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RACISM

Germany marks a year since deadly racist shooting in Hanau

Germany on Friday marks a year since nine people were killed in a racist shooting in the city of Hanau, an assault that has fuelled fears of far-right terror in the country.

Germany marks a year since deadly racist shooting in Hanau
Martin Hikel, mayor of Berlin-Neukölln, set out candles for victims of the attacks on Thursday evening in front of the district's Rathaus. Photo: DPA

A year after nine people were killed in a racist shooting in the German city of Hanau, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier
on Friday urged all Germans to unite against far-right extremism.

“Has the sadness gone? Has the pain subsided, the anger gone? Have all questions been answered? No. Absolutely not,” Steinmeier told around 50 people gathered at an event in Hanau's Congress Park, scaled down due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“But as federal president I ask you: Let us not allow this evil act to divide us,” he said.

The deadly shooting at a shisha bar and a cafe on February 19th, 2020 shocked Germany and fuelled fears over far-right terror.

 

But 12 months after the deadly shootings at a shisha bar and a cafe, victims' relatives say too little has been done to shed light on the attack and ensure that such atrocities will not be repeated.

Gunman Tobias Rathjen, 43, completed his killing spree on February 19, 2020 by turning the gun on his mother and himself, leaving behind a 24-page “manifesto” of right-wing extremist views and conspiracy theories.

READ ALSO: What is Germany doing to combat the far-right after Hanau attacks?

The investigation into what happened is still ongoing, with many questions unanswered and little known about the attacker.

Edgar Franke, the government commissioner for the victims of terrorism, pleaded this week for closure for the victims' friends and families.

“There can be no public criminal trial against a dead attacker in which the victims can ask questions. This makes it all the more important to fully clarify the background,” he tweeted.

Controlling father

Rathjen lived with his parents in Hanau. He was a sports shooter and legally owned several weapons, but was not known to police.

In November 2019, however, he had filed a criminal complaint about a “secret service organisation” which he accused of “tapping into people's brains” in order to “control world events”.

In 2002, he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, which apparently remained untreated.

Relatives of the victims have lately focused their attentions on Rathjen's father, who they believe was partly responsible for the crime.

They have filed a 16-page criminal complaint against the 73-year-old for being an accessory to murder, according to a report in the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

They believe he had a controlling relationship with his son, knew about plans for the attack and encouraged it.

The families have also criticised the police response on the night of the attack, complaining the emergency number was busy and they could not get through.

They also believe the emergency exit of the bar at the second crime scene had been locked on police orders.

So far, a total of 42 family members of the victims have received about €1.2 million in compensation from the federal government, with more potentially in the pipeline, according to the Ministry of Justice.

Flowers being laid in Hanau for victims of the attacks on February 20th, 2020. Photo: DPA

'Hanau is everywhere'

Organisations across Germany called for decisive action against racism and right-wing extremism ahead of the anniversary of the attack on Friday.

“For those affected, Hanau is potentially (still) everywhere, all the
time,” Atila Karaborklu, chairman of the TGD society for the Turkish community in Germany, said in a statement.

Right-wing extremism and racism are now taken more seriously at the political level, but are still not a high enough priority in Germany, he said.

READ ALSO: After Hanau: How can Germany deal with extreme far-right terror?

Aiman Mazyek, president of the Central Council of Muslims (ZMD), also called for better protection against racist attacks.

“We need an even clearer awareness in the interior ministries that right-wing extremist attacks, for example on Muslims, are not an abstract danger, but a concrete one,” he told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung on Friday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel noted the upcoming anniversary in her weekly podcast at the weekend, saying: “Racism is a poison. Hate is a poison.”

Merkel also referenced a cabinet committee set up in response to the Hanau attack to combat right-wing extremism and racism.

In early December, the government adopted a package of 89 measures drawn up by the committee aimed at tightening punishments for right-wing extremists and protecting victims.

The measures include making it a criminal offence to publish “death lists” on which extremists list their enemies, and the introduction of a new criminal offence for anti-Semitic or racist incitement.

By Femke Colbourne

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RACISM

Black people in Germany face ‘widespread’ racism, survey finds

In the Afrocensus, a first-of-its-kind survey charting the lived experiences of black people in Germany, the vast majority revealed they experienced 'extensive' discrimination in almost all aspects of public life.

Dr Karamba Diaby
Dr Karamba Diaby, an SPD politician and anti-racism advocate, carries out voluntary work in his constituency of Halle, Saxony-Anhalt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Hendrik Schmidt

“The results of the Afrocensus indicate that anti-Black racism is widespread in Germany and anchored in institutions,” the authors of the new report said in a press release on Tuesday. “There is no area of life in which discrimination and racism are not extensive problems.”

Though the overwhelming majority of respondents said they had experienced discrimination at least ‘sometimes’ in almost all areas of life, housing was the area where they said they were discriminated against most often.

Just two percent of respondents to the Afrocensus said they had ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ experienced racism in the housing market, compared to more than 90 percent who said they had experienced it ‘often’ or ‘very often’.

READ ALSO: ‘Black lives need to matter in Germany’ New project to uncover racism in everyday life

Experiences with police and security personnel also counted among areas of life where racism was particularly prevalent: 88 percent of respondents had experienced discrimination from security staff ‘often’ or ‘very often’, while around 85 percent had had the same experience with police.

More than 85 percent had also experienced racism in their education or in the workplace ‘often’ or ‘very often’ in Germany. One in seven had lost their job during the Covid crisis. 

According to the report, 90 percent of respondents had also experienced having their hair grabbed, while more than half (56 percent) had been stopped by the police or asked for drugs by strangers.

Meanwhile, 80 percent said people had made comments about the colour of their skin or sexualised comments about their race on dating apps. A vast majority – 90 percent – also revealed they hadn’t been believed when they’d spoken out about racism in the past, or that people had said they were “too sensitive”. 

READ ALSO: OPINION: My experiences of everyday racism in Germany

In spite of widespread discrimination, almost half (47 percent) of the respondents were engaged and active in their community – mostly carrying out some form of social or voluntary work.

First of its kind

Based on wide-ranging data, the findings paint a vivid and concerning picture of what life is like for the one million or so black people living in Germany today.

To produce the report, researchers from Berlin-based Black community group Each One Teach One and Citizens for Europe conducted an extended survey of 6,000 black people from the Africans and Afrodiasporic community to try and discover more about on the everyday lives and experiences of this group. The survey was carried out between July and September 2020. 

It represents one of the first attempts to gather a wealth of quantitative data on this subject, and as such offers some of the first truly scientific insights into anti-Black racism in modern Germany.

“With the Afrocensus, we have succeeded in doing exactly what has long been demanded within the black community for a long time: making the realities of our lives visible within the framework of qualitative, but above all quantitative research,” Dr. Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana und Dr. Karamba Diaby wrote in a foreword to the report. 

Diaby, a high-profile politician within the centre-left SPD party, was one of only two Afro-German politicians in parliament when he first took his seat in 2013. He has since become known for promoting political engagement and empowerment within the migrant and black community. 

In January 2020, an unknown gunman fired shots through the window of his constituency office in Halle, Saxony-Anhalt, in a suspected racially motivated attack. 

READ ALSO: How people with migrant backgrounds remain underrepresented in German politics

Since the Second World War, Germany has avoided gathering data that allows people to be traced by ethnicity as a means of protecting persecuted groups.

However, critics say this approach only works to make the issues faced by these groups invisible. 

Writing on Twitter, Daniel Gyamerah, Division Lead at Citizens For Europe, called for an “action plan for tackling anti-Black racism and for empowering black, African and Afrodiasporic people” and the establishment of advice centres for people facing racism and discrimination.

More research into the intersectional experience of black people in Germany is needed, he added. 

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