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Germany Country Security Report

Travel Advisory

The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses that travelers should not travel to Germany due to COVID-19. Exercise increased caution in Germany due to terrorism. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the Consular Travel Advisory System.

The Institute for Economics & Peace Global Peace Index 2021 ranks Germany 17 out of 163 worldwide, rating the country as being at a high state of peace.

Crime Environment

​The U.S. Department of State has assessed Berlin as being a MEDIUM-threat location; and Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Leipzig, and Munich as LOW-threat locations for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

The U.S. Department of State has not included a Crime “C” Indicator on the Travel Advisory for Germany.

The crime emergency line in Germany is 110. Review the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.

Crime: General Threat

​Crime rates throughout Germany are comparable to those in most first-world countries, and comparative analysis of crime data for the U.S. and Germany reveals only marginal differences. The total number of recorded criminal offenses decreased by 2.3% in 2020 compared to 2019. (2020: 5.3m cases, 2019: 5.4m cases).  

The following offenses decreased in number from 2019 to 2020:  

  • Theft, by 7.7% or -139,602 cases including:  
    • Theft by burglary of a dwelling, by 13.9% to 75,023 cases
    • Thefts (total) from the exterior/interior of motor vehicles, by 4.3% to 212,643 cases
    • Shoplifting, by 6.7% or -21,781 cases
    • Theft of bicycles, by 6.1% or -16,918 cases
    • Domestic Burglary, by 13.9% or -12,122 cases
    • Pickpocketing, by 11.1% to 83,688 cases
  • Blackmail, by 32.4% or -5,133 cases
  • Fare dodging, by 10.5% or -20,867 cases  
  • Foreigners’ Law offenses, by 11.2% or -18,534 cases
  • Weapons offenses, by 6.4% or 2,466 cases

The following offenses increased in number from 2019 to 2020:

  • Dissemination of writings depicting pornography, by 54.2% to 26,769 cases
  • Subsidy fraud, by 2,285% to 7,585 cases
  • Crimes against the Infection Protection Law, by 9,865% to 6,779 cases
  • Invoice fraud, by 29.6% or 1,358 cases
  • Goods fraud, by 11.5% or 14,191 cases
  • Insulting behavior, by 9.9% or 21,670 cases
  • Sexual abuse of children, by 6.8% or 924 cases (mostly due to increased child pornography cases)
  • Computer crime, by 6.2% or 7,605 cases
  • Actual attack on police officers or equivalents, by 5.9% or 878 cases
  • Computer fraud, by 4.2% to 105,049 cases
  • Economic crime, by 21.5% to 49,174 cases

Frequent press reports suggest that a large proportion of crimes go unreported. There are various possible reasons for failures to report crime, including apathy, a low expectation of prosecution, and a feeling of shame or embarrassment, particularly when the crime is of a sexual nature or concerns sexuality. There are reports of police dissuading victims from making formal reports citing little chance of capturing the suspect. There are reports of effective decriminalization of some crimes, due to the police not possessing the resources to investigate them. To tackle high-profile criminal activities, such as violent crimes and burglaries, police reallocate and/or increase resources in certain areas, resulting in less emphasis on investigating and detecting other crimes, such as fraud. However, a new interagency taskforce focuses on financial crimes and tax fraud.

Extensive information regarding reported crime statistics and German crime prevention programs are available in several languages on the BKA website.

Crime: Areas of Concern

​Visiting U.S. nationals are commonly victims of purse snatching or pickpocketing in high traffic and tourist areas (e.g., train stations, internet cafes, crowded restaurants, and outdoor marketplaces). However, violent crimes against U.S. nationals are relatively infrequent. Visitors should carry a copy of their passport while maintaining the original in a safe location. While personal assaults do occur, there is no evidence that anti-U.S. sentiment drives such crimes.

Oktoberfest is an annual event that brings more than six million visitors to Bavaria each fall. Security planning for this event continues to evolve each year to address emerging criminal and terrorism-related concerns. Those planning to attend this and other such seasonal festivals should remain vigilant in public to mitigate the risks, including petty crime and alcohol-related incidents that accompany large, high-profile public gatherings. The official Oktoberfest App includes security information and features such as a detailed fairground map. The Munich Police Twitter feed (@PolizeiMuenchen) also provides its followers with helpful information, updated security incidents, and tips to avoid becoming a victim at Oktoberfest. Sexual assault directed at females is of particular concern.

