Attack on Indians fuels debate on extremism in Germany
21 August 2007
Berlin (dpa) – A vicious attack that injured eight Indians is fueling a debate over increasing violence by right-wing extremists in the eastern part of Germany.
“People with dark skin have a much higher risk of being attacked in east Germany that they do in west Germany,” said Sebastian Edathy, a member of the German parliament's internal affairs committee.
Edathy told the newspaper Berlin Zeitung on Tuesday that towns in the former communist east were not doing enough to prevent the spread of right-wing extremism in a region where attacks on foreigners have been frequent since German unification in 1990.
The latest incident occurred late on Saturday evening at a festival in Muegeln, a sleepy town of 4,700, some 45 kilometres east of Leipzig in the state of Saxony.
Following a scuffle in a beer tent, a band of about 50 German youths chased the Indians across the town square, shouting “foreigners out,” as local residents looked on impassively.
When the Indians sought shelter in an Indian-owned pizzeria, the mob kicked down the doors and vandalized the owner's car before police arrived and dispersed the attackers.
The Indians, one of whom has lived in the town for five years, suffered facial cuts and severe bruising in the attack, which experts said was racially motivated.
Saxony is a stronghold of the extreme right-wing National Democratic Party (NPD), which polled 9 per cent in a state election in 2004 and now sits in the state parliament in Dresden.
The NPD is also represented in the Mecklenburg-West Pomerania state parliament, while another far right party, the DVU, sits in the legislatures in Bremen and in Brandenburg, the state which surrounds Berlin.
The party has been branded as an ideological breeding ground for neo-Nazi aggression, and Germany's domestic security agency says it foments racist violence. It is also considered anti-Semitic.
A recent report by the Saxony's domestic intelligence service, the office for the protection of the constitution, noted increased activity by right-wing groups in the state.
Foreigners are a natural target for such groups who believe they don't belong in Germany, said Bernd Wagner, head of Exit-Deutschland, a group which helps people leave the neo-Nazi scene. “Xenophobia is no longer a fringe phenomenon, it affects all sections of society,” Wagner told the n-tv news channel.
The newspaper Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung said it was “shocking how deep radical ideology has penetrated the centre of a frustrated east German society.
“There is no other way to explain how in a previously inconspicuous place like Muegeln such lethal danger could emanate from harmless jostling in a beer tent.”
One of those present in the tent was Susann Meyer, who has worked for 18 months as a waitress in the Picobello pizzeria owned by an Indian called Singh.
She was dancing with one of the Indians when the trouble started. “Perhaps they didn't like me dancing with foreigners,” said the 36- year-old, who left the tent early with some of the Indians after receiving a warning that trouble was brewing.
As the group left, their assailants were waiting at the exit and started chasing the Indians, she told the newspaper Die Welt.
“How can you work for a foreigner?” one of the mob cried, according to Meyer. Two of the men who started the fight were regular customers at the pizzeria, she said. The others were from outside the town.
Police stepped up their presence in the town on Tuesday and continued questioning potential witnesses in a bid to track down the assailants.
Two men aged 21 and 23 were detained in the aftermath of Saturday's melee, but set free by police, who apparently took an hour to appear on the scene despite being alerted to possible trouble.
The belated police response was reminiscent of events in the neighbouring state of Saxony Anhalt where officers have come under fire for their handling of attacks by right-wing extremists on a group of actors in Halberstadt in June and a Vietnamese family in Burg earlier this month.
The last serious incident involving right-wingers in Saxony occurred in February when a group of about 20 skinheads broke up an anti-discrimination meeting in a cafe and injured two of the participants.
Local citizens groups claimed there was “a strategy of silence” among the authorities when it came to right-wing tendencies in the state and appealed to the state government to stress the dangers emanating from right-wing extremism.
Subject: German news
Indian fairgoers attacked in Saxony