BERLIN: A local leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany was attacked and seriously wounded by several men in the northwestern city of Bremen, an assault that drew condemnation Tuesday from some of the party’s fiercest opponents.
Bremen police said they believe the attack on Frank Magnitz, a lawmaker in Germany’s national parliament who leads the party’s local branch, was politically motivated. They called for witnesses to the attack around 5:20 p.m. Monday near a city theater to come forward.
Magnitz was beaten over the head with an unidentified object by at least three men wearing dark clothing and hoods or hats, who then fled, police said. Two workers who were loading a car nearby found him lying on the ground and called an ambulance. The 66-year-old was hospitalized.
The party, known by its German acronym AfD, said earlier Tuesday that Magnitz was ambushed after he left a local newspaper’s new year’s reception, beaten unconscious with a piece of wood and then kicked in the head as he lay on the ground.
Bremen, Germany’s smallest state, holds a regional election on May 26, the same day as European Parliament elections in which AfD hopes to make gains.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, wrote on Twitter that “the brutal attack on lawmaker Frank Magnitz in Bremen must be strongly condemned. Hopefully police will quickly succeed in catching the perpetrators.”
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, a center-left politician who has been a strong critic of AfD, tweeted that “violence must never be a means of political confrontation — no matter against whom or what the motives are.”
“There is no justification for this,” he said, calling for those responsible to be punished.
That was echoed by other politicians from established parties, including prominent Green party politician Cem Ozdemir, who said that AfD must be countered by legal means, not violence. “Anyone who fights hatred with hatred always lets hatred win in the end,” he wrote on Twitter.
AfD is represented in all of Germany’s 16 state parliaments. It entered the national parliament in 2017 and is currently the biggest opposition party there.
AfD views the country’s established political parties with contempt, and the feeling is mutual.
“The cowardly and life-threatening attack against Frank Magnitz is the result of constant agitation against us by politicians and media,” party co-leaders Alexander Gauland and Joerg Meuthen said in a statement.
AfD took 10 percent of the vote in Bremen in the 2017 national election, below its nationwide result of 12.6 percent. Bremen is not considered a stronghold of the six-year-old party, unlike three states in Germany’s ex-communist east that hold regional votes in September and October.
Germany has seen other attacks on politicians in recent years.
In 2015, a far-right extremist stabbed in the neck a leading mayoral candidate for Cologne, who at the time was in charge of housing refugees. Henriette Reker was elected mayor the following day while in an induced coma and took office about a month later.
In 2017, a man with a knife attacked the mayor of Altena in western Germany. The mayor was known for voluntarily taking in more asylum-seekers than the small town was obliged to.