A recent surge in stabbings and knife-related violence across Germany is drawing renewed attention to the deteriorating security situation there since Chancellor Angela Merkel's 2015 decision to allow in more than a million migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
In recent months, people armed with knives, axes and machetes have brought devastation to all of Germany's 16 federal states. Knives have been used not only not only to carry out jihadist attacks, but also to commit homicides, robberies, home invasions, sexual assaults, honor killings and many other types of violent crime.
Knife-related crimes have occurred in amusement parks, bicycle trails, hotels, parks, public squares, public transportation, restaurants, schools, supermarkets and train stations. Many Germans have the sense that danger lurks everywhere; public safety, nowhere.
Police admit they are outnumbered and overwhelmed and increasingly unable to maintain public order — both day and night.
Statistics that are reliable on knife violence in Germany — where police been accused of failing to report many crimes, apparently in an effort "not to unsettle" the public — do not exist.
A search of German police blotters, however, indicates that 2017 is on track to become a record year for stabbings and knife crimes: Police reported more than 3,500 knife-related crimes between January and October 2017, compared to around 4,000 reported crimes during all of 2016 — and only 300 in 2007. Overall, during the past ten years, knife-related crimes in Germany have increased by more than 1,200%.
The media in Germany do not report most knife-related violence. Crimes that are reported are often dismissed as "isolated incidents," unrelated to mass immigration. Moreover, many crime reports, including those in police blotters, omit any reference at all to the nationalities of the perpetrators and victims — ostensibly to avoid inflaming anti-immigration sentiments.
Pictured: German police secure the crime scene after a knife attack on May 10, 2016 at the train station in Grafing. A man stabbed four people while reportedly shouting "Allahu Akbar" ("Allah is greater"), killing one. (Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images)
Merkel's open-door migration policies have, however, set in motion a self-reinforcing cycle of violence in which more and more people are carrying knives in public — including for self-defense.
The epicenter of knife-related violence in Germany is Berlin, where some areas are now so dangerous that they have effectively become no-go zones. In Neukölln and other neighborhoods with large immigrant communities, stabbings have become daily features of life. Migrants were responsible for at least 45% of the crimes committed in the German capital in 2016, according to the Berliner Morgenpost.
The northern cities of Bremen and Bremerhaven are also hotbeds of knife violence. In 2016, at least 469 people — more than one a day — were stabbed in Bremen, according to official documents obtained by the newspaper Bild. More than a dozen people in Bremen died of their stab wounds. Another 165 knife attacks were registered in nearby Bremerhaven, a 75% increase since 2014. Migrants, according to Bild, were found responsible for most of the violence.
Another flashpoint of knife violence is North Rhine-Westphalia; stabbings are rampant in Bielefeld, Bochum, Bonn, Cologne, Dortmund, Düsseldorf and Essen, among other cities. Düsseldorf's city center has been particularly plagued by stabbings.
Many knife attacks appear to be random, indiscriminate assaults on innocent bystanders — especially at transport hubs and on public transportation:
- Munich, October 21. A 33-year-old man randomly stabbed eight people, including a 12-year-old boy, at the Rosenheimer Platz. Police said they "assume" that the stabber, a serial offender with a long rap sheet, was suffering from a "mental disorder."
- Mönchengladbach, October 16. An 18-year-old Algerian, in Germany illegally, randomly drew a knife on a 65-year-old man in a wheelchair at the central train station.
- Hamburg, October 15. A 23-year-old man was stabbed in a restaurant after he made "accidental eye contact" with his attacker.
- Berlin, October 11. Two passersby were stabbed at the Neukölln subway station. Police said the attack was random and unprovoked.
- Cologne, October 2. A 24-year-old woman was robbed at knifepoint by a "dark-skinned" man (dunklen Teint) while on a train to Düsseldorf's airport.
- Mannheim, September 30. A 31-year-old man stabbed random passersby. Police fired a warning shot after pepper spray failed to subdue him.
- Leipzig, July 27. A 46-year-old father at an amusement park with his family was stabbed and seriously injured when he was attacked by a group of Afghan youths.
