Several German politicians who have publicly stood up for refugees have received death threats since what police are treating as the politically motivated murder of one of Angela Merkel’s party allies.
An email sent to politicians and media organisations across the country on Tuesday night warned that the murder of the CDU politician Walter Lübcke, allegedly by a man linked to the far right, was the first in a line of “upcoming purges” and called for terror attacks on left-leaning politicians, refugees and Jews in Germany.
The mayors of the city of Cologne and the western town of Altena, who have both been the victims of knife attacks because of their pro-refugee stances, were singled out in the letter.
Cologne’s mayor, Henriette Reker, narrowly escaped death in 2015 when she was attacked with a hunting knife by a rightwing extremist who said he had wanted to send a signal against the government’s course over the refugee question.
Altena’s mayor, Andreas Hollstein, was stabbed in the neck in 2017 by a man who had loudly criticised his liberal asylum policy in the North-Rhine Westphalia town.
Both confirmed they had received death threats this week.
A police spokesperson would not comment on whether there was a direct link to Lübcke’s murder.
Lübcke, the president of the regional council of Kassel, was found dead on the veranda of his home in Istha just over two weeks ago. Police have arrested a suspect, Stephan Ernst, who has links to rightwing extremists and previous convictions for politically motivated attacks.
This week’s death threats were signed by “the musicians of the Staatsstreichorchester”, a play on the German words for “coup d’état” and “string orchestra”. The same pseudonym has been used in hundreds of threatening emails sent to journalists, lawyers, politicians and civil servants since December 2018.
A man was arrested in connection with the threats in April, but the latest messages appear to point to a network of activists rather than a lone individual.
The president of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency said at a press conference on Tuesday that nearly 13,000 violent rightwing extremists were living in Germany, too many for the security services to be able to monitor.
Irene Mihalic, a politician for the German Green party, told the newspaper Taz that the latest death threats signalled “a new escalation of agitation and violence from the extreme right”.