Review OSAC’s reports, All That You Should Leave Behind, Hotels: The Inns and Outs, Considerations for Hotel Security, and Taking Credit.  

Kidnapping Threat

The U.S. Department of State has not included a Kidnapping “K” Indicator on the Travel Advisory for Germany. Review OSAC’s reports, Kidnapping: The Basics and Active Shooter and Kidnapping Response Tips.

​The kidnapping rate for Germany is extremely low, with only a few cases recorded nationwide in 2020. However, the overall kidnapping rate fluctuates substantially when incorporating instances of human trafficking and parental abduction, the latter being by far the most significant of these figures given the number of parents with varying national origins and citizenship. Overall, the total number of parental kidnappings for 2020 according to the BKA was 1,540 incidents, a 5.9% drop from 2019, when there were 1,634 incidents.  

Drug Crime

​Illegal drugs, particularly cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, and marijuana, remain widely available in Germany. The illegal sale and distribution of these and other drugs often occur near major train stations, public parks, and nightclubs. While drug-related activity does not usually affect U.S. tourists or business travelers, Germany has the same types of drug-related crime as those encountered in any major U.S. city. In many cities, there has been a notable increase in violent crime directly associated with the selling of drugs in recent years.  

Germany is a source of precursor chemicals for South American cocaine processors, and a transshipment point for and consumer of Southwest Asian heroin, Latin American cocaine, and European-produced synthetic drugs.

Consult with the CIA World Factbook’s section on Illicit Drugs for country-specific information.

Terrorism Environment

​The U.S. Department of State has assessed all cities hosting U.S. diplomatic interests as being HIGH-threat locations for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

The U.S. Department of State has included a Terrorism “T” Indicator on the Travel Advisory for Germany, indicating that terrorist attacks have occurred and/or specific threats against civilians, groups, or other targets may exist. Review the latest State Department Country Report on Terrorism for Germany.

The Institute for Economics & Peace Global Terrorism Index 2020 ranks Germany 48 out of 163 worldwide, rating the country as having a low impact from terrorism.

Terrorism: General Threat

​Several international terrorist groups that target U.S. government personnel and interests have a presence and operate in Germany, including ISIS, al-Qa’ida, Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), Kongra Gel (Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK), Hizb’allah, and Hamas, as well as racially and ethnically motivated terrorists and anti-establishment motivated extremists. The large population of official U.S. government and military personnel in Germany creates a significant potential target for terrorist groups.

Continued governmental reporting reiterates the growing concern for the expanding international and indigenous radical Islamist presence. The estimated number of Islamists in Germany in 2019 was 28,020 people. The estimated number of Salafists nationally was 12,150 in mid-2020. The number of Islamists identified as potential terrorists fell from 774 to around 630 by July 2020 due to the consequences of the war in Syria; around 450 are known to be in Germany.

According to publicly available statistics from May 2021, more than 1,070 Islamic extremists traveled from Germany to the Middle East for the purpose of fighting in the more recent conflicts in Iraq and Syria since 2012, the majority of whom joined violent radical Islamist extremist groups fighting there; an estimated 250 died there, while one-third of the total group (or roughly 350) returned to Germany. German officials actively investigate these returnees as terrorist threats due to their experience abroad and possible desire to continue to support violent extremist causes. Of the 114 individuals who departed from Bavaria, 29 returned to Germany; 22 are in Bavaria and five are currently imprisoned. The Verfassungsschutz (BfV -- German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution) identified 4,150 extremists at the end of 2018 living in Germany. Of those identified, 750 belong to the Salafi movement and 25% of those individuals are considered dangerous.

ISIS and other groups continue to call on followers to conduct attacks in Europe, including in Germany. The government has employed legal tools to ban these organizations and their affiliates, such as the 2014 ban on ISIS, the 2015 ban on two radical Islamist groups, and a ban on three ultra-conservative Salafist groups. Following each of these bans, authorities carried out raids of residences of suspected radical Islamist extremists and seized property linked to their activities, including personal computers, phones, cash, and extremist propaganda in both German and Arabic.

Since the 2016 Islamic terror attack on a Berlin Christmas market in which 12 people died, there have been few deadly Islamist terror attacks in Germany. In July 2017, an ISIS sympathizer stabbed a man to death and injured several more in a knife attack in a Hamburg supermarket. In December 2020, an Islamist Syrian stabbed two men in Dresden, killing one of them, due to homophobic motivations. In August 2020, an Iraqi used a car to ram other traffic on an autobahn in a suspected Islamist-motivated attack, injuring six people. In April 2020, a self-described ISIS member injured six people in a series of attacks on people of Turkish origin in Waldkraiburg.

