A heap of wreckage piling up to the sky
"[There is] [a] Klee painting named Angelus Novus […]. [T]he angel of history['s] face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward."
- Walter Benjamin
This wall is about issues that are outside the realm of tolerance and incompatible with our human rights and fundamental values. Here you can see through examples from the past and present the extremes to which rejection and hatred can lead. By means of 25 examples, you’ll learn stories of people who have been victims of violence and murder. These exemplary stories show why it is so important to work together on our society and for a better future.
In 1945, Nazi Germany was defeated. This marked the end of the Shoah and the Second World War. What have we left behind of this time, what have we not? Hate crimes, ideologically motivated murders, terror and pogroms existed and continue to exist in the FRG, the GDR and in reunified Germany. Perpetrators, mindsets and structures live on. The philosopher Walter Benjamin imagined „the smashed“ of history as an ever-growing pile of wreckage.
What events have occurred since Benjamin wrote the text? Are we listening to the stories of the victims and their families sufficiently? How should we remember; what should we learn? This wall revisits events in a fragmentary way: it is only the tip of the iceberg.
Only the massive wooden door prevented a massacre in the synagogue of Halle in 2019
Around lunchtime on 9 October 2019, a German right-wing extremist published a manifesto on various online platforms. It was full of vitriolic phrases directed against Jews, women and immigrants. After posting the material, he began to act upon his hatred. On the most important Jewish holiday—Yom Kippur, the Feast of Atonement—he carried out an attack on the Jewish community of Halle. At that time, there were 51 people present in the synagogue for the celebration. The 28-year-old perpetrator was armed with homemade firearms and explosive devices. The leader of the synagogue saw the perpetrator through the synagogue’s surveillance camera. He alerted the police, but despite this being a major religious holiday, they were not on site. The door of the synagogue was able to withstand the shots fired by the assassin. After failing to penetrate the building, he murdered at random a passer-by, Jana Lange, on the street. He then attacked a nearby kebab shop, where he killed another person, Kevin Schwarze. Before he could be arrested by the police, the attacker had shot two people dead and injured others. The survivors of the Halle attack continue to suffer from the traumatic consequences.
Anti-Semitism and conspiracy thinking have murderous consequences.
The attack in Halle had direct precedents. The Halle perpetrator broadcast his act live on the Internet, as did the right-wing extremist mass murderer of Christchurch (New Zealand) on 15 March 2019. His act was in similar fashion deliberately planned. In a manifesto published immediately before the attack, he emphasised his intention to „kill as many anti-Whites as possible, preferably Jews.“ His remarks go back to an idea of the New Right: the so-called „Great Replacement“. Adherents of this anti-Semitic conspiracy narrative claim that the European population is to be secretly replaced by „non-Whites“, in particular, by Muslims. Behind this plan are supposedly global elites, often imagined to be Jews. Assassins such as the one in Halle translate such conspiracy thinking into acts of violence, which they understand as „acts of resistance“. Right-wing conspiracy narratives address the fears that many people have about immigration and social change processes. Isolation against migration is presented as an alleged „solution to all problems“. The illusion of a purely „White“ population does not however correspond to the reality of a globalised world.
Historically, the National Socialists had already excluded German Jews and persecuted them with an obsessive idea of a „national community of purebred Germans“. Today, this discrimination continues in the minds of many. Such anti-Semitic and racist concepts are also propagated by representatives of the AfD. This ideology of misanthropy and intolerance threatens our society as a whole. During the attacker’s trial, a survivor from the synagogue is able to articulate this clearly:
„The attack affected me as a Jew. But the attitude represented by the defendant also affects me as a migrant, as a woman and as part of German society, which is so multifaceted and diverse that each and every one of us can belong to some minority that can be marked for discrimination under certain circumstances.“
Anastassia Pletoukhina, joint plaintiff
We are all included—resistance forces are needed
Some of the survivors were joint plaintiffs in the trial and reported on the proceedings on their
own blog. The attack has left the parties concerned with severe trauma. Their feeling of being helplessly exposed to the anti-Semitic threat was reinforced by the attack because, despite it having been a religious holiday, there was no police presence on site. This is one of the reasons why those affected have sought to close ranks with victims and relatives of other right-wing terrorist attacks. This solidarity in action became visible, among other ways, during the „Festival of Resilience“, which has been taking place annually since 2020. As part of the ceremony, survivors of the attacks in Halle and Hanau light memorial candles for those murdered in both attacks. On the occasion of the first festival, Faruk Arslan, who lost his mother, daughter and niece in the neo-Nazi arson attack in Mölln in 1992, also spoke to those assembled. Arslan strongly condemned all attempts to portray the perpetrators as loners or mentally disturbed individuals:
„They think they can break us. No, we will be all the stronger. We will never retreat; we will always be there and pass on our voices.“
Faruk Arslan at the Festival of Resilience 2020
„No 10th victim!“
From 2000 to 2006, the neo-Nazi terrorist group Nationalsozialistischer Untergrund („National Socialist Underground“, abbr.: NSU), spurred on by racist motives, murdered nine people throughout Germany: Enver Şimşek, Abdurrahim Özüdoğru, Süleyman Taşköprü, Habil Kılıç, Mehmet Turgut, İsmail Yaşar, Theodoros Boulgarides, Mehmet Kubaşık and Halit Yozgat. In addition, the terrorist cell murdered police officer Michelle Kiesewetter in 2007. Beyond these crimes, the NSU has been responsible for at least three bomb attacks resulting in numerous injuries since 1999, as well as for several robberies.
