"A Time to Make Friends" (II)

BERLIN |

BERLIN (Own report) - With last weekend's arson attack on a refugee home, the bombing attempt on a supporter of refugees and the siege of a refugee hostel by a hostile mob of locals, Germany's recent wave of racist violence has taken on a new quality. It is only fortunate that no one was murdered in these recent attacks. At the same time, attacks on refugee housing are becoming dramatically more frequent. Already during the first half of 2015, the number of attacks has reached that of the entire year of 2014. For years, observers have been warning that initiatives against refugee hostels are firmly taking root locally and are increasing their abilities to mobilize. The political establishment and the media have regularly provided legitimization to the anti-refugee campaign, using racist clichés, for example, in the debate around the SPD politician Thilo Sarrazin's publications or with their derogatory insinuations about migrants. Last winter, the campaign against refugees was mobilizing tens of thousands for the "Pegida" street demonstrations. Moreover, in spite of the escalation of anti-refugee violence, the slander continues.

Potentially Fatal

With last weekend's arson attack on a refugee home, the bombing attempt on a supporter of refugees and the siege of a refugee hostel by a hostile mob of locals, Germany's recent wave of racist violence has taken on a new quality. This violence includes attacks that could have been fatal.

Arson Attack

In the night from Saturday to Sunday, unidentified assailants set fire to fuel-doused newspaper on the doorsill of a first floor apartment in Brandenburg/Havel. The 24 year old inhabitant smelled the fire, by chance, in time to be able to extinguish it. The assailants could flee without being recognized. At the time of the attack, the 24 year old woman and her two daughters - aged two and five - were asleep inside the apartment.[1] This arson has been the first aimed at inhabited refugee quarters since quite some time, and it could easily have been fatal. Earlier this year, arsonists had targeted mainly empty hostels, earmarked to house asylum seekers. These attacks have dramatically increased this year. According to official statistics, 203 attacks on refugee accommodations had been registered in 2014. However, already in the first half of 2015, there have been 202 attacks, including 22 with violence - including arson as well as assault and battery. It can be assumed that there have been more attacks than registered so far for the first half of 2015, because usually officially registered information is transferred between administrations with delay.

Bombing Attack

During the night from Sunday to Monday, unidentified assailants set off a bomb on the car of a local politician in the small town of Freital, near Dresden. The politician is known in town for his engagement on behalf of refugees. Since the end of 2014, an anti-refugee mobilization has been taking place in Freital. For more than six months, demonstrations under the name of "Frigida" ("Freital against the Islamization of the Occident") - an offshoot of the notorious "Pegida" in Dresden - have been mobilizing. Over the past few weeks, Freital was in the headlines, because the anti-refugee agitation has escalated and resulted in systematic attacks on a refugee hostel. Observers have spoken of an atmosphere of a pogrom, also directed at the refugees' supporters. For example, during the mayoral election campaign, the local politician, Michael Richter (The Left), whose car was seriously damaged in the bomb attack, on June 7, had already come under heavy attack, because of his stand in solidarity with asylum seekers. The incumbent mayor, Uwe Rumberg (CDU), was, however, elected after publicly calling for "sanctions on brawling and violent asylum applicants" and declaring, "even a culture of welcome must have its limits."[2]

Mob Siege

In the small town of Mainstockheim, in the vicinity of Wurzburg, a refugee hostel was immediately evacuated, after several hundred local Germans, threatening to use force, had besieged the building. According to reports, local residents showed up last Thursday, at the refugee shelter carrying baseball bats and bicycle chains. On the weekend, up to 300 local residents, some carrying knives and battering equipment, had surrounded the refugee quarters. The police, who had been called to protect the building, spoke of an "explosive atmosphere."[3] The refugees, who had been housed in Mainstockheim, will now be housed elsewhere. Already Friday evening, a tent city, earmarked to serve as temporary housing for refugees, was attacked in Dresden. Following an anti-refugee demonstration sponsored by the NPD, NPD followers attacked the tent city with bottles and stones, also injuring employees of the German Red Cross (DRK), who were in the process of installing the tents. The improvised shelters were supposed to house around 1,100 Syrian refugees, who, hardly having been able to escape the civil war at home, now find themselves confronted with German neo-Nazis in Dresden.