Terrorists may elect to use a variety of means and weapons to target both official and private interests. There remains a potential for terrorist attacks against public transportation systems and other tourism infrastructure. The U.S. continues to collaborate closely with European allies on the threat from international terrorism, including al-Qa’ida and ISIS. The U.S. routinely shares information with its key partners to disrupt terrorist plotting, identify and act against potential operatives, and strengthen defenses against potential threats. German authorities continue to investigate extremist groups, deport or arrest individuals considered dangerous, and conduct raids on suspected groups throughout the country.

German law enforcement has targeted a range of terrorism suspects, including right-wing extremist actors, an increasing trend German officials view as the greatest threat to national security. Germany’s 2020 Annual Report on the Protection of the Constitution highlights the continued rise of politically motivated extremism in Germany, including anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, and xenophobic crimes. The report classified more than half of all politically motivated offenses as right-wing crimes. However, there was also a rise in left wing crimes. The report also assesses the threat from Islamic extremists to be high. Review OSAC’s report, Germany: 2020 Domestic Intelligence Report Shows Continued Rise in Extremism.

Political Violence and Civil Unrest Environment

​The U.S. Department of State has assessed Berlin, Dusseldorf, Leipzig, and Munich as being MEDIUM-threat locations, and Frankfurt and Hamburg as LOW-threat locations for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Elections/Political Stability

Germany is a constitutional democracy. Citizens choose their representatives periodically in free and fair multiparty elections. The country’s 16 states exercise considerable autonomy, including over law enforcement. National elections in 2021 (and local and regional elections in prior years) were free and fair, and passed without significant insecurity.

Protest & Demonstration Activity

Many well-planned and publicized demonstrations protesting government policies draw thousands of participants; spontaneous demonstrations concerning education and other economic and social issues occur almost daily throughout Germany. Demonstrations tend to take place on politically significant holidays like German Labor Day (May 1) and during international summits hosted in Germany. Demonstration organizers must obtain prior police approval, and police routinely oversee participants.

Demonstrations in Berlin typically take place on Unter den Linden/Pariser Platz near the Brandenburg Gate and U.S. Embassy. In 2019, the Berlin Police counted a record high of over 5,350 demonstrations in the city. Extinction Rebellion protesters held significant demonstrations in October 2019. During the week-long climate change demonstrations, protesters blocked numerous bridges and road intersections, causing significant disruption to traffic. No matter the theme of a given demonstration, avoid such events, as they can turn violent very quickly.

Left-wing extremists numbered in 2019 around 34,500, of whom 9,200 were potentially violent, according to German security services. There were 10,971 left-wing politically motivated crimes recorded in 2020 of which 1,526 were acts of violence and 495 people were injured as a result. 

In 2020 there was emergence of a new form of radicalism based on opposition to German government coronavirus mitigation policies. A Querdenker (“lateral thinker”) movement formed largely to protest lockdown policies. Since its forming, the movement grew to include conspiracy theorists, activists from both the extreme left and right, practitioners of esoterica, and others. The Querdenker movement staged dozens of demonstrations across Germany, including several where tens of thousands of protesters resisted police instructions resulting in clashes between protesters, prompting police to respond with water cannons and tear gas. Members of the Querdenker movement were responsible for death threats and suspected of conducting attacks on civic buildings, as well as vaccination centers. These acts included firebombs thrown at the Robert Koch Institute in October 2020 and at Delmenhorst Town Hall in March 2021.

Review OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.

Law Enforcement Concerns: Security Agencies

The Landespolizei (LPOL) is the primary law enforcement apparatus in each of Germany’s 16 states, and the agency that individuals may encounter in the cities and villages in Germany.  LPOL is responsible for enforcing state laws and ordinances, responding to emergency calls for assistance, traffic enforcement and accident investigation, U-Bahn transportation security, and criminal and counterterrorism investigations within the state. The Bundespolizei (BPOL) is the federal police agency responsible for border security, transportation security at international airports and on S-Bahn railways, international and domestic counterterrorism response, protection of international state visitors, protection of federal properties, and federal criminal investigations. LPOL and BPOL share responsibility for border security pertaining to over-land, international traffic. The LPOL reports to its respective state interior ministry, while the BPOL reports to the German Interior Ministry. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz - BfV), Germany’s domestic security and intelligence agency, and the state offices for the protection of the constitution (Landesamt für Verfassungsschutz - LfV), the states’ domestic security and intelligence agencies are responsible for gathering intelligence on threats to domestic order and other security functions. The BfV reports to the German Interior Ministry, and the LfVs report to their respective state interior ministries.

