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Checkpoint Charlie on Friedrichstrasse, Berlin/Photo: Femi Awoniyi

Berlin establishes Central Office for Hate Crimes

Last year, far more right-wing extremist and racist attacks were registered in Berlin. A new central office to prevent and respond to hate crimes in the federal capital

The number of right-wing extremist and racist attacks in Berlin continued to increase in the past year.

A total of 390 attacks were registered, as the victim advisory centre Reach Out announced in Berlin on Wednesday. That was 91 acts of violence and massive threats more than in 2018 (plus 26 percent). At least 509 people were injured and threatened (2018: 423). Most of the crimes occurred in the districts of Mitte, Neukölln and Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg.

More than half of the attacks (219) were racially motivated (2018: 167 out of 309), said Sabine Seyb of Reach Out. Attacks on people based on their sexual orientation also increased to 105 acts (2018: 63). On the other hand, anti-Semitic acts of violence declined, from 44 in 2018 to 31.

“The fact that children and adolescents are repeatedly attacked or have to watch their own parents or friends be humiliated or beaten leaves one speechless,” Justice Senator Dirk Behrendt said.

Berlin is reacting to the increasing hate-motivated violence by creating a “Central Office for Hate Crimes” (Zentralstelle Hasskriminalität). This was announced on Wednesday by Behrendt and the Berlin Attorney General, Margarete Koppers, at the round table against racism for diversity organised by the integration commissioner.

 “The attacks in Halle and Hanau also led us to rethink existing structures. In addition to an internally guiding and coordinating function, the “Central Office for Hate Crimes” is supposed to strengthen trust in the law enforcement authorities, particularly in the fight against racism,” said Justice Senator Behrendt.

Ms Koppers added: “Our goal is to actively network and cooperate with organizations and initiatives by and for those affected by hate crime. The central office can build on the good experience with the contact persons for LGBTI people at the Berlin public prosecutor’s office.”

The centre is expected to take a holistic approach to preventing hate crimes, developing and coordinating community-driven prevention strategies to address biases fuelling prejudice-motivated crimes, and fostering healing for victims and their communities.

The police had spoken of 153 politically motivated violent crimes by right-wing extremists in a report published on Monday for 2019. The number of cases registered by Reach Out differs from the information provided by the police since reports from victims, initiatives or witnesses who did not contact the police are also included.

In a related development, Berlin parliament is currently discussing the draft of the State Anti-Discrimination Act (Landesantidiskriminierungsgesetz or LADG). When passed, it would be the first law nationwide that explicitly aims to protect against discrimination through the actions of public servants.

Felix Dappah

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