[Marxism] ‘Politics of Hate’ Takes a Toll in Germany Well Beyond Immigrants

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Feb 22 09:34:45 MST 2020

(This article is pretty alarming. It seems that Germany is dealing with 
a much larger threat than in the USA, where SPLC and antifa exaggerate 
the situation. It states that much of the worst violence is taking place 
in the former East German republic, something that supposedly is a 
function of people retaining the authoritarianism of the Stalinist 
system. I have a feeling that the anti-immigrant violence is a function 
much more of the region's economic difficulties than anything else.)

NY Times, Feb. 22, 2020
‘Politics of Hate’ Takes a Toll in Germany Well Beyond Immigrants
By Katrin Bennhold and Melissa Eddy

COLOGNE, Germany — The last time Henriette Reker ran for mayor, she was 
nearly killed.

Ms. Reker was handing out flowers to voters at a bustling market in 
Cologne in 2015, when a man took a rose with one hand and rammed a 
kitchen knife into her throat with the other. He wanted to punish her 
for her pro-refugee stance.

Five years later, Ms. Reker is running again. But she is an exception. 
Since she recovered from a coma to find herself elected, far-right death 
threats have become an everyday reality, not just for her but for an 
increasing number of local officials across Germany.

The acrimony is felt  in town halls and village streets, where mayors 
now find themselves the targets of threats and intimidation. The effect 
has been chilling.

Some have stopped speaking out. Many have quit, tried to arm themselves 
or taken on police protection. The risks have mounted to such an extent 
that some German towns are unable to field candidates for leadership at all.

“Our democracy is under attack at the grass-roots level,” Ms. Reker said 
in a recent interview in Cologne’s City Hall. “This is the foundation of 
our democracy, and it is vulnerable.”

The trend, the local officials and analysts say, reflects a worrying 
breakdown of civility and political discourse in an increasingly 
polarized Germany, where the insidious influence of an angry far right 
is changing the rules of behavior.

Mayors, certainly, have not been the only ones to suffer as Germany’s 
political and social fabric has strained. The shootings this week in the 
western town of Hanau, near Frankfurt, that left 11 people dead were 
just the latest attacks aimed at ethnic minorities.

Germans who openly support immigration have increasingly been targeted, 
too. Given the decentralized nature of Germany’s political system, local 
officials like mayors may be the most important among them. Attacks 
against them take on outsize significance.

Over the last year, there were 1,240 politically motivated attacks on 
politicians and elected officials in Germany, according to preliminary 
figures released this year by the federal police.

A study conducted by the German Association for Cities and 
Municipalities showed that 40 percent of the country’s city governments 
had to contend with stalking, harassment or threats. Of the 11,000 
mayors in the country, at least 1,500 reported concrete threats.

And people have died. In June, Walter Lübcke, a regional official, was 
killed on his front porch by a known extremist, the first far-right 
assassination of a German politician since World War II.

Supporters of far-right ideology were responsible for more than a third 
of the reported episodes, nearly twice as many as were committed by 
supporters of the extreme left, the government said.

But nearly half of all politically motivated attacks could not be 
attributed to any specific group, reflecting what experts said showed 
the erosion of civil norms.

Experts and local officials who have been affected say the violence 
started when the 2008 economic crisis began to bite. But it took on new 
dimensions in 2015, after Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the borders to 
more than one million asylum-seekers, most of them Muslim and many 
fleeing wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Andreas Zick, the director of the Institute for Interdisciplinary 
Research on Conflict and Violence at the University of Bielefeld, has 
been tracking the mood of German society for decades.

He said he first noticed groups of people calling themselves “concerned 
citizens” who were critical of politicians emerge more than a decade ago.

One of their concerns has now grown into a concerted campaign of hate 
against local politicians and representatives, he said, driven by 
populist forces such as the far-right Alternative for Germany, a party 
known by its German initials, AfD.

“The populists have declared the ‘elites’ as their enemy, and now we are 
seeing the rise of this politics of hate which has infected the center 
of society,” Mr. Zick said.

