A Neo-Nazi from Germany was sentenced this week to life in prison for killing Walter Lubcke, a local politician whose support for refugees had made him a target among the right-wing extremist in the country.
The court verdict has finally closed a disturbing and painful chapter in Germany’s debate on migration. However, there is a very long history of xenophobia and racism in the country, and it continues to live in the country.
The trial shook Germany. The murderer, Stephen Ernst, was given a life sentence for killing Walter Lubcke, a German politician known for his support of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door refugee policy.
The murder trial happened in Frankfurt, and it marked Germany’s first court case for a political assassination since the 1970s. It came when the far-right stance was very high due to the sudden increase of immigrants in the country in the past few years. The 47-year-old Ernst was already known to the police for his Neo-Nazi stance, even before Lubcke was killed.
Walter Lubcke, a local politician who was a vocal supporter of Merkel’s refugee policies, made him an open target among the right-wing extremists in Germany. Due to his stance, he received death threats for years after he made a speech in 2015, defending Merkel’s decision to take in refugees fleeing the Syrian war.
On June 2, 2019, Lubcke was assassinated by Ernst. Lubcke was found dead on his home’s terrace, which is located near the central city of Kassel. His autopsy showed that he was shot in the head at a close range. The intelligence agencies in Germany had ignored the warning signs, thus leaving Lubcke without protection.
History of Anti-Immigrant Violence
In another ruling, the court had acquitted Ernst of attempted murder in another case. The evidence that was uncovered during the murder investigation of Lubcke led prosecutors to file charges against Ernst over the 2016 stabbing of Ahmed I.*
An unknown assailant attacked the refugee from Iraq outside the refugee shelter where he was staying. A knife was then found in Ernst’s basement had traces of DNA on it that was usually for the region that Ahmed I. was from in Iraq. However, the DNA evidence was ruled to be inconclusive.
Ernst was known for his history of violent attacks on immigrants in the area.
Germany’s Xenophobic Underground
Lubcke’s murder brought a spotlight to Germany’s Neo-Nazi scene’s violent potential, especially to the failures of Germany’s domestic intelligence agencies to keep track of the extremists and domestic terrorists like Stephan Ernst.
Numerous commentators drew parallels to Cologne mayor Henriette Reker’s knife attack back in 2015, which she narrowly survived. The assailant was also a far-right extremist.
The history of the National Socialist Underground or NSU was also called out in the German media in the run-up to the Lubcke verdict; the Neo-Nazi group had killed at least 10 people in Germany, mostly were immigrants, and the murders happened between 1999 to 2007.