Germany has earned positive headlines for its open-door policy on refugees. But in small towns across the country, far-right groups are stoking up anti-immigrant sentiment. BuzzFeed News’ Joshua Hersh reports.
FREITAL, Germany — Before the refugees started pouring into Germany’s train stations by the thousands, then the tens of thousands, trouble came to Freital in the form of 280 people.
It was early spring, and Freital, a blue-collar town in the southwestern suburbs of Dresden, was an unlikely place to spark national controversy.
But Eike Sanders, a researcher who works with Ulli Jentsch at Apabiz in Berlin, said that what was so disconcerting about the events in Freital, in particular, was that “it wasn’t just the neo-Nazis who came out. It was that the regular people in the town came out of their houses and joined in the mob.” Sanders believes the lines on the right have become so blurred that Pegida and the more extremist movements have established a sort of mutually beneficial symbiosis. “The problem is that people see something that is racist and they have a tendency to say it’s Nazism,” she said. “Of course, that is not necessarily true, or not true of all of them. But it also creates an opening for Pegida to say, ‘Look, we’re not Nazi’ — which is obviously right. And then the far right can say, ‘Look at Pegida. We’re just speaking out about what the people feel, but what they cannot say.’” (When the June protests started in Freital, Pegida founder Lutz Bachmann, who has a home there, egged on the crowds, writing on his Facebook page, “Take to the streets, people! Defend yourselves!”)