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Germany: Right-wing extremism in the east connected to communist rule, study says

20.5.2017 9:38
An initially calm protest against accommodating asylum-seekers in a newly-opened refugee center in the town of Heidenau, Germany grew overnight into a violent clash between extremists and police on 22 August 2015 (PHOTO:, Euronews).
An initially calm protest against accommodating asylum-seekers in a newly-opened refugee center in the town of Heidenau, Germany grew overnight into a violent clash between extremists and police on 22 August 2015 (PHOTO:, Euronews).

The high degree of right-wing extremism in the eastern states of Germany has many causes, and one of the most important is having lived there when those states formed the German Democratic Republic (GDR), also formerly known as East Germany. A study published by experts in the Central German city of Göttingen made those claims yesterday.

During 2015 and 2016, Germany recorded a dramatic growth in crimes motivated by right-wing politics, accompanying a significant increase in the number of refugees entering the country. Last year a record 23 555 such crimes were recorded.

A disproportionately high number of those crimes were committed by inhabitants of what was once East Germany, especially the states of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania and Saxony. When asked why that is, experts from Göttingen did their best to find an answer, producing a 236-page study over the course of many months.

Especially for older right-wing radicals, an important role, according to the experts, is played by their socialization in the GDR, where they lived in a closed, rather homogeneous society and came into contact with immigrants very rarely. While students and workers from friendly socialist countries also traveled to the former East Germany, they lived thoroughly separated from GDR citizens, unlike those who visited what was called West Germany.

Moreover, foreign nationals were never allowed to stay for very long in the GDR. The fall of the East German regime, according to the study, brought changes some inhabitants had difficulty facing - holding their own on the free labor market, political  participation, and not relying only on the state.

Many residents of the former East Germany, therefore, feel wronged to this day, as they have a sense of being second-class citizens compared to the former West Germans and to immigrants, whose "side" they believe everybody else is on. Such people, according to the study, frequently recall just what was good about their lives in the GDR and cling to that identity.

For the situation to change in future, the study says it is necessary to critically deal with the past as it pertains to the GDR and the 1989 revolution. Iris Gleicke, the federal government's Commissioner for Eastern German Affairs, says the biggest part of that responsibility lies with German politicians.

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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