Sociologist on the hanau attack: “this is no coincidence”.

The continuity of right-wing terror is often suppressed, says researcher Sebastian Wehrhahn. The hypothesis of a single perpetrator is politically incorrect.

Commemoration in Hanau: The lack of awareness of victims of right-wing terror repeats their exclusion Photo: Roland Geisheimer/attenzione

site: Wednesday night, the second largest right-wing terrorist attack in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany was carried out in Hanau. What continuity does right-wing terror have in Germany?

Sebastian Wehrhahn: Right-wing terror has a long history here. As early as the 1950s, weapons, explosives and enemy lists were found among right-wing extremists. In 1968, Rudi Dutschke was the victim of an assassination attempt, and in 1980 the "German Action Groups" murdered Nguyễn Ngọc Châu and Đỗ Anh Lân. Shortly after that there was the Oktoberfest attack. So far, only a small excerpt.

This continuity of right-wing terror is often suppressed. This has a lot to do with the selection of victims and with the self-image of our society and the question of who actually belongs to it. Right-wing terror is often not perceived as a threat against the whole society and common values, quite differently from other forms of terrorism. This void in perception reiterates the marginalization of victims.

Where does the alleged perpetrator of Hanau fit in?

At the moment, not much is known about the alleged perpetrator and his background. However, it is clear from the confessional letter that he represented a classically racist worldview, which is by no means only important for the extreme right, but has many overlaps and points of contact with a socially widespread racism.

Another point that distinguishes this attack and is typical of right-wing terror: the selection of victims. For some time now, shisha bars have been built up as alleged hotbeds of criminal activity by migrant clans. When people are shot in such places, it is no coincidence.

Can right-wing terror be explained only in terms of Germany?

Yes and no. Of course, we have to talk about the resonant spaces of right-wing chats and forums, as well as about the fact that the perpetrators often refer to each other. The Halle attacker, for example, made direct reference to the racist attack in Christchurch. And when we talk about organized right-wing terror, the international Combat 18 network is of course important.

Nevertheless, it remains important to keep the German dimension in mind and to understand the context in which such attacks take place. For example, when the media court the AfD, they give space to the racist agitation of this party.

It is currently being investigated whether the suspected perpetrator in Hanau was mentally ill. So just a confused man after all?

Confusion and racism are not mutually exclusive. The question arises why, in the case of right-wing attacks, the mental state of the perpetrator is set off against the ideological background. And regardless of how confused the perpetrator was, the question remains why he chose exactly these victims and exactly these crime scenes. This question cannot be answered without the phenomenon of racism.

On Monday, the annual crime statistics for the state of Hesse were published. The number of right-wing extremist crimes increased by 52%. Where are politics and authorities challenged?

I think authorities need to act more decisively against right-wing structures and take into account in law enforcement the fact that we are almost always dealing with networks. The hypothesis of a single perpetrator is politically incorrect and also counterproductive from an investigative point of view. This perspective ignores backgrounds, perpetrators and confidants. It fails to render structures permanently harmless and relieves those politically responsible of their responsibility.

Sebastian Wehrhahn is a research assistant to Martina Renner (Member of the Bundestag, The Left Party), focusing on right-wing terrorism.

In terms of political treatment, it seems important to me that the trivialization of right-wing terror cannot be separated from the extremism-theoretical equation of left and right.

The police seem powerless, what can civil society do?

It is important to protect those who are threatened by right-wing terror. Civil society can contribute to this through solidarity, but also through political pressure on state and federal governments. And of course civil society can also take a clear stand where the ground is prepared for right-wing terror. We should rather listen to those affected instead of offering podiums to the intellectual arsonists again and again.

What can help the targets of right-wing terror feel safe again?

This security is an obligation of the state and society, and the state and society must not be released from this obligation. The continuity of right-wing terror and everyday racism show that this security is fragile and can be taken away at any time. The reports of those affected make it very clear that right-wing terror and right-wing normality cannot be understood separately from each other and cannot be fought. Alliances of solidarity and political pressure are needed.