Former German Foreign Minister says today's attacks on migrant facilities reminiscent of Nazism
Attacks on residential hotels for migrants in Germany remind former German Foreign Affairs Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher of his youth during Nazism. Genscher made that statement in an interview for the 6 August issue of the Die Zeit weekly.
"Every time I hear reports of an attack on a residential hotel for refugees, I recall the images of my childhood: Burning synagogues and destroyed Jewish shops," the 88-year-old Genscher said. Originally from Halle in East Germany, he led West Germany's Foreign Ministry from 1974-1992.
Genscher does not like the accusations currently being made against the residents of the former German Democratic Republic (the GDR, also known as East Germany) that they are particularly inclined toward right-wing extremism and xenophobia. "I still recall hearing racist statements in West Germany during the 1950s," he said.
The former cabinet official went on to say that ultra-right parties are represented in the legislatures of many German states. "Certainly the East has a problem with right-wing extremism, but the West is quite familiar with this too," said Genscher, who left the GDR in 1952, crossing through West Berlin to reach the Federal Republic of Germany (also known as West Germany).
A study recently published by the Berlin Institute for Population and Development shows that willingness to contribute toward the integration of immigrants is much lower in the east of Germany today than it is in the west. The study also found that ultra-right opinions are more frequent in the former GDR.
German counter-intelligence warns against extremism escalating
Germany's Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) has also warned against the escalation of ultra-right violence throughout the country. Hans-Georg Maassen, its head, has pointed out that extremists are exploiting the tense situation around the current wave of refugees entering the country to spark hatred against all foreigners.
Maassen believes attacks might soon take place against groups or individuals. "We currently see how extremist agitation, the approval of their violence, and subliminal appreciation for such violence is aiding their calls for more violent acts. We are concerned that soon the targets will not just be buildings, but people," said the BfV head; the institution is responsible for domestic counter-intelligence in Germany.
In that context, Maassen warned mainly about a small political party called "Third Way" that is primarily active in Bavaria and whose representatives make remarks approximating the rhetoric of the neo-Nazi scene. The party was behind a leaflet campaign against the building of a residential hotel for refugees in the Bavarian town of Reighertshofen and called for the opening of the complex to be stopped.
The facility became the target of an arson attack in July. Germany is among the European countries that are most attractive to refugees.
This year the influx of refugee there has risen significantly - since the beginning of 2015, 258 00 people have sought asylum in Germany, a number estimated to rise to half a million at least by the end of the year. Last year there were 202 000 asylum-seekers there.
The influx of refugees has sparked tensions in Germany society. Several residential hotels for refugees have become the targets of arson attacks and politicians who stand up for asylum seekers have had to face threats.
The Opferperspektive organization, which provides legal aid to victims of racially motivated violence, considers violence against refugees to be the result of politicians' failings. Instead of clearly expressing sympathy for those fleeing war zones, some politicians have inclined toward populism on the issue.
Some politicians in Saxony are calling for the renewal of border controls because of the immigrants. That German state, which borders the Czech Republic, is considering the reintroduction of regular checks at its border.
Backers of the idea want to stop the influx of immigrants heading from the Balkans through Hungary and the Czech Republic to Germany. The eurosceptic party Alternative for Germany (AFD) has been calling for the renewal of border controls in Saxony for quite some time.
Now some of the governing Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party members in the state have joined them. "In the current situation we should create checkpoints immediately adjacent to the borders and in their wider surroundings. I believe that would make it possible to arrest illegal immigrants," Christian Hartmann, a state deputy for the CDU and his party's expert on domestic policy, told the MDR radio station.
Hartmann has also called on the European Commission to investigate whether states on the EU's periphery are violating the Schengen Agreement by failing to prevent migrants from crossing the Schengen area's external border without permission. "Saxony must pressure the European Union on this matter through the federal government. Until this matter is clarified it is completely legitimate to consider suspending the validity of the Schengen Agreement given current developments," he said.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziére has previously said he is against suspending the Schengen Agreement and reviving regular border controls. In his view the police currently have the tools they need to combat illegal border crossings.
Police officers in Saxony say they deploy forces for border control according to actual need. "We frequently monitor the border crossings. We do this not just in uniform, but also with plainclothes officers, whom the average citizen barely notices. We focus mainly on the highways, the main roads and cross-border trains," said Bernd Förster, spokesperson for the police in Saxony.
Förster says such controls especially target the A17 highway, which leads from the Czech border to Dresden, and trains traveling from Budapest through Prague to Dresden. Most refugees arrive in Germany through Austria, but the number of refugees crossing either the Czech or Polish borders is also growing.
During the first five months of this year, German police apprehended 138 traffickers in human beings total at the country's borders with the Czech Republic and Poland. Earlier this month Saxon police discovered two trucks on the A17 highway in which Polish traffickers were attempting to transport 58 refugees into the country.
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