National frameworks to address hate crime in Germany

This page provides information on the national frameworks to address hate crime in Germany. The information provided here should be viewed alongside data presented on Germany's hate crime report page.

Hate crime recording and data collection

In Germany, the police collect nationwide data on politically motivated crime, including hate crimes. Data collection is based on a code of practice, guidelines and instructions. These were co-ordinated and agreed between the German Federal Government and the governments of the German Länder (states) in working groups that are part of the standing conference of the Ministers of the Interior.

Hate crimes are defined as follows for reporting purposes: "Hate crime comprises politically motivated crimes, when – in recognition of the circumstances of the offence and/or the attitude of the offender – there are indications that the offence is committed because the perpetrator is motivated by prejudice against nationality, ethnic origin, skin colour, religion, worldview, social status, physical and/or mental disability or impairment, gender/sexual identity, sexual orientation or physical appearance. These offences may be directed straight at a person or group of persons, against an institution or an object which the perpetrator attributes to one of the aforementioned groups of society (actual or alleged belonging) or they may aim at a target randomly chosen by the perpetrator on the basis of prejudices."

When a victim reports a hate crime, or if police officers identify a hate crime, the local police will fill out a form. The form collects the following information: administrative data (e.g., department and file number), a brief description of the facts, the time of the crime, the crime scene, the target, information on the suspect, information on the victim (in particular the victim's characteristics), the infringed law, the quality of the crime, the phenomena, and whether it is an extremist crime. In addition, the act is assigned to one of 11 categories: anti-Semitism, "antiziganism", disability, xenophobia, social status, racism, religion, sexual orientation, crime against women, gender identity, anti-Christian, anti-Islamic, xenophobic, anti-German and against other ethnicity.

The report is then sent by the local police to the Criminal Police Offices of the German Länder (Landeskriminalämter). The specialists of the Criminal Police Offices of the German Länder check the information and clarify any possible open questions with the responsible local police stations. After this initial quality control process, the information is passed on to the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA). The BKA evaluates and analyses the nationwide data and returns the results of the analysis to the German Länder.

The statistics on reported cases are based on the findings of the investigating police officers and the information obtained by them about the motivation of the offender. Up to one month before the end of the year, the reported figures can be corrected and changes made based on the findings of the prosecution services or the courts. This may be the case, for example, if it is impossible to prove a bias motivation or if an alleged offender cannot be held accountable for a crime. The main purpose of this data collection activity is to help the state make strategic, evidence-based decisions on how to prevent hate crimes.

In January 2018, the first Länder Judicial Administration began collecting statistical data on hate crimes. On 1 January 2019, the data collection was implemented nationwide. The Länder transmits data to the Federal Office of Justice, which aggregates the figures for the whole of Germany. For statistical purposes, criminal offences will be classified as hate crimes if, upon assessing the circumstances of the offence and/or the attitude taken by the perpetrator, there are indications that they are directed against a person on the basis of that person's actual or assumed nationality, ethnic origins, skin colour, religion, beliefs, physical and/or psychological disability or impairment, sexual orientation and/or sexual identity, political position, political views and/or political involvement, appearance, or status in society.  The first publication of judicial data for 2019 and 2020 is expected in 2023.

The Federal Office of Justice has published statistics on proceedings concerning right-wing extremist or xenophobic offences since 2013. These statistics include all investigation proceedings concerning offences which, upon reasonable assessment of the circumstances of the offence and/or the attitude taken by the perpetrator, show indications of having a "right-wing" nature. This includes offences in which elements of racism, ethnically based nationalism, social Darwinism or National Socialism were either the sole cause or a contributory factor for committing the offence. If anti-Semitic tendencies were also involved in the offence, this fact is indicated separately.

In 2017, the Federal Criminal Police Office published a report on a country-wide hate crime victimization survey conducted between 2012 and 2017. Furthermore, the Criminal Police Offices of the federal states of Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein, respectively, conducted two regional-level victimisation surveys on hate crimes.

Hate crime victim support

Germany's victim support system provides both general victim support services and specialized assistance to the victims of hate crime. Victims of hate crime are included in the category of vulnerable victims under German law.

