“Foreigners Out!”: The Rise of Right-Wing Violence in Germany

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Though the overpowering voice of Berlin’s leftist mainstream media often paints modern Germany as a land of pacifism and tolerance, the nation’s Federal Criminal Police Office (or bka) released a report last week that shows this portrayal to be increasingly inaccurate.

In 2008, racially and politically motivated far-right crimes reached a record high of more than 20,000 incidents, the report says. Figures for 2009 won’t be released until next year, but the
bka expects them to exceed previous numbers by even more.

“On average, two to three far-right-motivated violent crimes are committed in Germany each day. And there are around three to four anti-Semitic violent crimes each month,” said bka president Jörg Ziercke.

“There’s a real danger to people’s lives because far-right attacks tend to be very spontaneous, brutal and violent,” he said.

Right-wing extremists are also becoming bolder in their outbursts. Increasingly, the crimes are carried out in public places such as bus stops, train stations and restaurants. Ironically, one of the year’s most gruesome murders was committed in a courtroom while court was in session.

The report points to formerly Communist Eastern Germany as the primary breeding ground for the growing right-wing extremism. Even 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, some eastern regions are grappling with soaring unemployment and other social woes. A growing number of citizens in these areas have turned to far-right political parties such as the National Democratic Party (npd) in search of a solution.

Eastern Germany is home to most of the violence. In 2007, a mob of 50 chased eight Indians through the streets of the eastern town of Mügeln. They yelled, “Foreigners out!” before attacking and injuring all eight of the Indians in a restaurant as townspeople looked on.

Although the npd officially rejects explicit Nazi references and violence, the federal government attempted to ban the party in 2003 because of its extremism. The attempt was overruled by the German high court.

Since Germany reunified in 1990, 47 racially motivated murders have been committed. Federal authorities say that, at present, around 30,000 Germans are involved in neo-Nazi activities, and approximately one third of those are ready for violence.

“It’s a shocking situation,” Ziercke says.

But for those acquainted with Germany’s bellicose path through the pages of history, these facts are not shocking. Germany has tried to live down its Nazi past, but the steady escalation of right-wing violence shows reactionary ideologies to be very much alive in Germany today. These outbreaks of far-right violence are symptomatic of a more universal sentiment in Germany. They provide insight into the Fatherland’s general sentiment and mood. continues here

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