During the first awakening of Germany’s nationalist ghosts after reunification, the country never really had an honest conversation about racism and violence in East Germany. The rise of the AfD and its strong support in the East demonstrates that the country must still be vigilant about protecting its democracy and institutions.
By Şeyda Emek
I was in high school on the morning of May 29, 1993, when neo-Nazis burned down a house in Solingen, Germany, inhabited by families of Turkish origin. Five people, two young women and three girls, died in the flames. Seventeen others were severely injured.
As school began that morning, my history teacher broke down in sobs facing the class. He had been a boy during World War II. When he woke up to the news that people had again been burned to death because of their ethnicity in Germany he couldn’t stop crying.
It was the second deadly arson attack in six months. Two girls and their grandmother had been murdered when Turkish families’ homes were burnt down in Mölln on November 23, 1992. Nine other family members were severely wounded.
The Mölln and Solingen incidents were the culmination of a series of racist attacks that began shortly after German unification in 1990, as were the Hoyerswerda and Rostock-Lichtenhagen attacks. In Hoyerswerda in Saxony, a mob of 500 people attacked Vietnamese street vendors, stoned and petrol bombed an asylum shelter for a full week in September 1991. And in Rostock, several hundred people attacked an asylum shelter with stones and petrol bombs for two days in August 1992 while 3,000 bystanders applauded.
The 1990s in Germany, when I was a teenager, were not only about the fall of the Berlin wall and happy citizens peacefully reuniting on the streets, amidst calls of: “We are the people!” They were also the years when nationalism returned to Germany. I remember my parents’ fears for us children, their worried whispers with Turkish neighbors and friends.
I thought often of this period during last Sunday’s German elections, when 5.8 million people voted for Alternative for Germany (AfD). Founded in 2013, the extreme right, anti-immigrant party entered parliament with 12.6% percent of the vote, winning 94 of the 709 seats. For the first time since Hitler’s NSDAP, a party whose leadership openly praises Germany’s military’s conduct during the two World Wars, as chairperson Alexander Gauland has done, will enter the Reichstag....Read More