Barbara Lücke, the mayor of Pulsnitz in the eastern German state of 
Saxony, has herself been targeted by hate campaigns.

“The arrival of the refugees was a catalyst,” she said, “but it would 
have happened regardless.”

She attributed the rise in violence to a toxic cocktail of an “anything 
goes” culture on social media, a dearth of social services and a lack of 
understanding among Germans in the former Communist East about the how a 
representative democracy works.

“There are no boundaries anymore and no understanding for how to respond 
when my idea of freedom is in conflict with someone else’s idea of 
freedom,” she said. “We have forgotten how to resolve conflicts.”

By some accounts, the atmosphere has become particularly toxic in 
eastern Germany, where the AfD wins on average one in four votes and 
many more in rural areas.

Markus Nierth, a pastor who was mayor of the small eastern village of 
Tröglitz, wanted to integrate 40 refugees into his community. He 
immediately became the target of graphic far-right threats.

First the hateful messages were directed to him, then they were also 
written to his wife. Mr. Nierth remembers the day when his wife opened a 
letter signed by the “KKK Germany,” their 5-year-old son sitting on her lap.

“We will come for you and nail you to the cross, then you will burn,” it 
read, “you are an  embarrassment to the white race.”

When his story became public, Mr. Nierth received many calls and letters 
from other former mayors in eastern Germany who had quit after 
experiencing similar threats.

What was hardest, he said, is that he did not get much support from the 
community, who resented his speaking out.

“We were isolated as a family,” he said. “People said I was giving the 
village a bad name.”

In the end, Mr. Nierth resigned, and even gave up his plans to retire in 
the village. Instead the Nierths are planning to move, reluctantly.

“There is a danger that in parts of the country the democrats are quite 
literally leaving the field to the far right,” he said.

In eastern Germany, where the AfD is now the second-biggest political 
force, “many sit on packed suitcases in case they win power,” Mr. Nierth 

Burkhard Jung, the mayor of Leipzig, another eastern city, said that in 
his first nine years as mayor he did not get a single threat. But that 
changed when the country took in the refugees.

“Something broke open then, something came out,” he said. “These threats 
would come. We had to install a security system in our house. Police 
would sometimes be outside.’’

‘‘How do you explain that to your children?” he added.

The intimidation is also taking hold beyond the east.

Two of Germany’s largest states, Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia, 
will hold municipal elections this year. But many are struggling to find 
candidates willing to take up the post of mayor.

In Kerpen in North-Rhine Westphalia, the incumbent mayor has said he 
will not run again, citing fears for his safety and that of his family. 
In Bavaria, the 1,000 residents of Breitbrunn will have to write in a 
candidate for mayor, as no one has come forth for the job.

The mayor of the western German town of Kamp-Lintfort applied for a 
license to carry a gun, arguing it was the only way he could protect 
himself and his family against increasingly aggressive threats from 
right-wing extremists.

The move prompted a fierce debate in a country where the right to bear 
arms in public is generally extended only to police officers and private 
security guards.

“I completely understand,” said Florian Kling, the mayor of Calw, in the 

The mayor in question backed down from the idea when he was offered 
police protection. But the police themselves have increasingly been the 
targets of violence, as have other local officials like firefighters.

In the five years since she was stabbed, Ms. Reker, the mayor of 
Cologne, says anonymous death threats and constituents writing to say 
they understand those who want her murdered have poured in.

“The phase of cleansing has started,” it stated. “Many more will follow 
him. Including you. Your life will end in 2020.”

Last month, she buried a City Hall employee who had been stabbed while 
on the job.

But Ms. Reker has refused to change her message. Just recently she asked 
the Cologne City Council to approve of a plan to welcome 100 additional 
refugees and 16 unaccompanied child refugees who are stuck in a camp on 
the Greek island of Lesbos.

The motion was passed. But in response, a representative of the 
far-right Alternative for Germany, Sven Tritschler, immediately took to 
the microphone.

“You have blood on your hands,” he said.

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