Police Response

Police response times to emergencies are similar to those experienced in the United States. Police are dispatched to emergency calls via a central dispatch center, with calls prioritized based on circumstances and availability of police units. Due to privacy laws, dispatch centers are unable to geolocate a caller’s location immediately when using a mobile telephone. The dispatcher will send the caller an SMS with a link. Clicking on this link will provide the necessary consent required for the police to then geolocate the caller’s phone.  However, being able to effectively relay one’s location to police is critically important during an emergency and is often a determining factor in measuring police response times.   

Law Enforcement Concerns: Emergency Contact/Information

The emergency line in Germany is 110. This number will connect the caller to the dispatch center of the respective LPOL jurisdiction. For medical and fire emergencies, dial 112 for immediate assistance.  

Transportation Security

Road Safety

​Road conditions throughout Germany vary significantly from region to region​, but are generally fair to good. Exercise caution while traveling on older roads, particularly in eastern Germany. Road conditions can and do deteriorate quickly with rain, ice, and snow. Lack of proper lighting can also be problematic. Consequently, traffic accidents occur frequently on many major German highways; delays can last hours. 

Road construction and road wear also present unique safety challenges. In general, road maintenance is a lower priority in Germany than in other well-developed countries. Much of the infrastructure budget goes towards public transportation services, road and sidewalk environmental cleanup, and other non-maintenance items and services. As such, many roads experience deep and uneven rutting, causing grooves to form on seemingly flat and level road surfaces. Road maintenance projects can last years. 

Speed limits in most German cities are relatively low. The average speed limit in cities is 50 kph (30 mph) but drops to 30 kph in most residential areas and in school zones. Police now enforce speed limits on large stretches of the Autobahn, mostly through urban areas and on stretches where road curves are more frequent. 

The leading causes of motor vehicle and pedestrian accidents involving U.S. nationals are driver error/confusion (due to unfamiliar road signs, or unusual driving customs and courtesies) and bicyclist hazards. For example, even though double parking is illegal in most German cities, the practice is an everyday occurrence on many German streets. It is very common for traffic to stop abruptly when a delivery truck parks unexpectedly in a travel lane to unload cargo, or when a German driver places their car in reverse to parallel park. 

Bicyclists and bicycle traffic also pose a heightened risk for motorists and pedestrians. Many sidewalks have dedicated bike lanes. Bicycles have priority use of these lanes. Pedestrians should watch for bicyclists before crossing or stepping into bike lanes. Bicyclists also have priority over cars when turning onto side streets. Drivers should check whether a bicyclist is approaching from either direction before attempting to enter side streets, even when the light is in their favor. Drivers turning onto a side street who strike a bicyclist using a marked bike lane are responsible for any injury or damage. 

Right-of-way and yield laws are similar to those in the U.S. but can seem awkward and confusing. Apart from on a priority road (indicated with a yellow diamond on a white background sign), vehicles coming from the directional right have the right-of-way. It is also generally illegal to pass vehicles on the right side. Making a right turn on a red light is not permitted unless the intersection is marked with a fixed green arrow sign near the traffic light.   

During the winter months, motorists must have winter-specific tires on their vehicles. Winter tires must have the winter tire symbol on the tire to be compliant with German law. All-weather tires without the insignia are not compliant. Motorists involved in accidents during inclement weather of snow or ice and who do not have winter tires on their vehicles will likely receive a fine and invalidated insurance coverage.

It is illegal to leave the scene of a motor vehicle accident until all parties agree that it is all right to do so, and before all parties have verified the validity of their insurance information. German authorities frequently prosecute drivers who leave the scene of an accident. It is illegal to use cell phones while driving; police can detain and fine persons engaging in this practice.

For detailed, country-specific road and vehicle safety information, read the World Health Organization’s Global Status Report on Road Safety.

Review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad, Driving Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive Driving Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving and road safety abroad.  

Public Transportation Safety

​The use of trains, particularly the U-Bahn and S-Bahn systems, can be very convenient. Transportation centers and trains are an appealing target for criminals and terrorists. Despite enhanced security, these venues remain a soft target. Crimes are common in and around U-Bahn and S-Bahn systems and stations. Crime is often in direct proportion to the lateness of the hour.