The surviving relatives of the victims gave early indications that the murders could have been motivated by right-wing extremism. After the murder of Halit Yozgat on 6 April 2006, relatives of Enver Şimşek, Mehmet Kubaşık and Halit Yozgat organised two demonstrations in Kassel and Dortmund with the demand: „No 10th victim!“ These indications were however not taken seriously by the state and the authorities.
It was not until the members of three-member terrorist cell exposed themselves in 2011 that the state and the authorities recognised a link between the hitherto unsolved murders and attacks. From then on, it was no longer possible to ignore the racist motive behind the acts. As well, it was not possible to overlook the fact that the terrorist cell was supported in its murders by a right-wing extremist network.
Why did the state and society look the other way for so long when it came to right-wing terrorism?
Investigating authorities, the media and society referred to the as yet unsolved murders with the racist term „kebab murders“. This placed the perpetrators in the victims‘ environment rather than in the right-wing milieu. They spoke of „parallel societies“ and organised crime. Large parts of society thus denied the racist climate in Germany.
„My father was murdered by neo-Nazis. Should I feel reassured by this finding?“
Semiya Şimşek-Demirtas asked this question at the central commemoration for the victims of the neo-Nazi terror cell in Berlin in 2012. Her father, Enver Şimşek, was murdered by right-wing terrorists in Nuremberg on 9 September 2000. The authorities investigated those in her father’s circle for years. It was insinuated that the murder victim was a drug dealer; at one point, even her mother had been suspected of the murder. This racist investigative approach was one reason why Semiya Şimşek-Demirtas and her family were left little room for their own grief and coping with their loss.
„My father was murdered by neo-Nazis. Should I feel reassured by this finding?“ asked Semiya Şimşek-Demirtas in 2012. By the time of their self-exposure in 2011 at the latest, the right-wing extremist motive for the murders was clear to everyone. In view of the continued existence of right-wing NSU networks, this finding cannot reassure anyone. How were such acts possible in Germany over the years? Why did the state and society look the other way for so long? Why was there a lack of compassion for the victims? Were the migrants considered „second-class Germans“?
Incomplete investigation and connections of the secret services to the right-wing extremist milieu
Critical lawyers, journalists and various civil society initiatives exposed the failure of the authorities and politicians to clarify the situation. The Federal Office and the Federal State Offices for the Protection of the Constitution financed various informants from the right-wing extremist scene in the circles of the three terrorists. As early as 1998, some of them hinted that there was a trio that was preparing to go underground. Despite numerous indications, however, the federal and federal state authorities did not succeed in preventing the terrorists‘ actions.
From 2011 onwards, there have been attempts to clarify these investigative errors through committees of inquiry and court proceedings. Various authorities obstructed this. On 11 November 2011, immediately after the NSU unmasked itself, employees of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution destroyed files on possible NSU helpers. An employee of the Federal Office explained in 2014 that files had been destroyed so that they could no longer be examined in the course of the attempted investigation. This admission brought with it no consequences. The various offices for the protection of the constitution preferred the protection of their informant sources to a full investigation of the NSU attacks. This cover-up tactic raises the question of the extent to which the intelligence agencies are involved in the NSU complex or trying to hide their own involvement.
Many questions remain unanswered to this day, e.g., as to the origins of the NSU, as to its supporters and as to the knowledge and role of the authorities. Only a complete investigation would prove suitable for taking measures to prevent such acts and investigative errors from happening again. The NSU’s support network thus remains in place, continuing to pose a threat. A group of German right-wing extremists sent out more than 140 death threats starting in August 2018. Using the signature „NSU 2.0“, they make reference to the racist NSU murders.
A pogrom with advance notice
The Sonnenblumenhaus („Sunflower House“) in the Lichtenhagen district of Rostock housed the Central Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers. Apartments of Vietnamese contract workers were located in the adjacent house. Between 22 and 26 August 1992, when a right-wing mob repeatedly attacked the house and finally set it on fire, townspeople who had gathered there clapped and cheered.
In the weeks prior to the pogrom, residents had already complained to the city of Rostock and the government of the federal state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania about the allegedly intolerable conditions around the Central Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers (German abbr.: ZASt). The Sonnenblumenhaus was overcrowded. The Ministry of the Interior refused to accept more homeless asylum seekers, the majority of whom were Roma from Romania. While people waited for days for their registration, they had no choice but to spend the night on the lawn in front of the house. The city of Rostock did not even provide them with mobile toilets. As a result, many residents wrongly blamed the asylum seekers for these conditions.
