Hanau attack reveals 'poison' of racism in Germany, says Merkel

2020-02-20 | Since 1 Month

Angela Merkel has said the murder of nine people in a shooting rampage by a suspected rightwing extremist has revealed the “poison” of racism and hate in Germany.

The man, identified as Tobias Rathjen, 43, carried out attacks at two shisha bars in Hanau, a commuter town near Frankfurt, before killing his mother, bringing the death toll to 10, and then himself, police said.

Investigators said he a “deeply racist mindset”, citing a video and a lengthy manifesto he had posted on social media. Authorities said they were treating the attacks as an act of domestic terrorism.

All nine of those killed at the shisha bars had an immigrant background, and at least five were Turkish, several of Kurdish origin, prosecutors said. Six others were injured, one of whom had life-threatening injuries. There were unconfirmed reports that a 35-year-old pregnant mother of two was among those who died.

Merkel promised the state would stand up with “strength and decisiveness” to those who try to divide society.

Campaigners for migrant rights in Germany said the attacks were indicative of widespread indifference shown by the state towards rightwing extremism despite evidence that it was on the rise.

“If people are silent for long enough, then things like this will happen,” said Mehmet Daimagüler, a lawyer for victims of far-right terrorism. “You could have set the clock by this attack. People tell us they have learnt from Auschwitz, but this shows that sort of talk is just ‘blah, blah’.”
Federal prosecutors said they would be taking charge of the investigation, as is normal practice when the state is considered to be endangered by a crime. Investigators aim to establish whether he acted alone or received support from any individuals or groups.

Late on Thursday, the tabloid Bild reported that Rathjen had contacted authorities with his conspiracy theories only three months ago, seemingly contradicting claims that he had not been on intelligence agencies’ radar.

On 6 November, Rathjen wrote to Germany’s general prosecutor and called on authorities to “approach me and communicate with me”. Parts of the 19-page letter were virtually identical to the rambling manifesto published on his website, but it was unclear whether it included any threats against ethnic minorities, the newspaper said.

If confirmed as genuine, the letter will prompt further questions over whether authorities might have been able to intervene to prevent the deadly attack.

According to police, the gunman first drove to a shisha bar called Midnight, on Heumarkt in the centre of Hanau, where he fired about eight or nine shots apparently randomly into the room at about 10pm on Wednesday.

After driving to a second bar called Arena, on Kurt Schumacher Platz in the western district of Kesselstadt, and firing more shots, he drove to a house, believed to be his home, where he shot his 72-year-old mother before shooting himself.

After a frantic search involving dozens of armed police and a helicopter, police were alerted to his parked car in Kesselstadt and quickly matched it to the address and sealed off the area. At around 3am, neighbours heard a large bang as police detonated the front door of the white terraced house, where they found Rathjen’s body and that of his mother. They also found the murder weapon, a spokesman said.


Federal prosecutors said they would be taking charge of the investigation, as is normal practice when the state is considered to be endangered by a crime. Investigators aim to establish whether he acted alone or received support from any individuals or groups.

Late on Thursday, the tabloid Bild reported that Rathjen had contacted authorities with his conspiracy theories only three months ago, seemingly contradicting claims that he had not been on intelligence agencies’ radar.

On 6 November, Rathjen wrote to Germany’s general prosecutor and called on authorities to “approach me and communicate with me”. Parts of the 19-page letter were virtually identical to the rambling manifesto published on his website, but it was unclear whether it included any threats against ethnic minorities, the newspaper said.

If confirmed as genuine, the letter will prompt further questions over whether authorities might have been able to intervene to prevent the deadly attack.

According to police, the gunman first drove to a shisha bar called Midnight, on Heumarkt in the centre of Hanau, where he fired about eight or nine shots apparently randomly into the room at about 10pm on Wednesday.

After driving to a second bar called Arena, on Kurt Schumacher Platz in the western district of Kesselstadt, and firing more shots, he drove to a house, believed to be his home, where he shot his 72-year-old mother before shooting himself.

After a frantic search involving dozens of armed police and a helicopter, police were alerted to his parked car in Kesselstadt and quickly matched it to the address and sealed off the area. At around 3am, neighbours heard a large bang as police detonated the front door of the white terraced house, where they found Rathjen’s body and that of his mother. They also found the murder weapon, a spokesman said.

 



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