The Saxon city of Chemnitz has been the flashpoint of an exceptionally dangerous and virulent racist mobilisation since 25 August. The near-pogrom atmosphere in the city was ignited by the shocking and meaningless death of a 35-year-old man fatally injured, by stab wounds, on the fringes of the annual City Festival.
By Ulli Jentsch from apabiz in Berlin
The desire expressed by the family and friends of the deceased man, Daniel H., that »grief should not turn into anger and hatred« has not been fulfilled because his tragic death was immediately exploited by the right in Saxony’s third largest city – with 250,000 inhabitants – for its own nefarious anti-refugee purposes. That Daniel H. himself was opposed to right-wing parties and racism and that he came from a German-Cuban family were things the fanatical racists did not care about.
Just a day after Daniel’s death, before reliable details were known, both the far right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) and a local so-called »ultras« group of football fans were shrieking for undefined »protests«.
At that stage about 800 people responded to the fan group’s call but rapidly a violent and racist crowd called for the city to be »recaptured« and roving groups of racists repeatedly attacked individuals they identified as migrants or refugees. The police, with a mere fifty officers deployed, signally failed to hold back the rampaging and uncontrolled mob.
On social media, extreme right-wing accounts with high outreach reported – from information evidently leaked by police officers – that the two suspects for the killing, a Syrian and an Iraqi, had been arrested and branded them as examples of migrant crime against Germans, summed up in the buzzword »knifemigration«. An alleged previous case of sexist harassment was invented to complete the tale of horror.
A day later, a nationwide rally and demonstration followed, organised by Pro Chemnitz, an extreme right-wing racist group represented on the local council.
More than 6,000 subsequently people gathered in Chemnitz’s central square under the giant Karl Marx monument, many masked, very aggressive and screaming slogans like »The National Resistance is marching here« and »Germany for the Germans – foreigners out!«
The police were again unable and unwilling to stop the Hitler salutes, death threats to journalists and violent attacks on counter-demonstrators.
The ghoulish images of Monday 27 August depict a violent, hateful, vengeful mob of nazis and »normal« racists, the scent of blood in their nostrils, completely indifferent to and oblivious to any notion of mourning for the victim. It became crystal clear in Chemnitz, in that precise moment, that all potential victims of the nazis had good reason to fear for life and limb.
Since then, the wider public has been busily discussing the factors are responsible for this dynamic of disgrace. From the extreme right, the obvious facts are denied, right up to the multiply filmed Hitler salutes, and summarily declared »fake news«. As to the venomously anti-migrant AfD, it smartly presented the repulsive events in Chemnitz in the German federal parliament, the Bundestag, as some kind of understandable and legitimate self-defence by Germans against »foreigner criminality«.
The right-wing rampages in Chemnitz have shown that the entire extreme right-wing, racist and openly nazi milieu, despite their internal contradictions, are ready for a public showdown. They can now function together and can mobilise several generations of extreme right-wing activists.
Added to this is the behaviour of politicians, authorities and, especially, the police, who have consistently downplayed and dismissed this growing development for years.
Looking to next year’s regional elections in Saxony, there is great apprehension that the latest riots could determine the election’s outcome. The AfD’s support stands at 25% in the state, making the party the second strongest force.
This AfD openly sides with »the worried citizens „and is driving the Christian Democrats (CDU) even further to the right. Many observers are now thinking the hitherto unthinkable: that the AfD could end ruling or co-ruling Saxony.
As long as the currently self-confident nazis are publicly on the side of AfD politicians and right-wing agitators and the state authorities not only back away but, in part, also display open sympathy with the mob, it is a major task for the anti-fascist movement to help turn the tide.