On April 18, 2016, Max walked down the hall at his high school in Bremen, a midsize city in Northern Germany. He opened the glass door of a small office and saw a white cardboard box on the table addressed to him. The school’s director, a teacher, and a police officer were standing next to the box, Max remembered. Contained within it was a funeral wreath with black and dark red roses, as well as a white angel made of faux marble. Attached was a printed card: “We mourn the loss of Max O.”
The men in the room said things like “evidence” and “death threat,” but by that point, Max had already tuned out. In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Max recalled the thoughts that were racing through his mind: What is all this? What does it mean? What’s going on? What am I supposed to do? Back in class, he didn’t tell anyone what had just happened. He was 17 years old.
Max — whose last name we are not publishing to avoid jeopardizing the ongoing proceedings and to prevent others from targeting him — is one of at least 10 people the District Attorney’s Office in Bremen presumes to have been stalked and harassed by the same perpetrator. The office is actively investigating at least four of the cases. All the victims are young gay men like Max.
The German Federal Ministry of the Interior registered 313 violent hate crimes against LGBT people in Germany in 2018. This actual figure is exponentially higher, however, because experts say these crimes are vastly underreported. For comparison, in England and Wales alone, more than 11,000 crimes based on sexual orientation were reported in 2017. Hatred toward LGBT people is also a part of everyday life in Germany, but it receives little attention in German politics and media. Read more via Buzzfeed News