Right-wing populists fueled the racism already in existence and used Rostock as a stage. Media interest grew. Local newspapers reproduced without critical reflection the opinions of local residents as well as calls for „vigilante justice“. Threats of violence by the right were further passed on.
A climate of pogrom is spreading, and urban society is tolerating the mob
The pogrom began on Saturday, 22 August. Between 1,000 and 2,000 people gathered around the Sonnenblumenhaus on the first day. Teenagers and young men in particular fired flares and threw stones and incendiary devices at the house to cheering applause. Despite the announced threat of violence, the police on site were far too understaffed and themselves became the target of the angry mob. At times, they withdrew completely from the scene of the pogrom, leaving the residents of the Sonnenblumenhaus to fend for themselves. The right-wing perpetrators of violence—including many from the neighbourhood—were able to smash windows unhindered. The house was literally besieged. A fire broke out.
Beginning on Sunday, 23 August, the neo-Nazi and skinhead scene mobilised its supporters to come to Rostock. The excessive violence increasingly took on a „folk festival character“. On Sunday afternoon, people from the Lichtenhagen neighbourhood again gathered around the house. On Monday afternoon, 24 August, the federal state government finally relocated the asylum seekers. In response, the right-wing agitators attacked the adjacent wing of the building, where contract workers from Vietnam had been living for 15 years.
During rioting that lasted for days, neither the police nor the city nor the federal state government took responsibility for protecting those threatened and ending the pogrom. As of Monday, the police had failed to bring the situation under control. To this day, it is unclear what Federal Interior Minister Seiters, Prime Minister Seite, Federal State Interior Minister Kupfer and parts of the federal state police leadership discussed with each other in a confidential conversation on this morning. Both journalist Jochen Schmidt of the German broadcaster ZDF and his filming team were put in mortal danger by the Sonnenblumenhaus fire on that Monday. In his detailed report, he suggested that policy-makers on the federal and federal state levels had deliberately allowed an escalation in order to influence the political debate in the direction of tightening the right to asylum.
Rescue via the roof
Around 9:00 p.m. on Monday, despite the fact that the attacks were reaching a peak, the police withdrew. Minutes later, the fire broke out. The fire brigade was called, but could not extinguish the blaze due to attackers and onlookers blocking the way. While the crowd outside shouted Nazi slogans, the smoke filling the building saw the situation become life-threatening for the 120 people inside. The Vietnamese residents, the security guard, some assistants and the TV crew searched for an escape route. Through a pried-open emergency exit door, they entered the neighbouring building, also in flames, and from there made their way to the roof, while armed right-wing attackers stormed the house from below. The city’s Commissioner for Foreigners, Wolfgang Richter, also an eyewitness, recalled the view from the roof: „Several thousand people who were shouting and clapping and cheering, adults […] who […] were cheering and driving
the young people on, again and again […]. And we […] were kind of stunned that this could happen.“
The political legacy of the pogrom continues to have an impact
On the same day, Federal State Premier Berndt Seite justified the behaviour displayed by the perpetrators of violence at a press conference with the Federal Minister of the Interior. No compensation was awarded to the victims of the pogrom. Local residents, on the other hand, were exempted from paying rent for a month, while many of the Vietnamese residents were forced to continue to fight for their right to stay. The Roma were deported. In 1993, the right to asylum was restricted by an amendment to the Grundgesetz (Basic Law).
In previous years, the German media had already fuelled a „the-boat-is-full“ discourse on their front pages. The pogrom of Rostock-Lichtenhagen was both an expression and an accelerator of this racially charged debate about migration. With the amendment to the asylum law, right-wing adherents and populists had achieved their goal. Alone in the week following the pogrom, there were five more attacks on asylum seekers‘ homes in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Only a few violent offenders from Lichtenhagen were brought to justice—and when they were, they received only mild sentences. Right-wingers felt emboldened by the reaction of onlookers, politicians and law enforcement. The following years were marked by further arson attacks, acts of violence and murders.
Voices of the victims
For some time, there was little media interest in those who had suffered under this attack. Romeo Tiberiade, who lived in the home with his wife and children in 1992 and who is now an advisor to a Romanian mayor, recalled in 2022: „Many families were separated by the fire on their way out; it was frightening. When we were outside, we continued to be pelted with stones and petrol bombs. Some of the police apparently didn’t care, because they didn’t do anything. And then the journalists came and took pictures of us. They photographed my wife and our children with bare feet because we had fled with nothing more than what we had on our bodies.“
Nguyen Do Thinh, who narrowly escaped death in the house at the time, went on to found the German-Vietnamese friendship association Diên Hông. He gives talks in schools informing schoolchildren about the pogrom and complains about the continuing lack of interest in the history of those affected by the attack. He further observes with horror that the perpetrators of violence are sometimes transfigured into martyrs by young people.
