politically motivated crime ‘left’ by over 3:1.
A large proportion (70.6%) of politically motivated crime ‘right’ has been registered as ‘propaganda offenses’.
Registered politically motivated violent crime ‘left’ has been higher than politically motivated violent crime ‘right’ in Germany in 2011.
Violent political crime ‘right’ is predominantly directed against foreigners and minority groups.
Violent political crime ‘left’ is predominantly directed against people and institutions representing the state.
The proportion of violent crime ‘right’ per capita is twice as high among East German states.
There is no noticeable difference between East and West Germany in respect to violent crime ‘left’.
Violent crime ‘left’ per capita appears to be higher in urban states such as Bremen, Berlin and Hamburg. It is lowest in Thuringia.
Kleffner, H. and Holzberger, M. (2004) Reform der polizeilichen Erfassung rechter Straftaten. http://www.opferperspektive.de/
Rühl, S. and Heckmann, F. (2002) Study on Racist Violence of the German National Focal Point. European Forum for Mirgation Studies, Bamberg.
Verfassungschutzberich (2011) Bundesministerium des Innern. Berlin. http://www.verfassungsschutz.de