Germany's politicians are now enabling the far right

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Germany's politicians are now enabling the far right

Opinion The far right Germany’s politicians are now enabling the far right Doris Akrap The reaction to the racist attacks in Chemnitz suggests the mainstream is appeasing extreme views. We could be heading for dark times
• Voices from Chemnitz

GERMANY-POLITICS-FARRIGHT-DEMONSTRATIONThe far-right group “Pro Chemnitz” stage a protest at the entrance to the stadium of Chemnitz FC, where Minister President of Saxony, Michael Kretschmer will meet with members of the public on August 30, 2018 amid tensions sparked by a deadly stabbing in Chemnitz, eastern Germany. - After the fatal stabbing of a German man allegedly by a Syrian and an Iraqi, thousands of far-right protesters marched in the city of Chemnitz some chasing down people they believed were immigrants. (Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP)ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images
A far-right group stages a protest in Chemnitz, Germany on August 30: ‘The most alarming aspect of the tension in Chemnitz is the sympathetic hearing the protagonists have been given.’ Photograph: Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

Hundreds of Germans plan to march side by side with neo-Nazis tomorrow for the third time in a week, after the fatal stabbing of a 35-year-old man last Sunday in the eastern German town of Chemnitz. Since then, innocent foreigners have been hunted down and attacked. Racist slogans have been chanted amid illegal Hitler salutes.

These shocking scenes have been all too reminiscent of events in Rostock in 1992, when neo-Nazis set fire to an apartment block containing Vietnamese refugees. I thought we had moved on from that time in Germany. Now I fear we are actually going backwards.

The most alarming aspect of the tension in Chemnitz is the sympathetic hearing the protagonists have been given. Locals tell reporters that they have nothing against foreigners, but feel unprotected by the state. So somebody has to offer that protection to those who say they “daren’t go out at night” â€" and it’s the far right that is offering it. Of course, we heard the same thing a hundred times in the 1990s. But what do these frightened people actually fear? Crime rates are falling, not rising.

For the first time since the ​90s, I sense ​the liberal progress that Germany has made could be reversed

The sizeable presence of the far-right Alternative für Deutschland in the Bundestag has changed and darkened Germany’s national conversation about migrants. Even mainstream media and politicians are giving credence to the narratives of the right, fuelling fears that ref ugees are violent sexual abusers and dangerous criminals. With its inflammatory statements and interventions in parliament, on talkshows and on public platforms, the AfD is setting the agenda.

This summer of German racism began when the interior minister, Horst Seehofer, put the ruling coalition at risk by demanding that Angela Merkel set up holding pens for migrants on Germany’s borders. Then there was the grotesque scapegoating of the German-Turkish football star Mesut Özil, who was blamed for Germany’s poor showing at the World Cup. As the summer ends, we have neo-Nazis hunting down people in daylight and the police nowhere to be seen.

Seehofer has been virtually silent. Saxony’s prime minister, Michael Kretschmer, has said emptily: “We fight rightwing extremism. We always did.” Only Merkel has truly spoken out, condemning the “hate in the streets”, and stating unequivocally that it has no place in the country.

In Saxony, the ruling Christian D emocratic Union â€" just like Seehofer’s Christian Social Union in Bavaria â€" is reacting to falling poll ratings by veering to the right. It claims many citizens have “fears and sorrows that have to be taken seriously”. We know this line too. We’ve heard it over and over again. It’s the line that allowed a far-right party to gain seats in the German parliament, emboldening the racists.

But racism is not a “fear” or a “sorrow”: it’s a mindset. To take it seriously means understanding that it has steadily become part of mainstream discourse. These people want power, and they want power as rightwingers and racists, even though they call themselves democrats. Racism was and is part of Germany’s daily life. There are German people who think that other people in our society have to be removed. There are also people who stand on the other side of the street as Nazis and racists try to take it over.

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Once we thought the German far right was an anachronism, a remnant of a dying culture. Since the racist disturbances of the early 1990s, German society has undoubtedly become far more liberal. But the neo-Nazi organisation National Socialist Underground, which killed at least 10 people in seven years, was also founded in the 90s. It found shelter in Chemnitz at the time. For the first time since the 90s, I sense the progress made could be reversed. Why? Because the reaction to Chemnitz suggests that the political mainstream is prepared to accommodate the narratives of the far right.

Migrants, and their children and grandchildren who â€" like me, the daughter of a Yugoslavian Gastarbeiter â€" were born and raised in Germany, have genuine “sorrows and fears”. We fear that the permanent rise of an extreme rightwing movement in Germany is being enabled by this appeasement of racism. We lived throug h this once. And we think responsible politicians should take our sorrows seriously. On Wednesday night, in Wismar, another town in the east of Germany, a 20-year-old migrant was beaten with an iron chain by three assailants. If that’s not a warning our politicians should heed, then we are surely heading for dark times.

• Doris Akrap is a journalist at the Berlin-based newspaper Taz

Topics
  • The far right
  • Opinion
  • Germany
  • Migration
  • Angela Merkel
  • Europe
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Source: Google News Germany | Netizen 24 Germany

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