Critics: Germany must move on neo-Nazis

Aug. 21, 2012 at 1:53 PM
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BERLIN, Aug. 21 (UPI) -- Twenty years after neo-Nazis burned an asylum-seekers hostel in eastern Germany while citizens cheered, observers say such racist groups are winning.

Not enough has been done in the interim by police and government officials to combat right-wing extremism, media commentators say, with neo-Nazis serving on town councils and even working at kindergartens, Der Spiegel reported.

When neo-Nazis burned the building in Rostock that housed immigrants and political refugees in August 1992, thousands of citizens watched and applauded. Police and fire fighters had to abandon the building and let it burn. Luckily, no one died.

Yet concerns about the growth of extremist groups in Germany did not gain public attention until last November, when police uncovered a neo-Nazi cell, the National Socialist Underground, that has been blamed for the murder and bombings of 10 immigrants.

Still, the threat of the far-right has not been a major topic in the public square, some in the media contend. The center-left publication Süddeutsche Zeitung referred to official inattention as "outrageous government indolence."

"There are no new priorities in politics or the domestic security apparatus," the newspaper wrote. "There is no sign of new verve, new decisiveness, new courage in the fight against right-wing extremism."

The paper continued: "The biggest success of the neo-Nazis in Germany is not their presence in regional parliaments but this fact: Among immigrants, eastern Germany is seen as a no-go area. The state and the police haven't managed to change the climate in two decades."

"One shouldn't just leave it at outrage over the state's failure in the face of the far-right danger," said the leftist Berliner Zeitung. "Calls for a clear positioning of state institutions must go hand in hand with a high level of awareness in civil society for all forms of racism."

Although the growth of right-wing extremism has been primarily in eastern Germany, people in the region are not necessarily racist, adds Der Tagesspiegel

"Many rural regions remain structurally weak, and many people still stick to the silence they learned in the days of the GDR [communist East Germany]," the Berlin daily wrote.

"Ordinary citizens still often look away when someone gives the Hitler salute on the village green and calls for a 'Nationally Liberated Zone.' By remaining silent, they are relinquishing their own hard-fought freedom."

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