February 5, 2016

In a further instance of violence against a refugee shelter, a hand grenade was thrown at an accommodation unit for asylum seekers in the Black Forest town of Villingen-Schwenningen in southern Germany. This latest incident comes after the year 2015 witnessed a massive spike in xenophobic violence, a trend which garnered further momentum after the sexual assaults of New Year’s Eve. Following the grenade attack on the refugee shelter, the Turkish Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), in which above all German Muslims of Turkish origin are organised, released a statement calling for “de-escalation” and for a differentiated portrayal of Muslims and refugees in the media, in the hope that this could lead to and a calmer public discussion. The press release called for unity of the German population in the face of the mounting strength of a racist and xenophobic fringe.

Against initial assumptions of a xenophobic background to this particular case, the preliminary results of the ongoing police investigation seem to point to a rivalry between private security sector companies as the driving motive behind the attack. Irrespective of the dynamics of this particular case – which has been noteworthy for the national-level headlines and comments by government figures it has elicited – the violent far right is on an upswing: already back in October 2015 an observer of these groups asserted in an interview with Deutschlandfunk that the far right scene sees itself as having entered a new phase of its combat: “mentally, they have closer their ranks, which means that they are now all in a state of war. Now it is high time, and guerrilla warfare is at the order of the day.” With a number of more sophisticated right-wing extremist plots already having been foiled, these events recall the rise of the National Socialist Underground (NSU), a neo-Nazi terror cell that targeted above all immigrant communities and claimed 10 victims between 2000 and 2007. The case – and above all the linkages between the NSU cell and the German domestic intelligence agency (Verfassungsschutz) – had rocked the trust especially of non-ethnic Germans in the police and intelligence apparatus.

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