Objection of those persecuted by the Nazis
A group of French Jews led by Beate and Serge Klarsfeld travelled to Rostock on 19 October 1992 to protest against the deportation of Roma from Lichtenhagen. As „sons and daughters of the deported Jews from France“, they expressed their solidarity and, together with Roma activists, put up a plaque at Rostock City Hall. This plaque commemorated both the pogrom in Lichtenhagen in 1992 and the murder of Sinti and Roma in Auschwitz in 1944. Riots ensued during the commemoration. Several people from the group were arrested by the Rostock police and the plaque was removed by the city.
Massacre in Distomo on 10 June 1944
In 1944, near the Greek town of Distomo, the Wehrmacht deployed a company of the SS Police Armoured Infantry Regiment 7, which had already murdered civilians. On 10 June 1944, it searched Distomo for partisans, without success. A column set off from Distomo in the direction of Stiri and was attacked by partisans on the way. Three German soldiers were killed in the ensuing shootout. In response, the Germans perpetrated a gruesome massacre upon innocent villagers in Distomo. They combed the houses, killed the people, set
fires and shot the cattle. A total of 218 people fell victim to the revenge action, including infants, pregnant women and the elderly.
Distomo is one of many crime scenes in Europe: in Greece alone, roughly 1,500 villages were destroyed by the Germans and tens of thousands of hostages and civilians executed. About 60,000 Jews were deported from Greece and murdered during the Shoah. Well over 100,000 people were starved to death by systematic looting, particularly in the winter of 1941/42. Thousands were murdered in concentration camps. The Germans left Greece following a „scorched earth policy“, destroying roads, railways, bridges and cities as they withdrew.
Distomo 1995—a survivor laments
Argyris Sfountouris is one of the survivors of Distomo. The then three-year-old was able to hide with his three older sisters while their parents were murdered. He grew up as an orphan in children’s homes in Athens and Switzerland, became a teacher, development worker, a renowned physicist and writer.
Many years later, on behalf of all the survivors of Distomo, Sfountouris sent a request to the German embassy in Athens asking whether compensation was provided for the victims of the massacre. In January 1995, he received a negative response that stated that the murder of his parents and the other villagers had been „measures in the context of warfare“. Therefore, no compensation was to be provided. Sfountouris felt this rejection was a slap in his face. He saw it as a continuation of the cruel thinking of the German occupiers that 50 years after the massacre, Germans did not take responsibility for these deeds and played down the brutal murders as „measures“.
In 1995, Sfountouris and 296 survivors sued the Federal Republic of Germany before a German and a Greek court. In Germany, the lawsuit was unsuccessful in all instances. In Greek courts, compensation equivalent to 28 million euros was set. However, under pressure from the German government, the Greek government itself prevented German property from being seized in Athens and money from being paid
out to the victims. German politicians deliberately and repeatedly avoided speaking of „crimes“ in connection with the massacre. They did not wish to provide any arguments that supported the legitimacy of a condemnation of Germany.
In 2001, the European Court of Human Rights recommended that the victims have the Greek ruling enforced in Italy. There, enforcement in court was met with success in 2008. Since then, Germany has been exerting pressure on Italy and has to this day prevented the disbursement of funds already legally seized to the victims. On the one hand, this was accomplished through strong diplomatic influence; on the other hand, through legal stalling tactics before many international courts.
Responsibility for history today
Until 1990, the Federal Republic of Germany rejected requests for compensation and war reparations, claiming they were being submitted too early, referencing a future peace treaty. After the unification of the FRG and the GDR in 1990, requests were initially rejected with the argument that the Unification Treaty between the two German states and the four Allied powers was not yet a peace treaty. Later, the German government claimed that all claims had been settled with the Unification Treaty. In Germany, for example, other states involved in the Second World War were prevented from filing claims for reparations and compensation.
Because of this German government action, there was never a chance for the victims of Distomo to receive recognition and compensation from Germany. It seems as if in Germany, the struggle of the survivors for recognition and compensation for their death is being protracted indefinitely: a game of time. Argyris Sfountouris said in 2001: „But remembrance can only begin after one has perceived the events, having accepted the whole truth of what happened. […] Distomo has become a symbol. A symbol of the fact that Germany is still indebted to its victims. […] But successive German governments are still violating the law when it comes to the victims. The ruthlessness of German politics is a logical continuation of the looting by the Nazis. […] Greed for power and enrichment can never be eliminated without substitution. […] Germany refuses to negotiate; it wants to dictate the zero option.“
Doaa Al Zamel and Filimon Mebrhatom—two fates
In 2014, 14-year-old Filimon Mebrhatom ventured to make his way to Europe from his native Eritrea. The African country had been under the authoritarian rule of the dictator Isayas Afewerki since 1993. By fleeing, the 14-year-old escaped conscription into the military. National service in Eritrea has no time limit imposed on it.
In 2012, teenager Doaa Al Zamel left Syria with her family. Her hometown had been terrorised by soldiers of the Assad regime. During the „Arab Spring“, she took part in demonstrations against the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad. As a result, her family was targeted by the regime.
