• Germany's news in English
 
jobs_header_v3

Government in a twist over 'pinstriped Nazis'

AFP/DPA/The Local · 12 Dec 2014, 15:46

Published: 12 Dec 2014 15:46 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit
Starting in the east in October and spreading to other cities, the marches led by the group Pegida ("Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West") are having serious repercussions, with the far right misrepresenting its real agenda, Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière told ARD television on Thursday evening.
 
"We can already feel how the climate in Germany society is becoming more raw," he said.
 
The ring leaders of the marches are not true Europeans, he stressed, but conceding that the appeal of the protests was growing for many people: "The participants include many people who are expressing their concern about the challenges of our time," he added.
 
Colleagues of the minister have been far more direct.
 
Pegida's leaders are no less than "Nazis in pinstripes", insisted North Rhein-Westphalia interior minister Ralf Jäger.  
 
 
Several marches have take place in the state and more were planned in Bonn, with right-wing extremist groups behind them all, Jäger said.
 
He was then rebuked by his equivalent in Saxony, Markus Ulbig, for tarring all protesters with the same brush.  
 
Authorities had to react to the population's concerns "before the right-wing extremist Pied Pipers do with their muted slogans", added Bavaria's interior minister Joachim Hermann, apparently referring to a recent march by right-wing groups against Salafist Islamists in Hanover.
 
"Appeals for tolerance alone are no longer enough here," he said.
 
Bigger trouble brewing?
 
Dresden, Düsseldorf, Munich and other cities have in recent weeks seen Pegida marches, which mostly passed without serious incidents.
 
Counter demonstrations drew almost as many people in some cases, but police have generally been efficient in keeping the sides apart.
 
Waving German national flags and decrying "criminal asylum seekers" and the "Islamisation" of their home country, the Pegida marches have attracted hardcore neo-Nazis and also a small but growing anti-euro party, Alternative for Germany, or AfD.
 
The group's name is in itself "a veritable call to arms by far-right populists", evoking echoes of Christian crusaders and Nazi propaganda, said Hajo Funke of Berlin's Free University.
 
"It's about the mobilisation of resentment, about establishing an enemy. It becomes dangerous if it turns into contemptuous aggression and the awakening of mob instincts," the political scientist told AFP.
 
In its short period of existence, Pegida has grown and spawned smaller copycat groups nationwide, provoking much soul-searching in a country haunted by its history of Nazi terror and the Holocaust.
 
 
The protests have been fuelled by the sharp rise in refugees seeking political asylum in Germany in recent months, leaving states scrambling to house them in converted schools, office blocks and container villages.
 
Germany has received more than 180,000 asylum applications since January, a 57-percent spike from last year, mostly from conflict-ridden Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea and Somalia,as well as from several Balkan countries.
 
"We can't stay silent when xenophobic sentiments are being aimed at people who have lost everything and come to us seeking help," Justice Minister Heiko Maas said.
 
"We must make clear that these demonstrations do not represent a majority."
 
'Can't stay silent'
 
Experts on Germany's far-right have noted a new mainstream character to Pegida, likening it to anti-foreigner movements in France, the Netherlands, Austria and Greece.
 
Most of the marchers are not booted skinheads but disgruntled citizens, raising fears especially among immigrant groups that a societal taboo against expressing xenophobic sentiments on the streets is vanishing.
 
The home city of the protests, Dresden, was part of communist East Germany until the Berlin Wall fell 25 years ago, and the surrounding state of Saxony still lags western Germany in prosperity and jobs.
 
The AfD has also won seats in three state parliaments, spelling a growing challenge as a political newcomer on the right of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
 
The CDU's annual congress in Cologne this week vowed to boost domestic security, crack down on foreign criminal gangs and pledged that "Salafist Islamic subversion will not be tolerated".
 
In an apparent echo of concerns voiced by many protesters, de Maizière also warned off hard-core Islamist elements seeking to destabilize Germany: "Jihadists should not be under any illusions: We are a tolerant country. But we will react with force and severity against any one who fights against our liberal state," he said at the congress.
 
He has also tried to allay fears of Islamisation. "There is no danger of an Islamisation of Germany - particularly not in Saxony," he said. The number of foreign-born residents make up just 2.2 percent of the population here.
 
'Looking for scapegoats'
 
The demonstrators' stated aim is to prevent their country from being overrun by dangerous jihadists and foreigners who refuse to "integrate".
 
But they also cheer and applaud speakers who voice broader grievances - against the "political elite", EU bureaucrats and the mainstream media they blame for allowing multiculturalism to "water down" their national culture.
 