Knife attacks increasingly involve teenagers and young children as well as women:
- Gießen, November 15. Two "southern-looking" men (südosteuropäisch Aussehen) drew a knife on two children at a school playground and took their lunch money.
- Dormagen, November 15. A 39-year-old man randomly drew a knife on a teenager at the Helmut-Schmidt-Platz. The attacker was transferred to a psychiatric ward.
- Wiesbaden, November 14. A man drew a knife on a woman and her children in broad daylight at a playground. The woman said the man tried to steal her dog and when she resisted, attacked her.
- Cologne, November 2. A 39-year-old woman was stabbed by a man on drugs.
- Singen, October 4. Two 14-year-old children speaking Turkish drew a knife and assaulted several children at a playground.
- Dortmund, October 1. A 15-year-old was stabbed after he tried to stop a fight between a 13-year-old and a 16-year-old at the Gustav-Heinemann school.
- Freiburg, September 29. A 34-year-old woman was stabbed by another woman during a dispute in a parking lot.
- Hermannsburg, August 29. A man drew a knife on a 22-year-old woman because she was supposedly holding up traffic in a parking garage.
In mass brawls between groups of people from different nationalities and ethnic groups, knives appear to be weapons of choice:
- Erfurt, November 11. A 22-year-old Afghan was stabbed and seriously injured during an altercation with other Afghans at a multifamily house.
- Rüdersdorf, November 11. A 19-year-old was seriously injured during a knife fight at a multifamily house.
- Hamburg, November 9. Three men were stabbed during a knife fight in Eimsbüttel.
- Berlin, November 7. A 21-year-old Vietnamese man was stabbed to death as he left his father's convenience store in the Wilmersdorf district. The killer is still at large.
- Bremen, November 2. A 20-year-old man was stabbed to death during a mass brawl in front of a kebab restaurant. A few hours earlier, another man had been shot to death in a nearby supermarket.
- Hoyerswerda, October 25. A 23-year-old Libyan was slashed in the face during a fight with a 28-year-old Libyan and a 23-year-old Tunisian.
- Bad Wildungen, October 16. An 18-year-old man was stabbed and seriously injured when a dozen people got into a knife fight.
- Eschwege, October 15. A 23-year-old Afghan stabbed a 23-year-old Algerian during a mass brawl involving more than 40 people at a refugee shelter.
- Dortmund, October 14. More than 40 migrants engaged in a knife fight at a refugee shelter. When police arrived, they were "massively attacked" by the mob. Police used dogs to restore order.
- Cologne, October 14. A 22-year-old migrant from Africa was stabbed to death at the Ebertplatz in a knife fight involving six other Africans.
- Öhringen, October 12. A 17-year-old German-Turk stabbed and seriously wounded a 19-year Pole during a knife fight.
- Bielefeld, October 2. A 21-year-old man was repeatedly stabbed after he came to the aid of a couple being attacked by a group of Afghan men at a skate park. More than 20 people eventually joined the fight. The stabbing suspect is an 18-year-old Iraqi Kurd.
- Naumburg, October 1. An 18-year-old Afghan and a 19-year-old Moroccan were stabbed during a mass brawl between persons of foreign origin.
- Dortmund, September 3. A 34-year-old Bulgarian stabbed a 54-year-old Turk outside a restaurant.
Knives have also been used in "honor" violence and internecine disputes:
- Bad Homburg, October 30. A 40-year-old man stabbed to death his 31-year-old wife and mother of their three children. Police said the man was angry that his wife was using social media.
- Oldenburg, October 14. The trial began of a 37-year-old Iraqi accused of stabbing to death his wife, the mother of his five children, who were in the house at the time of the attack. According to the indictment, the Iraqi murdered his wife to restore the "family honor" after he believed she was having an affair with another man. The woman had, in fact, been attending German language courses.
- Eggenfelden, October 4. A 47-year-old migrant from Kazakhstan castrated a 28-year-old Ukrainian migrant at a migrant shelter; the victim bled to death at the scene.
