BONN (Aug. 25)
Neo-Nazi violence that began last weekend in the northern German city of Rostock has escalated, culminating in the firebombing Monday night of a hostel for refugees seeking asylum.
About 1,000 right-wing extremists, including many youths, fought police in pitched battle in what was the third consecutive night of neo-Nazi violence.
The firebombing was the culmination of days of strong-arm efforts by the neo-Nazis to penetrate the hostel, despite all police efforts to turn the attackers back.
Earlier on Monday, authorities had removed some 300 asylum-seekers from the hostel, which had been the scene of ongoing neo-Nazi attacks.
The refugees included about 200 Romanian gypsies and 115 Vietnamese. There were some reports that some Vietnamese were still inside when the building was firebombed.
Street battles between the right-wing extremists and more than 1,000 police had gone on since Saturday, continuing into the morning hours after days of seemingly non-stop assault.
The authorities said they were obliged to take action because of concern for the foreigners’ lives.
The escalation of attacks has alarmed all of Germany’s political parties and renewed debate over this country’s attitude toward non-Germans.
Television stations here ran long clips showing local townspeople hailing the young extremists in their battles with the police as they attempted to penetrate the hostel.
Attackers and local residents alike chanted such slogans as “Germany for the Germans” and “Foreigners out.”
The violence has elicited charges that the federal government is doing nothing to contain the unrest.
Chancellor Helmut Kohl, in his first public statement on the Rostock violence, said Tuesday that attacks on foreigners would be “confronted with the utmost legal firmness and strictness.”
He told German television that it was most important that “we jointly, all democratic parties, make it clear to the world that xenophobia is totally unacceptable” and “a disgrace for our country.”
Many of the inhabitants of Rostock defended their behavior, saying, for example, that the refugees should go back to their countries and that taxpayers’ money should be spent on needy Germans.
About 150 policemen were injured in the three days and nights of unrest in the northern harbor town, which is situated in the area of former East Germany.