 
"We are the people," they regularly chant, co-opting the phrase of the original "Monday demonstrations" that led up to the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall.
 
They have so far avoided clashes, with police or the anti-fascist protesters, such as the "Dresden Alliance Without Nazis", who show up in equal numbers.
 
By contrast, the separate group "Hooligans Against Salafists" fought street battles with police that left more than 50 officers injured in October in Cologne.
 
Police union chairman Rainer Wendt said that while riot police can handle football thugs, the bigger challenge stems from the new mass rallies of people "who voice this diffuse hostility, fear and resentment against anything foreign to them".
 
"Many of them have failed in their lives and their jobs and they project onto others their own failure... and are looking for scapegoats," he told news channel NTV. "We need to pay careful attention to them so they're not drawn in by the right-wing Pied Pipers."

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

AFP/DPA/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit


Today's headlines
VW bosses forced to pay back private jet costs

Bosses at troubled German auto giant Volkswagen have been forced to pay the company back millions of euros for flights on its private jets, the Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported Sunday.

Germany arrests Marxist militant 'leader'
Photo: Julian Stratenschulte / DPA / AFP file picture

A radical Marxist suspected of belonging to a left-wing extremist group accused of terrorism by Turkey has been arrested in Germany, judicial sources said on Saturday.

Afghan teen arrested over German murder-rape
Photo: Hendrik Schmidt / DPA / AFP file picture

A teenage Afghan asylum seeker has been arrested on suspicion of the rape and murder of a 19-year-old female student in Germany, police and prosecutors said Saturday.

Nazi POW leaves estate to 'kind' Scottish village
The former German soldier stayed on to work in the Perthshire village for a time after the war. Photo: Andy Buchanan / AFP file picture

A former Nazi prisoner of war has left his entire estate in his will to a small village in Scotland to show his appreciation for the kindness he received there during his captivity.

US tries to block Chinese purchase of Aixtron
Photo: Oliver Berg / DPA / AFP

US President Barack Obama on Friday moved to block a Chinese company's purchase of German semiconductor equipment maker Aixtron by rejecting the inclusion of Aixtron's US business in the deal.

Merkel to chart 2017 election battle at party congress
Photo: Tobias Schwarz / AFP

After Donald Trump's shock victory, Francois Hollande's decision not to seek re-election and populism on the rise, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is next up on the campaign podium to set out her strategy for winning in 2017 polls.

Berlin vs Munich: whose newborn polar bear is cuter?
Berlin's (left) and Munich's (right) newborn bears. Photos: Tierpark Berlin / DPA

Both city zoos welcomed baby polar bears into the world in November, with Berlin zoo its releasing first photos on Friday. But which one is more adorable?

Learn how to speak German like a silver screen icon
Dirty Harry. Photo: DPA

We all agree that there is no other option than to learn irregular German verbs by rote. But when you want a bit of downtime, why not learn from your big screen heroes?

Stolen Dachau 'Work will set you free' gate found: police
The entrance to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Photo: DPA

An iron gate from the former Nazi concentration camp in Germany's Dachau with the slogan "Arbeit macht frei" ("Work will set you free") has been found two years after it was stolen, police said Friday.

Mystery flight path artist draws new message in sky
Photo: DPA

A pilot who likes to draw patterns in the sky using his flight path has returned with his greatest artwork yet.

Lifestyle
10 German Christmas cookies you have to bake this winter
Sponsored Article
The key to launching your international career
Lifestyle
Our 10-step guide for doing Christmas just like a German
National
Here's why so many Germans vote for the far-right AfD
National
7 events in Germany that'll make December unforgettable
Lifestyle
7 frosty German sayings to make you a winter wordsmith
National
This is how unequal German society has become
National
Six things you should know about the Lufthansa strike
National
9 ways living in Germany will make you a better person
National
These 10 German Christmas markets cannot be missed
Features
8 German words that unlock amazing secrets in English
Culture
10 German words with simply hilarious literal translations
Lifestyle
7 things Germans do that make foreigners feel awkward
International
Why Donald Trump's grandad was booted out of Germany
National
This is what is really inside your Döner kebab
National
Rejoice! Christmas markets start opening across Germany
Education
These German universities are best at landing you a job
Travel
Why Heidelberg is Germany's most inspiring city
Lifestyle
This soppy German Christmas ad will bring you to tears
National
Here's where Germans speak the best (and worst) English
Culture
10 German books you have to read before you die
Culture
U-Bahn train found filled with autumn foliage in Berlin
Features
Seven German words that unlock amazing secrets about English
Travel
Germany's ten most beautiful towns you've never visited
6,591
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd