Frankfurt book fair hit by walkouts in far-right row

The Frankfurt book fair, the world's largest publishing trade event, faced a growing controversy on Friday after several authors cancelled their appearances in protest at the presence of a far-right publisher.

A woman browses books at Frankfurt Book Fair
A woman browses books at Frankfurt Book Fair. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

Black author and anti-racism activist Jasmina Kuhnke was the first to pull out at the start of the week, after learning that the Jungeuropa publishing company’s booth would be close to where she was going to unveil her novel “Black Heart”.

The company, which describes itself as “new right” is run by right-wing extremist Philip Stein who has previously called for German-born Kuhnke’s deportation.

Having received threats from the far-right scene in the past, Kuhnke said in a statement she no longer felt safe attending and found it “intolerable” that “Nazis are being given a platform” at the fair.

Her boycott call has since been followed by several other guests lined up for this week’s fair in western Germany, including actress Annabelle Mandeng, choreographer and author Nikeata Thompson and influencer Riccardo Simonetti.

Disability rights activist Raul Krauthausen appeared at the fair on Tuesday but pulled out of later events in solidarity.

“I can and will not promote my book in an environment where black women and women of colour have to cancel their participation because of the right-wing danger,” he said.

In a statement sent to AFP, organisers of the Frankfurt book fair said they “deeply regret the cancellations”.

“We believe they would have sent an important signal with their appearances,” they said.

READ ALSO: Frankfurt to host thousands as world’s oldest book fair returns

‘Freedom to publish’

Frankfurt book fair director Jürgen Boos had earlier said the fair stood for free speech and there were no legal grounds to exclude the contentious publisher.

“We don’t have to like it, but it has to be possible because freedom of expression, freedom to publish are the highest good to us,” he said.

The Jungeuropa publishing company mocked Kuhnke on Twitter, saying it was “absurd” to think “anyone on the right would know her or be interested in her”.

The walkouts had the support of the Anne Frank Educational Institution, which said the fair was contributing to “a further normalisation and spreading of hatred” at a time when Germany was experiencing a rise in “racist and anti-Semitic attacks”.

The presence of far-right publishers at the annual industry gathering has long been a contentious issue.

Protests erupted at the fair in 2017 when Bjoern Hoecke, a leading figure from Germany’s far-right AfD party, visited an event hosted by the Antaios publishing house. Scuffles ensued between left- and right-wing demonstrators and police had to intervene.

The Frankfurt fair, which returned as an in-person event this year after going virtual in 2020 because of the pandemic, ends on Sunday.

By Michelle Fitzpatrick

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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.