Metered taxis are also prevalent throughout Germany, although taxis generally do not accept credit cards. Rideshare apps are available in limited areas. Use common-sense safety practices such as guarding valuables and remaining aware of your surroundings on all public transportation.

Review OSAC’s Report, Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights; and consider the European Union Air Safety List.

Aviation Concerns

​The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Germany’s Civil Aviation Authority as compliant with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Germany’s air carrier operations.

Maritime Security

​There are no maritime security issues unique to the operation of private-sector organizations in Germany.

Personal Identity & Human Rights Concerns

Significant human rights issues include crimes involving violence motivated by anti-Semitism and crimes involving violence targeting members of ethnic or religious minority groups motivated by Islamophobia or other forms of right-wing extremism.

Safety Concerns for Women Travelers

​The topic of sexual molestation and assault has risen in profile in Germany in recent years. The mass sexual assaults in Cologne and other sexual assaults carried out by migrants sparked a debate about how migrants were adapting to Germany’s social and sexual norms. Following events in Cologne in 2015, authorities have taken a more robust and proactive approach to policing and securing large public events, even introducing a “women’s safety zone” to further combat and respond to the issue. Throughout the year, there were multiple reports of inappropriate behavior by suspected refugees at public pools and spas. The alleged behavior involves, but was not limited to, harassment and unwanted physical contact. The #metoo movement and cases such as the 2018 discovery of a child sex abuse ring based on a campground in Luegde involving over 40 victims and lasting over ten years also contributed to a wider debate about the problem amongst the population in general.

The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, of men and women, and provides penalties of up to 15 years in prison. Without a court order, officials may temporarily deny access to their household to those accused of abuse, or they may impose a restraining order. In severe cases of rape and domestic violence, authorities can prosecute individuals for assault or rape and require them to pay damages. Penalties depend on the nature of the case. The government enforces the laws effectively.

In 2020, 9,752 cases of serious sexual violence against men and women were reported to police. Regular reports highlight the problem of sexual assault and molestation at large events such as Oktoberfest in Munich. Subsequently, large increases in certain sexual crime types were reported but it is unclear to what level the law changes have obscured the true trends.

The federal government, the states, and NGOs support numerous projects to prevent and respond to cases of gender-based violence, including providing victims with greater access to medical care and legal assistance. Approximately 340 women’s shelters offering a total of 6,700 beds operate throughout the country. The NGO Central Information Agency of Autonomous Women’s Homes (ZIF) reported accessibility problems, especially in bigger cities, because women who found refuge in a shelter tended to stay there longer due to a lack of available and affordable housing. ZIF also stated refugee women are particularly vulnerable, since they are required to maintain residence in a single district for three years and many live in districts in which there are no women’s shelters.

Sexual harassment of women is a recognized problem and prohibited by law. Penalties include fines and prison sentences of as many as five years. Various disciplinary measures against harassment in the workplace are available, including dismissal of the perpetrator. The law requires employers to protect employees from sexual harassment. The law considers an employer’s failure to take measures to protect employees from sexual harassment to be a breach of contract, and an affected employee has the right to paid leave until the employer rectifies the problem. Unions, churches, government agencies, and NGOs operate a variety of support programs for women who experience sexual harassment, and sponsor seminars and training to prevent it.

Consider composite scores given to Germany by the UN Development Program (UNDP) in its Gender Development Index, measuring the difference between average achievement in three basic dimensions of human development, and Gender Inequality Index, measuring inequality in achievement in reproductive health, empowerment, and the labor market. For more information on gender statistics in Germany, see the World Bank's Gender Data Portal.

Review the State Department’s webpage for female travelers.

Safety Concerns for LGBTI+ Travelers

Same-sex marriage is legal in Germany. The LGBTI+ community is protected by federal anti-discrimination laws, and LGBTI+ Pride events are officially encouraged by most large city governments, including those in Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg, Frankfurt, and Munich. There have been reports of assaults or harassment based on other factors including sexual orientation. Reports from Berlin show that LGBTI+-related crimes have risen each year since 2015. These statistics only include reported crimes that meet the threshold for an investigation; reports suggest the majority of LGBTI+-related crimes go unreported. In 2020, crime statistics recorded 578 crimes against the victim’s sexual orientation and 204 by the victim’s sexual status. 