Both Al Zamel and Mebrhatom made a dangerous escape. During the long journey across the Mediterranean, their lives were threatened several times. Al Zamel’s boat was deliberately rammed by the people smugglers in the Mediterranean Sea, after which it capsized. Her fiancé, whom she had met during the course of her escape, drowned in the waves. She herself was able to stay afloat for four days with the help of a children’s swim ring until she was rescued by a merchant ship. Other refugees had entrusted her with a baby in the boat. She was able to keep it afloat the entire time. However, it died on board the ship.
While en route, Mebrhatom had survived a massacre and enslavement at the hands of Jihadists in a Libyan refugee camp. Fleeing across the Mediterranean, the dilapidated boat he was sailing on came into a situation of distress. The Italian coast guard rescued the people aboard and brought them to Italy. Today, Al Zamel lives in Sweden and Mebrhatom near Munich.
To whom do human rights apply?
Sea rescue operations such as the one in which Mebrhatom was rescued have hardly taken place since spring 2019. The EU countries bordering the Mediterranean usually delegate responsibility to the Libyan coast guard. However, in accordance with the wishes of the EU states, the latter systematically returns the refugees to the Libyan refugee camps. Reports from these camps testify to torture, rape, enslavement and murder. Neither minimum hygienic standards nor medical care nor sufficient food are ensured there. The EU relies on Libya and thus supports the „failed state“, although the country’s human rights abuses have long been known and discussed in Europe.
The Geneva Convention on Refugees recognises the right of every person to flee across national borders and apply for asylum. In addition, the Convention on Human Rights obliges all states to offer protection to people who are persecuted in their home country.
Nevertheless, through the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, a.k.a. Frontex, the EU supports so-called pushbacks in the border area of Greece, among other places: refugees, often in unseaworthy boats, are pushed back at the borders and left to their fate on the open sea. It is not uncommon for pushbacks to end with refugees drowning. According to the Geneva Refugee Convention, this procedure is illegal. For this reason, the pushbacks are denied and obfuscated by Frontex or the EU states involved, as the 2022 report by OLAF, the European Anti-Fraud Office, which has been investigating allegations against the agency since the end of 2020, shows in detail.
Civilian sea rescue between human rights and law enforcement
Against the background of insufficient sea rescue by the EU and its member states, which has hardly existed since 2019, various civil society initiatives have been founded. These organisations, which are usually financed by donations, charter ships on their own that try to save refugees in distress from drowning in the Mediterranean.
In July 2019, the Sea-Watch 3, a ship belonging to the Sea-Watch organisation, rescued 53 people in the Mediterranean Sea north of the Libyan coast. The ship, under the command of the German captain Carola Rackete, was denied entry into a safe port by the Italian authorities. After a few days, those with medical emergencies were brought to Italy. The crew remained on the high seas with the rest of those who had been rescued.
The supply situation on board as well as the psychological situation of the people had deteriorated sharply due to the long stay on the ship. Therefore, contrary to the instructions of the Italian authorities, Captain Rackete decided to enter the port of Lampedusa. During the mooring manoeuvre, an Italian coast guard boat attempted to block the Sea-Watch 3. After landing, the refugees were finally able to go ashore. The captain was detained by the Italian authorities. The story of the Sea-Watch 3 is representative of the current practice of some EU states not only to refrain from sea rescue, but to actively prevent and even criminalise the use of civilian sea rescuers.
Among his friends in Eberswalde, Amadeu António was considered a sociable person who loved music. A few days after being beaten up by a group of armed neo-Nazis, however, the 28-year-old was dead— as a result of the injuries he sustained at the hands of his tormentors.
In 1987, the had young Angolan Amadeu António moved to the GDR as a contract worker, pursuing a dream of studying aircraft engineering there. Instead, he was trained as a butcher at the Eberswalde slaughtering and processing combine. Getting in touch with the local population was not easy for Angolans. Nevertheless, António wanted to build a future in Brandenburg for himself and his pregnant girlfriend.
On 24 November 1990, António met with friends at a restaurant by the name of Hüttengasthaus. Here, they were welcome, in contrast to most other places. That same evening, 50 inebriated neo-Nazis descended on the restaurant with the intention of giving free rein to their hatred of migrants. The police were aware of this and informed the innkeeper, who then requested that his guests leave the premises.
Together with two Mozambican and two German friends, (the former both male, the latter both female), Amadeu António ran straight into the arms of his murderers, who were armed with fence pickets and batons. António’s companions were able to escape, but he himself was chased by ten assailants who brutally beat him, causing him life-threatening injuries. Three plainclothes police officers who were present observed the events and called for support. The 20 police officers stationed around the corner did not intervene. On 6 December 1990, the 28-year-old succumbed to his injuries in hospital.
Amadeu António is one of the first victims of right-wing violence in reunified Germany. Various initiatives are fighting to preserve his memory; however, efforts to rename a street in his honour have not yet been met with success.
The German government counts 113 right-wing extremist murders between 1990 and 2021. The Amadeu Antonio Foundation, named after António, on the other hand, believes the count to be 219. It also believes that a further 16 suspected cases and a considerably higher number of unreported cases should be included in the number.
