Scholz blasts 'cowardly' attack as ally struck on head in Berlin library

Honorary citizenship of Berlin awarded to pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim in Berlin

By Rachel More and Matthias Williams

BERLIN (Reuters) -Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Wednesday condemned a "cowardly" act after a senior figure in his party was struck over the head in a Berlin library, the latest in a string of attacks on politicians in a polarising climate as Germany gears up for elections.

Berlin senator and former city mayor Franziska Giffey was slightly injured and taken to hospital for a short time after a man struck her from behind with a bag containing an unidentified hard object.

A 74-year-old suspect, who was previously known to police for hate crime and unspecified incidents against state security, has been detained, police said, adding the suspect was also believed to have mental health issues.

The attack on Tuesday coincided with an emergency meeting of state ministers calling for greater police protection of politicians as the number of verbal and physical assaults has soared ahead of European and local elections this year.

"The attacks on Franziska Giffey and other politicians are outrageous and cowardly," Scholz said. "Violence does not belong in a democratic debate. Decent and reasonable people are clearly standing against it - and they are the majority!" he said on X.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who was in the German capital attending a party conference, said perpetrators must face the full force of the law.

"We must protect all those who stand up for our democratic society and our country from attacks - no matter what party they belong to," she said.

"If these people are no longer safe, then our democracy is no longer safe either."

On the same day in a separate incident, two people were arrested in the city of Dresden after a member of the Greens party was shoved and spat at while putting up campaign posters, two of which were torn down, police said.

Earlier the two suspects were seen in a group of people nearby and were heard shouting Hitler salutes, police said.

Video from the DW broadcaster, which filmed the incident, showed two people in black hooded casual wear confronting the Greens team.

"The perpetrators wanted to publicly declare their own district a no-go area for the Greens," a Greens party spokesperson said in a statement.

"Their slavering hatred and ruthlessness in front of the camera are repulsive and shocking."


Giffey condemned a "fair game culture" targeting politicians but in televised remarks also warned against walling off elected officials from ordinary citizens.

"I like taking the underground, I like being out and about, I like speaking to people, I like approaching people. And I would like to hold onto this. This is my city," she said.

The incidents occurred days after another member of Scholz's Social Democrats, Matthias Ecke, was kicked and beaten while putting up posters in an attack that left him needing surgery.

Prominent members of the Greens, who are in coalition with Scholz's SPD at federal level, have also faced angry protests this year, when Germany holds a string of state elections against a backdrop of rising support for the far right.

Attacks on politicians have doubled in Germany since the 2019 European Parliament elections, according to government data published in January. The number jumped 53 percent in 2023 alone compared to 2022.

Mainstream politicians have blamed the rising political violence on the resurgence of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, who could sweep three state polls this year.

Following the attack on the weekend on Ecke, Saxony premier Michael Kretschmer, a conservative, said such aggression and attempts at intimidation recalled the darkest era of German history, a reference to Nazi rule.

AfD co-leader Alice Weidel has said attempts to use the attack on Ecke for political gains were "vile and irresponsible", and that AfD politicians and members were frequently attacked.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said she would look at tightening the law against political attacks.

The latest incidents coincide with the trial of 27 people over a suspected plot by the far-right Reichsbuerger group to overthrow the government and install military rule.

(Reporting by Rachel More, Alexander Ratz, Holger Hansen, Andreas Rinke; writing by Rachel More and Matthias Williams; editing by Kirsti Knolle and Christina Fincher)