Review OSAC’s report, Supporting LGBT+ Employee Security Abroad, and the State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI travelers.

Safety Concerns for Travelers with Disabilities

​Many existing buildings and public transportation systems are less adapted to individuals with disabilities. Check your hotel or destination to learn more about options to accommodate disabled traveler needs before visiting Germany. The German Hotel and Restaurant Association (DEHOGA) and the German Hotel Association (IHA) maintain directories of accessible accommodations. German airports and Lufthansa offer services for disabled travelers. The German Railway, Deutsche Bahn, maintains a mobility resource webpage. Find more information on accessibility by visiting the German National Tourist Board website

Review the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers with disabilities.

Safety Concerns for Travelers Based on Race, Religion, & Ethnicity

There are numerous reports of anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, and anti-Christian incidents across Germany. These include assaults, verbal harassment, threats, discrimination, and vandalism. Jewish groups expressed security concerns after several widely publicized anti-Semitic acts, including a gunman’s attack on Yom Kippur that killed two individuals outside a synagogue in Halle. Federal crime statistics for 2018 cited nearly 1,800 anti-Semitic crimes during the year, an overall increase of 20% from 2017; 69 of those crimes involved violence. The federal crime statistics attributed 89% of anti-Semitic crimes in 2018 to the far right, but the federal anti-Semitism commissioner expressed concern over methodology that attributed to the far right all incidents in which the perpetrator was not identified, stating that the country’s Jewish community experienced more open hostility from Muslims than from other groups. In May 2019, responding to what he stated was the rising number of anti-Semitic incidents in the country, he said he could “no longer recommend Jews wear a kippah at every time and place in Germany.” 

Police statistics recorded 2,351 anti-Semitic crimes in Germany in 2020, an increase of 16% over 2019, which itself experienced a strong rise in reported crimes. Most incidents were non-violent and involved far-right propaganda or illegal statements made online. Nonetheless, the authorities are concerned about the trend, which prompted considerable press attention. Police also recorded 141 anti-Christian and 1,026 anti-Muslim crimes during 2020. 

Demonstrations have occurred expressing anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic sentiment. Certain states continue to ban or restrict the use of religious clothing or symbols, including headscarves, for some state employees. Authorities also monitor the Church of Scientology, which reports continued government discrimination against its members.

Harassment of members of racial minorities such as Roma remains a problem throughout the country. The head of the Sinti and Roma Council Romani Rose​ suggested however, that many crimes against Sinti and Roma go unreported. In 2020, anti-Roma crimes rose by 64% to 128 from 78 in 2019. 

Authorities estimated that in 2019 there were 33,430 right-wing extremists in the country, of whom 13,000 are potentially violent. Far-right extremists committed 23,604 politically motivated crimes in 2020 (a rise of 5.65%), including 1,092 violent acts, including 9 murders. 634 people were injured.  

In February 2020, a far-right extremist shot and killed 10 people during an attack in the city of Hanau in Hesse. Most of the victims were migrants and shot in a local shisha bar. The perpetrator previously displayed delusional behavior and hatred of migrants while contacting the authorities, but was still in possession of a gun license at the time of the attack. 

Review the latest U.S Department of State Report on International Religious Freedom for country-specific information.

Review OSAC’s report, Freedom to Practice, and the State Department’s webpage on security for faith-based travelers.  

Anti-U.S./Anti-Western Sentiment

​Demonstrations with an anti-U.S. sentiment remain common in Germany, but are usually nonviolent. Numerous demonstrations in 2017-2020 protested President Trump and U.S. foreign policy, to include withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord and the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal), as well as the administration’s decision to relocate the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. U.S. military actions in the Middle East, and U.S. involvement in Syria. In 2020 and into 2021 there was an increase in demonstrations focusing on anti-Semitism, U.S. support for Israel (both for and against), as well as Turkey-Kurdistan issues which continue to spark interest and are often the primary reason for anti-U.S. protests in Germany. 

Concerns involving the Rule of Law, Arbitrary Detention, Official Harassment, Corruption &/or Transparency

​The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implements the law effectively. There have only been isolated recent reports of government corruption.

The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index ranks Germany 9 out of 180 worldwide, where 1 means most transparent.

Communication Issues

The German Constitution guarantees freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and freedom to receive information, among other enumerated communication rights. Disseminating untrue facts or “abusive criticism,” are defined as statements that are not primarily made to debate a topic, but to defame a person and therefore fall outside the scope of protection. 