The station forecourt in the Lichtenberg district of Berlin should be renamed in honour of Eugeniu Botnari. Residents of the district, already carrying makeshift street signs, raise this demand there on 17 September 2020.
Exactly four years earlier, the manager of an outlet of a supermarket chain in the station had ushered the homeless Eugeniu Botnari into the store’s beverage warehouse. Suspecting him of stealing, the manager punched Botnari several times in the face while wearing weighted-knuckle gloves. He was beaten „like a dog,“ the 34-year-old Moldovian told his cousin that same evening.
Having no insurance, he initially decided not to see a doctor. It was only when his condition visibly deteriorated two days later that he went to a practice, which referred him to the emergency ward. The following day, 20 September 2016, he died of a cerebral hemorrhage. The perpetrator claimed that he wanted to teach the „shoplifter“ a lesson. The story of the „shoplifter“ was also taken up by many media outlets, although there was no evidence of theft.
The act of violence itself, on the other hand, is well documented—on a surveillance video from the supermarket. The assailant, using another device, filmed the video and sent the material to fellow employees, along with contemptuous remarks. Six months later, the perpetrator received a prison sentence of three years and three months for bodily harm causing death. Botnari’s wife acted as a joint plaintiff.
Homeless people are often exposed to violence, partly because they are frequently accused of complicity in their fate. Such views, at one with the concept of social Darwinism, have a long tradition, culminating in the persecution and murder of „social misfits“ or „professional criminals“ under National Socialism. In January 2023, the district decided to rename the station forecourt „Eugeniu Botnari Square“ to highlight the often ignored issue of violence against homeless people.
„Reisegenuss“ (approx. Eng.: „the pleasure of travel“) proclaimed the lettering on the front of the bus that was supposed to bring people from Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria to their accommodation in Clausnitz on 18 February 2016. When the refugees arrived in the Saxon village of 800 inhabitants, they found themselves surrounded by a xenophobic mob.
One of the perpetrators recorded the scene with his mobile phone. The video, uploaded to the Internet, was widely shared on social networks and picked up by the media. These images of frightened people being harassed and threatened seeking protection while exiting the bus were seen around the world.
In 2015 and 2016, around two million people sought refuge in Europe, coming via the Mediterranean Sea or along the so-called Balkan route. In 2015, Germany took in about 890,000 of this number. Carried by a wave of sympathy, more than ten percent of the population committed themselves to assisting the asylum seekers.
This commitment and humanity became known as the Willkommenskultur („Welcoming Culture“). While some helped with a sense of empathy, others reacted with rejection. For example, self-proclaimed „concerned citizens“ questioned the right to asylum and parts of the social mainstream became radicalised. In Clausnitz, the crowd chanted „We are the people!“—using a slogan of the Friedliche Revolution („Peaceful Revolution“) of 1989. Their protest was however anything but peaceful: those who had fled the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria now saw themselves threatened here as well. According to statistics, there are still two attacks per day on refugees across Germany.
In 1983, a woman in Darmstadt surveyed her destroyed house and the demolition excavators. The family had returned from a trip during the night. Their belongings were buried under the rubble: a culmination to date of four years of antiziganist propaganda and officially approved racism.
In 1979, several families from Yugoslavia were placed among three municipal residential buildings in Darmstadt. Immediately, there were antiziganist rumours in the vicinity and press concerning „laundry thieves“ and „occult rituals“—rumours never proven. Neighbours complained about the loss of value of their properties.
On several occasions, police officers searched the families’ living quarters with guns drawn. On the night of 3 January 1982, unidentified persons carried out an explosive attack on one of the residential buildings; when those present fled the house, they were pelted with stones. Gianni Jovanovic, who was four years old at the time, suffered a head injury. The perpetrators were never caught. The four adults and twelve children living there were forced to leave the house and were moved to a barrack on a dumpsite on the outskirts of the city.
On 4 July 1976, Jewish hostages, freed from an airplane hijacking, arrive in Israel, exhausted and relieved.
On 27 June 1976, a four-man commando of the „Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine Foreign Operations“ hijacked an Air France airliner with 258 passengers and 12 crew members on board en route from Tel Aviv to Paris and forced it to land in Entebbe, Uganda. Among the kidnappers were two Germans: Brigitte K. and Winfried B., members of the left-wing terrorist group Revolutionäre Zellen („Revolutionary Cells“). With the kidnapping, they were seeking to extort the release of 53 terrorists being held in Israeli, Swiss and German prisons; as well, they demanded five million US dollars. In a statement, they called Israel an „enemy of humanity“ and
called for „taking up arms“ against this enemy. On the third day of the kidnapping, the non-Jewish hostages were released. However, all Jews (not only those who were Israeli citizens) continued to be held captive by the terrorists.
The two German kidnappers were actively involved in dividing the hostages into Jews and non-Jews. Many hostages later recalled this moment as particularly dramatic, also because for the first time since the Shoah, Germans were deciding the fate of Jews.
