Mayor of Hockenheim, a city in southwest Germany, was left bloodied and hospitalized after an unknown assailant punched him. One politician has already died and reports suggest that such attacks are becoming more common.
Dieter Gummer, a member of the left-wing Social Democratic Party, answered his door on Monday evening to find an unfamiliar face outside. The visitor punched the 67-year-old politician in the face, according to police in nearby Ludwigshafen.
Gummer fell on the floor and hit his head, requiring treatment in hospital. The culprit fled the scene.
The attacker was unknown to the mayor and is described by police as a man of slim build, around 40 years old, with dark skin. More puzzling is the fact that Gummer's set to retire in August and anyone disagreeing with his policies will get a chance to vote for his successor.
Police in the southern German town say they’re baffled as to the motive and are "investigating in all directions." However, across Germany, anger and violence against public officials is on the rise.
Last year, over 1,200 threats, criminal insults and acts of physical violence were committed against officials, Leipzig Mayor Burkhard Jung – who also chairs the German Association of Cities – told a meeting of concerned mayors last week. Nearly all German states have reported yearly increases in violence since at least 2017.
At the meeting, the mayors described how rude comments in public and on social media would progress to action. They told of finding the wheel nuts loosened on their cars, discovering rifle cartridges on their doorsteps and receiving death threats in their mailboxes.
"The people in my administration are afraid to open their doors," said one Bavarian mayor, quoted by Der Tagesspiegel. "This cannot be."
For Walter Luebcke, the trend proved fatal. He was shot in the head and killed at his home in the eastern city of Kassel in June. The 65-year-old was a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and had reportedly received death threats due to his pro-refugee stance.
Police arrested 45-year-old Stephan Ernst for the murder a week later and revealed that the suspect had a litany of previous convictions, including an attempted pipe-bomb attack on a refugee shelter in Hesse in 1993.
Ernst told police that he acted alone and was motivated by his far-right beliefs. In the aftermath of the murder, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer pinned rising lawlessness in Germany on right-wing extremists, saying that they "have become a real threat for our society," as dangerous as Islamists.
The right, however, point to immigrants as the culprits for rising crime. An Interior Ministry report published in 2018 found that asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants – who represent only 2% of Germany’s population – commit 8.5% of the country’s crime.
They also commit 14.3% of all fatal crimes, 12.2% of all sexual offenses and 9.7% of non-fatal assaults.
Whatever the cause, Germany’s mayors want tougher measures in place to tackle the threat of violence. "We mustn't allow people who work for the community to be treated badly," Jung said at the meeting last week.