The primary responsibility for victim support rests with federal states, but the adopted measures are similar across the country. There is a country-wide general victim support provider – the Weisser Ring civil society organization (CSO). Weisser Ring is independent of state funding and relies on membership fees, donations and the allocation of fines by the courts. Additionally, there exist specialized CSOs dealing with particular categories of victims, such as migrants. Moreover, specialized counselling centres for victims of hate crime exist in each federal state. These counselling centres are run by CSOs and financed from municipal funds, state funds and from the federal "Living Democracy!" programme. Most of these organizations are linked to the State Democracy Centres, which implement projects to promote democracy and diversity. Fifteen of the independent counselling centres providing specialized support to hate crime victims in 13 federal states are members of the Association of Counselling Centers for Victims of Right-wing, Racist and Anti-Semitic Violence (VBRG). VBRG is a project under the "Living Democracy!" programme.

The VBRG counselling centres support victims of racist, anti-Semitic or other right-wing attacks and hate crimes. The support is free-of-charge, confidential, partisan (pro-victim), voluntary and anonymous (if preferred by the victim). The centres offer emotional support, information about legal options, information on financial support and help with public relations, and can accompany victims to the police station or court. The centres occasionally participate in police trainings and follow the VBRG's own quality standards. VBRG employees attend a relevant training course.

At the federal level, the Federal Victims' Commissioner serves as a permanent contact person for for those affected by extremist and terrorist attacks to deal with their concerns. The main tasks of the Commissioner include providing support for those affected by an attack, arranging additional support services and enabling networking among key actors in the field of victim protection. The Commissioner also provides a political voice for the victims of such attacks. To ensure a co-ordinated approach and high-quality support from an early stage, the Commissioner meets with victims following an attack and maintains a regular exchange with all the relevant actors. These include the victims' commissioners and central contact points of the Länder and local authorities, the Federal Public Prosecutor General and the victim-advocate prosecutors, the Federal Criminal Police Office, victim support institutions, service providers, and religious associations.

Police conduct individual needs assessments (INA) for crime victims, and guidelines and forms for such assessments are provided by the federal state. INAs are also conducted by VBRG counselling centres in line with their quality standards.

Co-operation between hate crime victim support providers and law enforcement differs depending on the federal state. Victims are referred to specialist service providers either by the police or by general support providers. In some federal states, dedicated Victim Protection Officers or contact points are available and able to refer victims to services. Police provide victims with lists of victim support organizations and, if necessary and with the victim's consent, can contact the organizations on behalf of the victim. In some cases, specialized service providers actively reach out to the victims. 

A hate crime module is included in the general police training curriculum, and covers some aspects of sensitive and respectful treatment. In some federal states, dedicated training courses on sensitive and respectful treatment of hate crime victims are occasionally organized for law enforcement.

Special protection measures and procedural rights for victims are in place. In the event that distressing facts about a victim's personal life are discussed during court proceedings, the public may be excluded from the hearing, or the victim's testimony may be delivered in the absence of the accused. In particularly severe cases involving an imminent risk of serious harm to the witness's physical or mental well-being, the law allows witness testimony to be transmitted via video conference. Victims of crime also have the possibility to join the proceedings as "private accessory prosecutors", which affords the victim special rights, including participation in all parts of the trial.

Victims can claim compensation under German law. Additionally, special compensation is offered to victims and relatives of terrorist and extremist attacks, which can also include hate crimes. German law provides for victim-offender mediation, provided that the victim gives their consent.

Hate crime capacity building

Judges are subject to a general training obligation in accordance with the law on public service. As a result of their judicial independence, judges decide individually on the specific way in which they comply with these requirements, such as through a specialist reading, or participation in face-to-face or online events. Their employer ordinarily cannot order a judge to take part in a particular training course. In contrast, public prosecutors are subject to instructions. Training courses are primarily the responsibility of the Länder (states).

The individual Länder have differing requirements on the type and scope of training, but as a rule, prosecutors can also choose events from a set programme. The Länder have developed a wide range of training programmes that broadly cover hate crime, although the training events do not always focus specifically on hate crime. For example, approximately every two years, the Bavarian State Ministry of Justice holds a one-day training event for judges and public prosecutors on political extremism and terrorism. Every year, Bavaria also holds a three-day training event for public prosecutors on the topic of cybercrime. The state of North Rhine-Westphalia has developed dedicated training courses on the topic of hate crime. In addition, several Länder including Bavaria – has developed guidelines on handling anti-Semitic offences.

The German Judicial Academy, a cross-regional educational facility funded jointly by the Federation and Länder, offers regular training courses on political extremism. These inter-disciplinary events are aimed at judges from all jurisdictions as well as at public prosecutors.

Content related to hate crime is an established part of the police training curricula and further education curricula on state security. The content is focused primarily on raising awareness of different forms of hate crime and their definitions, recording hate crime, and the treatment of hate crime victims.