Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

“I live among the neo-Nazis in eastern Germany. And it’s terrifying”

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A report in the Guardian from a person who understandably remains anonymous:

Media coverage of racist riots in the east German city of Chemnitz earlier this year showed just the tip of the iceberg: what lurks beneath the surface remains hidden.

I’m a university student and an antifascism activist living in Saxony, not far from Chemnitz. For a long time I underestimated the extent of rightwing extremism in Germany. Before I moved to this area a few years ago I didn’t know Saxony, and took antifascism for granted. I’d never come across “real” Nazis or violent racists.

I grew up in Berlin, I’m the child of a metropolis where it is normal not to be white or have a German name. My French grandfather fought for the Allied air force – that’s how my father came to Germany. My mother, a German, was born in West Berlin, that western enclave in the middle of the German Democratic Republic, a refuge for “alternative” people, punks and conscientious objectors.

For a long time I told myself that the east-west divide didn’t concern me. I was born after the Berlin Wall came down. But when I moved to the east, I started thinking more deeply about my western upbringing. I also tried to dispel my prejudices and started thinking more critically about how Germany handled reunification.

I want to stand up against discrimination everywhere and at any time, but in these small towns that can be hard, and exhausting. You’d think Germany’s history would be enough to ensure that fascism and nationalism are denied even the slightest encouragement. That should matter to everyone, shouldn’t it? Unfortunately that’s not how things are.

When the far right Pegida movement suddenly appeared, with crowds of up to 20,000 people marching through Dresden chanting Islamophobic and racist slogans, there was an initial sense of shock among the public. But soon enough the media discourse swerved, and there were voices saying we should try to understand those among the protesters who were “of good will”. Pegida held similar rallies in many other cities and they were largely met with a degree of complacency. Then came talk in the press of the “asylum question” as a problem, and the need for a cap on refugee numbers. Pegida was given yet another boost.

Next came Alternative für Deutschland, a new party in the political landscape, Eurosceptic, xenophobic, nationalist. Panic spread among mainstream parties as they lost voters, and “the asylum issue” became the pivotal issue in the 2017 general election. Asylum law was tightened. As a counter-reaction, some groups organised themselves to demonstrate the “wilkommenskultur” or “welcome culture”. Refugees were greeted in Munich with tea and biscuits. People began to take action against discrimination. And the media loved showing images of Germans reacting to a crisis with love and harmony.

But what remained largely unnoticed were the attacks on foreigners and asylum hostels. More than 4,000 have occurred since 2015, some involving the use of molotov cocktails, baseball bats, and with armed neo-Nazis even raiding children’s rooms. In 2016, an average of 10 hate crimes each day against migrants was officially registered.

What does that mean for daily life in the places where these attacks happened? To take the full measure of it, you have to live here. There’s the conversation at the bakery where an old woman complains about the “bad” foreigners, and the woman serving her agrees. There’s the conductor on the tramway who deliberately checks only the tickets of the black passengers. And there are the attacks on leftwing cultural projects or community centres – stones thrown, beatings, the violence you experience when you try to get involved. And there’s the passivity of the so-called civilian population – locals who stand by when a black person is beaten up in the town centre. Racist, fascist normality sets in.

Youth centres and social workers are rare. People who try to act against far-right groups by launching “alternative” projects live dangerously, in daily confrontation with hatred. You struggle to set up a school workshop against extremism, and have to look hard to find people who would even consider this kind of work in rural areas. After all, who wants to live in a Nazi village? Those with German passports can choose to stay away from these towns where car tyres get punctured and homes are subjected to arson attacks just because some people don’t like who you are, where you come from, or what your political position is. But not everyone can leave easily. Asylum seekers have a residency obligation if they want to receive benefits or work permits.

The towns and villages that have a Nazi problem form a seemingly endless list now. It doesn’t stop at Chemnitz or Dresden. Looking at Europe more generally, it’s clear that fascism must be fought at a grassroots level – and that means being there, physically. . .

Continue reading. There’s more. Is it coming to the US as well?

Written by Leisureguy

31 October 2018 at 8:42 pm

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