Translated from German by Translators for justice
In many areas throughout Germany, neo-Nazis, along with other racially-biased citizens, are protesting against the housing of refugees. At some protests, tensions have escalated into physical violence. Threats of violence are always to be taken seriously, not only by the police, but by all involved.
For Germany’s far right, Saturday the 19th of October was a huge success. Between 800 and 1,500 people took part in a torch-lit march against refugees in Schneeberg (Saxony) initiated by the NPD (Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands, Germany’s far-right nationalistic party). The protest was triggered by the accommodation of 500 asylum seekers in a former military building on the edge of the city. Prior to the event, organizers had posted anti-refugee comments on a Facebook page.
A similar Facebook page also posted hateful remarks against refugees in Pätz (Brandenburg); calls to violence and derogatory statements can frequently be found among the comments on the page. “Burn that shit down already,” one comment reads. Seven people liked it.
According to the project Netz gegen Nazis (Network against Nazis), the pattern of these local protests is always the same. “First, plans for a new refugee facility are announced, a supposed citizens’ initiative is formed and the hatred continues. The same is seen offline with the refugee facilities.” “Currently,” they added, “there is hardly a better topic to raise racist support for the NPD and Co. than the refugee issue; the results are alarming.”
Just in the last three months, eight attacks have been reported in Germany, all of which could likely be labeled “racially motivated”. Here is a rundown of the attacks:
– On the afternoon of October 21, a housing complex for asylum seekers in Essen was shot at, presumably with a slingshot. Luckily, the projectiles did not penetrate the building and no injuries were sustained. State security was called in.
– During the night of October 21, an attempt was made to set fire to the Kulturzentrum für Sinti und Roma “Maro Kher” (Culture Center for Sinti and Roma) in Oldenburg. Currently, the police see no evidence to classify the attempt as racially motivated. The organization that runs the center, however, has reported repeated antiziganistic threats.
– In Wehr (Baden-Württemberg) on October 19, an arson attack was carried out on a building accommodating asylum seekers. Suspects lit fire to gasoline on the first-floor staircase. Residents were able to stamp out the fire, and no injuries were sustained. “The motive for the attack is currently unclear,” stated the police. Any and all possible leads are being investigated.
– On October 18, suspects set fire to a home for asylum seekers in Gemünden (Bavaria). According to police, a case of arson cannot currently be ruled out. A witness reports having seen two adolescents that lit the home on fire. One resident suffered from smoke inhalation, and one woman was injured during the building evacuation.
– On October 12 in Güstrow (Mecklenburg-Vorpommer), suspects lit fireworks and threw them into a building, which had been used since June as a housing complex for asylum seekers. 52 people were inside the building at the time of the incident. Despite the dense smoke throughout the building, no injuries were reported. The investigation has been handed over to state security.
– On the 9th of October in Duisburg, a house inhabited by Roma residents was set on fire. The 42 house residents were forced onto the roof, seventeen of which were brought to the hospital with smoke inhalation. Despite continued racial hatred against the Roma on the part of a Duisburg citizens’ initiative, the police see no indication of racial motives. They state, any and all leads are being investigated.
– During the night of September 18, an act of arson was committed in Premnitz on an empty school building, which was to be converted into a housing complex for asylum seekers. Two weeks before the incident, neo-Nazis had assembled in front of the building. Investigators suspect far-right extremists carried out the act.
– During the night of August 16, an incendiary mixture was thrown in front of a home for asylum seekers in Luckenwalde. The fire extinguished itself, and no injuries were reported. The investigation was handed over to state security.
The attacks show the highly dangerous nature of racial hatred, as well as the importance of civil society’s opposition to neo-Nazis and the racism of the middle class. Throughout the country, numerous people from a wide variety of social classes have taken a stance against racial hatred. A well-known example is the initiative “Hellersdorf Hilft” (Hellersdorf Helps), which has already performed award-winning work with donation campaigns, educational work and opposition demonstrations. The organization has already called for a counter-demonstration on the 26th of October, because the neo-Nazi related citizens’ initiative “Bürgerinitiative Marzahn-Hellersdorf” has planned to demonstrate in Hellersdorf at the same time.
For refugees or others who fear racial prejudice, it makes a world of difference if they feel alone with these threats or if they find solidarity and protection. The outcome depends on the presence of local counter initiatives and whether those that speak out against racism actually put words into action and take to the streets.