On the morning of 4 July 1976, a Israeli army commando flew several planes to Entebbe and freed the hostages. Two of the hostages, as well as an Israeli soldier, all the kidnappers and at least 20 Ugandan soldiers guarding the airport, died in the action. Because Kenya allowed the Israelis to make an intermediate stop with the freed hostages in their territory on their way back to Israel, Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, in retaliation, murdered 200 Kenyans living in Uganda. Discussion about the anti-Semitic motives of the anti-Israel attitude widespread in the radical German left did not arise until many years later.
In the documents of the State Security of the GDR, the first German pogrom of the post-war period was described as Operativvorgang „Unruhe“ (Eng.: Operational Procedure „Unrest“).
The trigger was a racist rumour: in 1975, an driver from the city of Erfurt claimed that several Algerian contract workers had attacked Germans and raped a woman. Soon, more rumours about murders allegedly committed by the Algerians spread like wildfire through Erfurt. Later, the motorist admitted that he had concocted the entire story.
The lies about the Algerian contract workers set in motion a pogrom lasting
several days, beginning on 10 August 1975. The State Security noted that on 10 August, there had been „incidents and riots“ between Germans, Hungarians and Algerians. Specifically, Algerian contract workers were beaten up by angry GDR citizens. A cheering crowd chanted, „Death to the Algerians!“ Subsequently, the contract workers were chased in the direction of Erfurt’s main station by aggressors armed with wooden slats and metal rods.
On 12 August, more racist hounding took place, in which 50 to 60 GDR citizens chased some 12 Algerians through the city until the latter finally took refuge in a post office building. People gathered in front of the building, again calling for the murder of the contract workers. The police escorted the Algerians to their dormitory through a back exit. The next day, the dormitory was besieged by a racist mob. The police were finally able to drive the crowd away.
The pogrom in Erfurt was an expression of a racism deeply rooted in the population of the GDR, despite the government-mandated anti-fascism. Many felt that the state treated contract workers better than they themselves were treated. In reality, workers recruited from other socialist countries were given less housing space per person than the native population. Upon arrival in the GDR, their passports were confiscated, and they were discriminated against at administrative offices and by doctors. This institutional racism found its counterpart in racism among the general population.
On the evening of 9 November 1969, a commemoration of the November pogroms of 1938 took place in the Jewish Community House in Fasanenstraße, West Berlin, with a good 250 in attendance. Among those in attendance was the terrorist Albert F., who hid a bomb under a vending machine. Since the ignition wire was corroded, the bomb did not explode.
The anti-Semitic attack had been planned by the left-wing terrorist group Tupamaros West-Berlin. Members of the group had previously received instruction in weapon use and bomb-making at a training camp run by the Palestinian movement Fatah. The Tupamaros West Berlin were forerunners of the left-wing terrorist Rote-Armee-Fraktion („Red Army Faction“), which killed 34 people between 1971 and 1993. The left-wing radicals had chosen the Jewish community for one of their first terrorist actions in the Federal Republic of Germany, and indeed on a day of remembrance of the Shoah.
This cannot have been a coincidence. As recently as 2008, the bomber said that the attack was „anti-Zionist“ but not anti-Semitic. The perpetrators had claimed responsibility in a letter that contained these words: „The Jews expelled by fascism have themselves become fascists….“
Through the circuitous route of demonising Israel, anti-Semitism could once again be propagated. This relativisation of the German mass murder of six million Jews is—as is the hatred of Israel—a typical expression of anti-Semitism after the Shoah. Shoah survivor Ruth Galinski, who was present at the commemoration in 1969, commented: „You can’t believe that children of the perpetrators would do such a thing. The poison still seems to be in them.“ The group had received the bomb from Peter U., an employee of the Berlin Office for the Protection of the Constitution. The informant repeatedly supplied the Tupamaros with bomb material and weapons. His role could never be fully elucidated, nor was it possible to determine that of his superiors and the then-responsible Senator of the Interior, Kurt Neubauer.
Since the attack, permanent security precautions at Jewish institutions have become the norm. Anti-Semitic attacks from various political orientations remain a constant threat to Jews.
Armin Kurtović explains footage from a surveillance camera from the Arena Bar in Hanau. On 19 February 2020, his 22-year-old son Hamza Kurtović was shot dead there by a right-wing terrorist.
Armin’s daughter had told him about a shooting in Hanau; he then called his two sons to make sure they were all right. As his son Hamza Kurtović failed to answer, the elder Kurtović made his way to the Arena Bar. At the police barrier, he described his son and his distinctive clothing to a police officer. The officer replied that no one fitting this description was among the victims of the slaying.
Hamza Kurtović’s family were left in the dark about his fate for a considerable amount of time. Armin Kurtović criticises the police operation and the investigations conducted by the public prosecutor’s office. Since there are still many unanswered questions, he is trying to reconstruct the events together with other relatives. In the course of the investigation of the attack, it turned out, for example, that the escape door of the bar was as a general rule kept locked.
