German Chancellor marks 25th anniversary of xenophobic arson: "Right-wing extremism is the shame of the country"
Right-wing extremism is still alive today and is the shame of Germany. That was the message of German Chancellor Angela Merkel on 29 May in Düsseldorf during a commemoration event for the three children and two young women who died 25 years ago during an arson attack on the home of a Turkish family in what was then the West German town of Solingen.
The incident was one of the worst racially-motivated crimes in the history of the Federal Republic. "The attack on your family's home in Solingen shook the entire country," Merkel said to the survivors, reminding those assembled that a whole series of such attacks happened during the 1990s.
"The list [of attacks] is horrifyingly long," she pointed out, adding that the attacks of 1992 in the northern town of Rostock had involved hundreds of people who were incited by thousands. "Right-wing extremism is not a thing of the past."
"Today as well people are being assaulted and berated because they are asylum-seekers, or refugees, or because they are considered asylum-seekers or refugees due to their appearance or skin color," the Chancellor said. She believes Germany must not tolerate this.
There is no room in the Federal Republic for antisemitism, hatred of foreigners, or racism, Merkel said. She admitted that German authorities in the past have committed grave errors in dealing with a particular case of right-wing radical crimes and warned today that exaggerated testing of the limits of freedom of speech must not be tolerated.
"Whoever sows violence through words must count on reaping violence later," she said. According to observers, that was a reference to, among other things, the frequently controversial and provocative statements by the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party.
The Chancellor also personally addressed Mevlüde Genç, who lost those five family members in the attack 25 years ago. "The missing places in your family and the pain you endured will remain with you forever, and for that reason I am expressing to you and to all relatives of such victims my deep commiseration," Merkel told her.
Both Merkel and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoglu highlighted that Genç had responded to the tragedy from the beginning with calls for reconciliation. "You responded to this inhumane act with human greatness," the Chancellor emphasized.
Genç lives to this day in Germany and told the commemorative assembly that the longer she lives, the more pain she feels over her loss. "I beg you, nobody else should have to feel such pain," she appealed to the politicians present.
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