BERLIN, July 23 (Reuters) - Prominent German LGBTQ+ rights activist Anastasia Biefang has expressed concerns about an increase in homophobic and anti-transgender violence and abuse in the country, comparing it to rhetoric used by the Nazis.
Biefang, who made headlines as the first trans person to serve as a commander in the German military, spoke this weekend as hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Berlin to celebrate Christopher Street Day and demand LGBTQ+ equality.
"I hear narratives that I thought we had overcome since 1945," said Biefang, 49, a former battalion leader who still serves in a leading capacity in the army's cyber and information department.
The number of hate crimes targeting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans community is rising in Germany, with officially registered cases increasing by 15.5% last year to reach 1,005, according to Interior Ministry data.
Biefang said that while there had been positive achievements in recent years, there was a "feeling of exclusion, stigmatisation, division" that was sowing anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment.
"That's a great shame. It's not only a shame, it's also worrying," she told Reuters in an interview on Saturday, adding that "transphobic, queerphobic, homophobic violence is also increasing significantly" in Berlin.
In recent decades, the German capital has been known for having an accepting culture towards gender and sexual minorities.
Biefang said it was of particular concern that the growing backlash against LGBTQ+ rights was being fuelled by supporters of far-right parties.
Her comments coincide with a fresh poll by Insa for the Bild am Sonntag weekly newspaper, which puts the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), a party that has drawn criticism for taking swipes at LGBTQ+ rights, at a record 22%.
There has been a pushback against gay and trans rights in other parts of Europe, too.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whose government in 2021 passed a law banning the use of materials seen as promoting homosexuality and gender change at schools, on Saturday renewed his criticism of the European Union for conducting what he called an "LGBTQ offensive".
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