BONN (Oct. 3)
The unexpected electoral success of a neo-Nazi party in Sunday’s local elections has added to the deep concern felt throughout the country over the escalation of right-wing violence against immigrants and other foreign refugees.
The German Peoples Union, or DVU, headed by anti-Semitic publisher Gerhard Frey, polled 6.3 percent of the popular vote in Bremen, enough to win its first seats in the legislature of that northern German city-state.
Frey is editor and publisher of the Munich-based National Zeitung, which has been largely dedicated to attempts to prove the Holocaust never occurred.
Neo-Nazi and extreme right-wing fringe parties have flourished briefly in past local elections, only to fade from the political scene. The Republican Party, led by a former Nazi SS officer, was a recent example.
But the DVU’s showing in Bremen has political observers troubled, because it can be linked to the influx of refugees, many from the Third World, an issue that has polarized Germans since their country was unified a year ago.
Some commentators have likened the wave of violence against foreigners to the hatred of Jews that flared when the Third Reich was formed.
Rita Sussmuth, speaker of the Bundestag, Germany’s lower house of Parliament, said Thursday that these attacks “reawaken fears” that “are nourished by our past.”
JEWISH SECURITY BEEFED UP
Although Jewish institutions have not been targeted by the right-wing extremists, police in many cities have beefed up the protection of synagogues and other Jewish communal buildings.
At least 30,000 asylum-seeking refugees entered Germany last month and, according, to government estimates, immigration for the whole year may reach 200,000.
Significantly, much if not most of the violence against foreigners has occurred in former East Germany.
Last weekend alone, neo-Nazi and Skinhead youths attacked hostels and other buildings housing foreigners in 20 German towns.
A hostel for foreigners was attacked Monday in Bad Honnef, just southwest of Bonn. It was repeatedly hit by lead balls Monday, but no injuries were reported.
Quarters occupied by foreigners were set on fire in the town of Herford, southwest of Hanover. In Recklinghausen, near Dortmund, police arrested 15 people between the ages of 14 and 19 for violence against Asian and African refugees.
Two men were arrested in Hagen, south of Dortmund, suspected of attempting to murder asylum-seekers.
The attacks generally appear to be in response to a perception that guest workers and immigrants from Asia, Africa, the Soviet Union and elsewhere in Eastern Europe are taking jobs, housing and government subsidies away from native Germans.
Right-wing and neo-Nazi parties play on those fears to arouse dormant racism.
The federal government is upset by the phenomenon. The response of Chancellor Helmut Kohl has been to lobby for a constitutional amendment limiting the present blanket right to asylum in Germany.
Kohl warns that the situation could get worse unless the major political parties agree on ways to halt the flood of immigrants.