Germany denounces attacks on politicians, recalling ‘darkest era’ of its history

berlin — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and European Union leaders denounced Saturday a recent spate of attacks on politicians in Germany, including one that sent a member of the European Parliament to the hospital with serious injuries. 

Matthias Ecke, 41, a member of Scholz’s Social Democrats (SPD), was hit and kicked Friday by a group of four people while putting up posters in Dresden, capital of the eastern state of Saxony, police said. An SPD source said his injuries would require an operation. 

Shortly before, what appeared to be the same group attacked a 28-year-old campaigner for the Greens, who was also putting up posters, police said, although his injuries were not as severe. 

“Democracy is threatened by this kind of thing,” Scholz told a convention of European socialists in Berlin. 

The attacks exemplify increased violence in Germany in recent years, often from the far-right, targeting especially leftist politicians. The BfV domestic intelligence agency says far-right extremism is the biggest threat to German democracy. 

Saxony premier Michael Kretschmer, a conservative, said such aggression and attempts at intimidation recalled the darkest era of German history, a reference to Nazi rule. 

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, a former German conservative minister, and the Italian head of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, both condemned the attack on Ecke. 

“The culprits must be brought to account,” von der Leyen said on X. 

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser vowed “tough action and further protective measures” in response to the attacks. 

Far-right support 

The heads of the SPD in Saxony, Henning Homann and Kathrin Michel, issued a statement in which they blamed the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) for the rise in violence. 

“These people and their supporters bear responsibility for what is happening in this country,” they said. 

The AfD did not immediately reply to a request for comment. The party says it is the victim of a campaign by the media and political establishment. 

The AfD has seen a surge in support in the past year take it to second place in opinion polls nationwide. It is particularly strong in the eastern states of Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg, where surveys suggest it could come first in regional elections in September. 

Nationwide, the number of attacks on politicians of parties represented in parliament has doubled since 2019, according to government figures published in January. 

Greens party politicians face the most aggression, according to the data, with attacks on them rising sevenfold since 2019 to 1,219 last year. AfD politicians suffered 478 attacks and the SPD was third with 420. 

Theresa Ertel, a Greens candidate in municipal elections in Thuringia this month, said she knew of party members who no longer wanted to stand because of the aggressive political atmosphere. 

The Greens in her region had agreed that information stands should always have at least three staff for extra safety. 

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