Communication rights may only be limited by general laws. In the context of heckling, such general laws could be criminal provisions protecting personal honor or civil law norms on “undisturbed enjoyment”, or other basic rights. However, these limitations must be examined in light of the constitutional significance of the basic right being restricted, meaning the limitations must themselves be restricted. 

Germany has a robust federal data protection act (Bundesdatenschutzgesetz or BDSG), that together with the data protection acts of the German federated states and broader EU regulations, limit the exposure of personal data processed or stored in IT systems. This presents a challenge to many multi-national corporations, especially when conducting compliance, intellectual property protection, as well as associated internal monitoring and controls. 

Since 2018, the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) governs how personal data of individuals in the EU may be processed and transferred. GDPR is comprehensive privacy legislation that applies across sectors and to organizations of all sizes. 

The Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index ranks Germany 13 out of 180 worldwide, where 1 means most freedom. The Freedom House Freedom on the Net report rates Germany’s internet freedom as free, and its Freedom in the World report rates Germany’s freedom of speech as free.

​Health Concerns

Emergency Health Services      

The medical emergency line in Germany is 112. Germany has good medical care and facilities, and has several university hospitals that provide state-of-the-art medical care in most fields of medicine, including advanced cardiac surgery. 

If you are not a resident of Germany, doctors and hospitals may expect immediate payment in cash. Most doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies do not accept credit cards. 

Find contact information for available medical services and available air ambulance services on the U.S. Embassy website. The U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing international health insurance before traveling internationally. Review the State Department’s webpage on health insurance overseas.

The U.S. Department of State has included a Health “H” Indicator on the Travel Advisory for Germany, indicating that Health risks, including current disease outbreaks or a crisis that temporarily disrupts a country’s medical infrastructure, are present. Review the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) country-specific Travel Health Notices for current health issues that impact traveler health, like disease outbreaks, special events or gatherings, and natural disasters.

See OSAC’s Guide to U.S. Government-Assisted Evacuations; review OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare for Travel, and Fire Safety Abroad; and visit the State Department’s webpage on Your Health Abroad for more information.

Vaccinations

​Strongly consider COVID-19 vaccination prior to all travel.

The risk of tick-borne encephalitis (FSME in German) exists throughout southern Germany, including the Black Forest regions of Baden-Wuertemberg, Freiburg, and along the Bavarian borders with the Czech Republic and Austria. Risk also exists around Stuttgart, Heidelberg, and Nuremburg. Transmission season is March-November. Ensure vaccinations are current before prolonged stays that include hiking, camping, or similar outdoor activities in rural wooded regions. The FSME vaccine is only available in Europe and by special release in Canada. Exercise anti-tick precautions. 

Review the CDC Travelers’ Health site for country-specific vaccine recommendations.

Issues Traveling with Medications

​If traveling with prescription medication, check with the German Government to ensure the medication is legal in Germany. Due to Germany’s strict customs regulations, one may not receive prescription medication by mail without special permission. For more information, visit the German customs website regarding medicine. Always, carry your prescription medication in original packaging with your doctor’s prescription. 

Review OSAC’s report, Traveling with Medication.  

Water Quality

In 2019, the Federal Environment Agency (Umwelt Bundesamt) published a report on drinking water quality in Germany:  

  • 99% of drinking water in Germany is rated as good or very good. 
  • 98% of Rivers and Lakes in Germany meet the quality requirements of the European Union. 
  • 90% of Rivers and Lakes in Germany are rated as very good.  

Various terrorist and extremist organizations have expressed interest in malicious water contamination or sabotage in the form of bioterrorism. None were successful. However, many waterworks systems have heightened security protocols and testing procedures to thwart attempts. Implementing security measures in open water systems is more challenging, but contaminants would likely be diluted in larger bodies of water. 

Review OSAC’s report, I’m Drinking What in My Water?

Environmental Hazards

Germany is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Activities include fishing, skiing, hiking, and mountain climbing. Especially in the Alps in southern Germany, alpine hazards such as avalanches and snowdrifts, landslides and flooding, glacial crevasses, falling rocks, sun exposure, and sudden weather changes are common. Although safety standards are excellent, public safety warnings are not comparable to those found in the United States. Though hiking paths and ski slopes are clearly marked, not all possibly hazardous situations will have clear warning signs, and many signs will only be offered in German. Use caution when enjoying the outdoors. Stay on designated paths or slopes, follow the advice of local authorities, and use reputable guides, taking note of weather forecasts and conditions. Traveling or enjoying the outdoors with a group, or a minimum of at least two people when participating in mountain activities, greatly increases survivability. As always, whether alone or in a group, be sure to inform someone of your plans prior to departure including location(s) and anticipated time of return. 