- Leipzig, August 11. A 37-year-old Afghan stabbed to death his 34-year-old wife, who was pregnant with their third child. The couple's two children were present at home during the crime.
- Riederich, July 9. A 35-year-old Macedonian stabbed to death a 30-year-old Macedonian from a rival clan during a wedding.
- Herzberg, June 29. Mohammad Hussain Rashwani, a 38-year-old migrant from Syria tried to behead 64-year-old Ilona Fugmann at her beauty salon. Fugmann had offered Rashwani a job as a hair stylist and German media praised him as an exemplar of successful integration. Mohammad reportedly had found it difficult to subordinate himself to his female boss.
- Cologne, June 14. A 33-year-old Syrian stabbed and seriously injured his ex-wife at a supermarket in Cologne. He also stabbed his 13-year-old son after the boy intervened to protect his mother.
- Cottbus, June 9. A 32-year-old Chechen man was sentenced to 13 years in prison for slitting his wife's throat and throwing her out of the second-floor window of their apartment. The man was charged with manslaughter rather than murder because, according to the court, the "honor killing" was done in the heat of passion: the man thought that his wife had been unfaithful.
Knife attacks also occurred against social workers and public servants:
- Pfaffenhofen, November 11. A 28-year-old Kazakh-German held a 31-year-old clerk at a youth welfare office hostage at knifepoint for more than five hours. He said he disagreed with the results of a custody battle, in which his one-year-old daughter would be sent to a foster home.
- Göppingen, October 26. A "dark-skinned" man (dunklem Teint) drew a knife on a 54-year-old female train conductor when she asked him for his ticket.
- Ahaus, October 12. A 28-year-old Nigerian was sentenced to 13 years in prison for stabbing to death a 22-year-old assistant at a refugee shelter.
- Saarbrücken, June 7. A 27-year-old Syrian stabbed to death a 30-year-old psychologist working for the German Red Cross. The attacker and the psychologist reportedly got into an argument during a therapy session at a counselling center for traumatized refugees.
Attackers are often repeat offenders known to police:
- Gießen, November 15. A 29-year-old Kosovar and a 19-year-old Albanian drew a knife on an undercover detective who caught them shoplifting. Police said the Kosovar was wanted on an outstanding arrest warrant.
- Bielefeld, October 31. A 39-year-old man drew a knife on police during a routine identification check. Police said he had a long rap sheet that included burglary and dealing drugs.
- Düsseldorf, October 17. A 27-year-old migrant, Khudeda Jamal Jindi, from Iraq, slashed a man in the face at Burgplatz. Police said he had a long rap sheet that included other knife crimes; it remains unclear why he was never deported.
- Arnschwang, June 4. Mostafa J., a 41-year-old asylum seeker from Afghanistan, stabbed to death a five-year-old Russian at a refugee shelter. It later emerged that the man had a criminal history in Germany and should have been deported in 2011 but was not.
Recent knife-jihad attacks include:
- Hamburg, July 28. A 26-year-old Palestinian, Ahmed A., stabbed to death one person and injured several others at a supermarket in the Barmbek district. Although he repeatedly shouted "Allahu Akbar" and said he was a jihadist who wanted to die as a martyr, the newspaper Die Welt wrote: "It is still unclear whether the Barmbek murder is the work of a convinced Islamist or the desperate act of a mentally troubled person. His approach seems downright schizophrenic — or is it indeed calculated?"
Meanwhile, other knife-related crimes reported during October include:
Hagen, October 1. An unidentified man slashed a man with a machete at the central train station. Speyer, October 1. A 27-year-old man with a knife attacked police during an identification check at the central railway station. Werl, October 1. A "southern-looking" man (südländischer Typ) robbed on a 20-year-old man at knifepoint.
Wilhelmshaven, October 1. A man speaking German with an Eastern European accent robbed a gas station at knifepoint. Freiburg, October 2. Two "Turkish-looking" teenagers (türkisches Aussehen) robbed two teenagers at knifepoint in a public plaza. Ulm, October 2. Three "dark-skinned" men (dunkle Hautfarbe) robbed a 20-year-old man at knifepoint.