A new Dimension

Since some time, specialists have been warning that there could be an escalating wave of racist violence in Germany. Back in 2013, observers had noticed that over an extended period, local anti-refugee initiatives had been growing more popular - and that neo-Nazis were involved. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[4]) In 2014, experts were indicating that there was "an alarmingly new dimension" to local anti-refugee initiatives "both in terms of the frequency" as well as "their ability to mobilize" along with "the acute threat of the situation" as compared to the situation in 2013.[5] At the end of 2014, the "Pegida" demonstrations, mobilizing tens-of-thousands to weekly street rallies against refugees, were initiated. Rightwing extremist forces provided ostentatious support. The mass agitation created the atmosphere for this escalation of violence,[6] which already last year had begun making itself noticeable, and, over the past few days, taking on a new quality.

Breaking Taboos / Cheap Propaganda

This mass agitation would be unthinkable without a series of taboo breaches and the deliberate anti-refugee propaganda emanating from the political establishment and leading mass media organs. In 2009 and 2010, for example, publications by the SPD politician and - at the time - German Central Bank board member, Thilo Sarrazin, were widely promoted. Sarrazin had written derogatively about Turkish and Arab migrants, while claiming to have discovered a "Jewish gene." Politicians, above all from the conservative CDU and CSU parties, used this campaign to complain of a "higher than average proportion of foreigners involved in violent crimes," while Germany's current Minister of the Economy, Sigmar Gabriel, SPD, referring to Sarrazins publications, declared "much of what he describes, is what we are experiencing. There is no question about it." (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[7]) In 2013, Romani Rose, Chair of the Central Council of German Sinti and Romany criticized the fact that a campaign has been launched targeting "poverty migrants" from Eastern Europe," who "are exclusively characterized as Romany" and "indiscriminately criminalized." Numerous prominent politicians are taking part in the campaign, including ministers of the interiors in various state governments and in the federal government.[8]

Deportation as Soon as Possible

Stirring antipathy toward refugees continues - even though critics have regularly been warning that this is contributing to an escalation in racist violence. On various occasions, Bavaria's Prime Minister, Horst Seehofer, has evoked a "widespread abuse of asylum." For refugees, for whom officials foresee little chance of their receiving residence authorization, Seehofer now intends to establish refugee camps very close to Bavaria's borders, to be better able to deport them, as soon as possible, once their application has been refused. The German government's Commissioner for Immigration, Refugees and Integration, Aydan Özoguz (SPD), sees this initiative as questionable, but declares that it is "in any case, an idea."[9] In Bavaria, it is claimed that a tent city would suffice, for this purpose. The disparaging treatment meted out to refugees is simply new grist to the mills of those demonstrating against refugees on the streets. The explosive atmosphere, on the other hand, is facilitating racist violence.

For more information on this topic see: The End of Freedom of Circulation, Ramifications of the "War on Terror", War on Refugees (II) and Forced to Flee (I).

[1] Alexander Fröhlich: Brandanschlag auf Flüchtlingswohnung. www.tagesspiegel.de 27.07.2015.
[2] Matthias Meisner, Lars Radau: "Vergleiche mit Hoyerswerda sind angebracht". www.tagesspiegel.de 23.06.2015.
[3] Olaf Przybilla: Flüchtlingsheim wird nach Übergriffen geräumt. www.sueddeutsche.de 27.07.2015.
[4] See Willkommen in Deutschland.
[5] Svenna Berger, Frank Metzger: Bedrohliche Allianzen. monitor (rundbrief des apabiz e.v.) Nr. 67, Dezember 2014.
[6] See Einmalige Abschreckung.
[7] See Elite gegen Unterschicht and Herrschaftsreserve.
[8] See The End of Freedom of Circulation and Grenzen dicht! (II).