Cybersecurity Concerns

Cybercrime remains a major concern. In recent years, cyberattacks in Germany targeting information infrastructures, government institutions, businesses, and private citizens have increased in frequency and complexity. Many of the attacks are likely state-sponsored and include disinformation campaigns to influence public opinion. In a highly publicized case from 2019, a hacker broke into accounts of hundreds of German lawmakers and personalities whose political stances he disliked, prompting further questions about the ability of the German government to protect sensitive data. 

Viruses and other malware continue to be the preferred methods of online criminals. Although authorities have dedicated additional resources to enforcement and prosecution efforts, cybercrime in Germany continues to be a growing problem. Authorities believe most Internet crimes go unreported and solve only one in four crimes. A study from 2017 by the Bitkom IT industry association found that every second German internet user was a victim of cybercrime in the preceding 12 months, with half reporting a financial loss. In August 2020, a survey by KPMG found, in the last 2 years, cybercrime affected 30% of the companies surveyed  

As the internet expands exponentially and continues to be an integral part of life throughout the world, malefactors expand their uses of the internet to facilitate insults and slander, perpetrate sexual offenses, purchase weapons and narcotics on the dark web, promote hateful propaganda, and organize acts of terrorism and radical behavior, just to name a few examples. The German authorities recognize the internet as facilitator of criminality and continually adapt investigative techniques to combat emerging threats. To focus on these threats and to partner with industry, the BKA established a Cybercrime Contact Center (ZAC) division to create a link between the private sector and the police in the fight against cybercrime. ZAC acts as an intermediary and advisory body with law enforcement and prosecution authorities and the private-sector and assists with the coordination of investigations during incidents.

Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics, Best Practices for Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling Abroad with Mobile Devices, and Guide for Overseas Satellite Phone Usage.

Counterintelligence Issues

In Germany, counterintelligence may be defined for the private sector as it relates to intellectual property and is protected from imitation through the granting of property rights. The following property rights are differentiated between: 

  • Patents (protection of new technical inventions) 
  • Utility models (protection of technical innovations; in contrast to a patent, purely a registered right) 
  • Industrial designs (protection of designs, patterns, and models) 
  • Trademarks (e.g., word and figurative marks) 

Where the property rights are registered depends on the type of protection sought. If the German market suffices, one can approach the German Patent and Trademark Office. Protection at European level can be sought at the European Patent Office. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) additionally offers international patent protection. 

Other Security Concerns

Landmines

​This country has no known issues with landmines.

Import/Export Restrictions

​Germany has strict customs regulations concerning temporary importation or exportation of firearms, military artifacts (particularly those of World War II), antiques, medications/pharmaceuticals, and business equipment. Under German law, it is also illegal to bring into or take out of Germany any literature, music, or paraphernalia that glorifies fascism, the Nazi past, or the “Third Reich.”

A country-specific listing of items goods prohibited from being exported to the country or that are otherwise restricted is available from the U.S. International Trade Agency website.

Photography

​There are no unusual restrictions on photography.

Review OSAC’s report, Picture This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.

ID Requirements

​There are no unusual requirements for identification in Germany.

Critical Infrastructure Concerns

​There are no critical infrastructure concerns unique to private-sector operations in Germany.

OSAC Country Chapters

The U.S. Embassy in Berlin recently consolidated the individual OSAC chapters in Berlin, Frankfurt, and Munich into one Germany Country Chapter.

Contact OSAC’s Europe team with any questions.

Embassy Contact Information

U.S. Embassy: Pariser Platz 2, 10117 Berlin. Consular Annex: Clayallee 170, 14195 Berlin. Tel: +49-30-8305-0; American Citizen Services: +49-30-8305-1200. Hours: 1400 – 1600, Monday – Thursday.

Trustworthy News Sources

Deutsche Welle (DW) is one of Germany’s international news broadcasters and media outlets. In 2020, the service was provided in 30 languages reaching 249 million weekly user contacts. 

The Local is a German, English-language news service, the largest of its kind in Europe with an average of 5 million monthly readers. Reporting typically consists of daily news, business and features. 

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