Soest, October 4. An 18-year-old Somali stabbed a 39-year-old German man at a railway station. Hamburg, October 5. A 24-year-old security guard at a clothing store was stabbed when he confronted two male shoplifters. Wolfsburg, October 6. Two men were slashed during a fight in the Hochring district. Wiesbaden, October 6. A 23-year-old man was stabbed in the city center.
Johanngeorgenstadt, October 7. Five teenagers had their knives confiscated during a weapons check at the German/Czech border. Münster, October 7. Two men robbed a 16-year-old at knifepoint at a bus stop. Bremen, October 8. Two men were stabbed during a fight in the city center.
Weinheim, October 9. A 24-year-old store clerk was stabbed by a 46-year-old client. Hofheim, October 10. A private security guard was slashed at an Oktoberfest celebration. Cologne, October 10. A 36-year-old man was stabbed by a 26-year-old at a kiosk in the Zollstock district.
Stade, October 11. A "southern-looking" man (südländischem Aussehen) stabbed and seriously injured a 38-year-old man. Berlin, October 13. A man was seriously injured in a knife fight at the Alexanderplatz. Kassel, October 15. Two "Arabic-speaking" men robbed a 43-year-old woman at knifepoint in the Wesertor district.
Niederstetten, October 17. A 19-year-old man stabbed a 30-year-old man in the stomach at a restaurant. The stabbing occurred after the 30-year-old allegedly "offended" the 19-year-old's wife. Bremen, October 19. A 25-year-old man was stabbed by a group of males in the Huchting district. When police arrived to investigate, they were immediately surrounded by a mob of between 30 and 40 men. Police used teargas and dogs to restore order. Berlin, October 19. A 19-year-old Romanian was stabbed to death in the Tiergarten district.
Halle, October 19. A man was stabbed during an dispute over drugs. Düsseldorf, October 21. Two men were stabbed by four assailants in front of a McDonald's restaurant in the city center. Stemwede, October 21. Three members of the same family were stabbed during a dispute. The attack was apparently initiated by a 43-year-old man opposed to his step-daughter's choice of boyfriend.
Hamburg, October 22. An 18-year-old clerk at a cellphone store was stabbed by a 21-year-old man unhappy with the service. Hamburg, October 22. A 30-year-old man was stabbed in the stomach at the entrance to a subway station. Düsseldorf, October 22. A 21-year-old man was stabbed while trying to break up a fight.
Rheine, October 22. A 20-year-old Romanian stabbed a 44-year-old Romanian during a disagreement. Berlin, October 23. A 59-year-old man was stabbed and seriously injured at a store in the Schöneberg district. Leipzig, October 23. A 21-year-old man was stabbed during a fight at the central train station.
Solingen, October 23. A 19-year-old man was stabbed during an fight. Berlin, October 24. A 39-year-old man stabbed a 20-year-old man at the Jewish Hospital in the Wedding district. Hünstetten-Bechtheim, October 27. An 18-year-old man was stabbed at an annual festival.
Wangen, October 29. A 56-year-old man stabbed a 52-year old man during a disagreement at a restaurant. Chemnitz, October 29. A 27-year-old Libyan was stabbed during a knife fight involving migrants from North Africa.
Gießen, October 30. Two Syrian asylum seekers were stabbed during an altercation with another Syrian in the city center. Waldshut, October 30. A 32-year-old man was stabbed and seriously injured during a row at a bus station in the Tiengen district. Frankfurt, October 30. An apartment manager was stabbed and seriously injured when he attempted to evict a family from the premises.
Kulmbach, October 31. A 38-year-old Turk stabbed a 33-year-old German during a dispute. Berlin, October 31. Three men were injured during a knife fight involving six men at a store in the Schöneberg district. The Berliner Zeitung provided an unusually detailed account of the fight, including the ages of each of the participants, but failed to give any information about their nationality.
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.