Attacks prompt calls to fight neo-Nazi resurgence
A rise in antiforeigner incidents, including last week's bombing, has politicians abuzz.
A spate of recent violence has raised fears that right-wing extremists are becoming more brazen in Germany. Minorities, especially foreigners, have become the targets of brutal attacks across the country this summer.Skip to next paragraph
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This week, the government had planned to celebrate the launch of a limited immigration program to attract computer specialists from abroad. Instead, politicians are now filling the headlines with appeals to fight a neo-Nazi resurgence. "I am very concerned," says Paul Spiegel, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. "I can't recall, since 1945, that in such a short period of time there were so many acts with a right-wing background."
On Saturday night, right-wing youths in Eisenach chased a pair of African asylum-seekers through the streets. Last week, a pipe bomb exploded in a train station in Dsseldorf, wounding 10 people. There's been no claim of responsibility, but because six of the victims are Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union, many suspect right-wing extremists. Only days before, neo-Nazi skinheads in Ahlbeck trampled a homeless man to death. In June, right-wing youths in Dessau beat to death a Mozambican who had made Germany his home 20 years ago.
Such incidents are the most serious examples of almost daily reports of arson attacks, beatings, and verbal abuse targeting foreigners, particularly in the former communist east.
Opening the door
Official Germany traditionally has insisted that it is "not a country of immigration." But the government of Chancellor Gerhard Schrder, in power for less than two years, has taken half-hearted steps toward making naturalization easier for the country's 7 million foreign residents and opening narrow immigration channels for highly qualified - and much needed - computer experts from abroad.
Yet the center-left ruling coalition has been opposed every step of the way by the opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which to varying degrees of success has played on latent antiforeigner sentiment in the population.
Politicians of all political stripes expressed outrage at recent right-wing crimes, though their proposed solutions have differed.
In an appeal for more public outcry against extremism, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said, "The point has been reached where the silent majority of the population may no longer be silent." Sigmar Gabriel, premier of the state of Lower Saxony, called for a massive presence of police and even border troops to bring skinheads into line. Bavarian Interior Minister Gnther Beckstein said the government should ban the National Democratic Party, a neo-Nazi fringe party.
"I have the impression that the politicians have come to the conclusion that enough is enough," says Mr. Spiegel. "People have understood that it's not just about foreigners, minorities, or Jews, but about an attack on all Germans and on that which since 1945 was so painstakingly built up."
Tracking criminals, Web sites
At an emergency meeting called on Tuesday, federal and state officials agreed to set up a central database to track right-wing criminals and to tighten the grip on Web sites with neo-Nazi content.
Leading conservatives accuse Chancellor Schrder's government of being too lax on fighting crime. Justice Minister Herta Dubler-Gmelin has countered such charges by pointing out that a tough legal framework already exists. "Each perpetrator must know that he will be taken to court quickly and punished harshly," she said in a newspaper interview on Tuesday.