Analyses prepared by the research agency „Forensic Architecture“ showed that four, probably even five of the victims could have saved themselves if the door had not been locked. The 43-year-old perpetrator murdered nine people in Hanau, following which he shot his mother and, finally, himself. His motives were racism and an adherence to conspiracy theories, which he openly advocated on the Internet.
Hamza Kurtović, who had completed his vocational training as a warehouse clerk the previous summer, was not the sole victim of this rampage: the others murdered on 19 February were Gökhan Gültekin, Sedat Gürbüz, Said Nesar Hashemi, Mercedes Kierpacz, Vili Viorel Păun, Fatih Saraçoğlu, Ferhat Unvar and Kaloyan Velkov. Relatives of the victims of the attack founded an initiative and coined the slogan #saytheirnames; they further demand complete clarification and a memorial. In doing so, they seek to draw attention to the social causes of racist violence and give the victims a voice.
Representatives of the Herero and Nama (a.k.a. Namaqua) from Namibia are demonstrating on 16 October 2016 near the Humboldt Forum in Berlin. As descendants of the victims, they demand compensation for the genocide of their ancestors by German colonial troops between 1904 and 1908 in the then colony German South West Africa.
The genocide was preceded by a settlement policy that robbed local farmers and ranchers of their land. With no grazing land available, the nomadic Herero lost their means of existence. Therefore, on 12 January 1904, they attacked the German colonial troops. The German Emperor Wilhelm II dispatched Lothar von Trotha to the colony as commander-in-chief to put down the uprising. In October, von Trotha issued the notorious extermination order, which provided for the extermination of the Herero. Many Herero died while fleeing in the semi-desert of Omaheke.
In 1904, the Nama people felt compelled to enter the war. Again, the German troops responded with extreme brutality. As a result, prison camps were set up and the population was put into forced labour. One-third to one-half of the internees perished. It is estimated that up to 100,000 people were murdered.
For more than 100 years, Germany did not recognise the genocide of about 80% of the Herero living at that time. In 2015, a German government began negotiations with the Namibian government for the first time and announced „reconstruction aid“ in May 2021. However, Germany avoids mention of reparations so as not to officially recognise the legitimacy of the claim for compensation for the genocide. Survivors of the Herero and Nama were not involved in the negotiations and do not recognise the „reconstruction aid“. To this day, the descendants of the settlers own 70% of the land. Herero activist Israel Kaunatjike, who lives in Germany, declared in 2022: „We are still in a struggle, in a struggle for recognition.“
Joseph Wulf lights a pipe in front of the Villa am Großen Wannsee, house number 56–58., scene of the infamous Wannsee Conference. From the mid-1960s, he has been campaigning for an international documentation centre to be set up in the villa in remembrance of the six million Jews murdered at the hands of Germans. He did not live to see the opening of the House of the Wannsee Conference Memorial and Educational Site in 1992.
Born in Chemnitz in 1912 and raised in Krakow, Wulf was the first to confront German post-war society with the Nazi genocide. Wulf was himself a Jewish resistance fighter and survivor of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp. In 1945, on one of the so-called death marches, he managed to escape. After the war, he was able to find his wife and son again; the remaining members of his family had however been murdered by the Nazis. Following this, he lived in Poland and France. In 1952, he moved to Berlin; here, however, the German-Jewish historian felt like an outsider throughout his life.
The post-war Wirtschaftswunder („Economic Miracle“) society of West Germany was eager to forget the recent past, and Joseph Wulf’s research on National Socialism fell on deaf ears. Particularly disturbing was research in which Wulf brought to light the history of Nazi perpetrators who had regained power and prestige in the newly formed Federal Republic.
In 1974, a year after the death of his wife, Wulf took his own life. Eighteen years after Wulf’s death, the Memorial and Educational Centre was opened and its library named after him. In reference to the „clean break“ with preoccupation with the Shoah, often demanded to this day, he declared: the only ones who have the right to remain silent here are the survivors of the concentration camps. Addressing the perpetrators and their descendants, he asked: „But what right can a people who have tattooed people like animals have to forget such an act?“
On 27 August 2022, Malte C. took part in Christopher Street Day (CSD, a European version of Gay Pride) in Münster, alongside many others. Traditionally, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans* and inter* as well as queer people meet on this occasion to stand up for self-determination, social recognition and equal rights and to celebrate themselves together.
On this day, the 25-year-old trans man Malte C. took part in the demonstration, for the first time bare-chested, having recently undergone gender-adaptive surgery. Friends report that he was very happy. He proudly presented the flag of the Trans*-Inter*-Münster association. When a 20-year-old man insulted and threatened two women in a sexist as well as lesbian- and transphobic manner shortly after the event, Malte came and asked the attacker to refrain from doing so.
The assailant slapped Malte twice in the face, causing him to hit his head on the asphalt; this necessitated his undergoing emergency surgery due to a cerebral hemorrhage and being put into an artificial coma. Six days later, he died in hospital.
In the days that followed, many people nationwide showed their outrage and demanded decisive action by law enforcement agencies. The perpetrator did not share his motives. An investigation is being conduction into grievous bodily harm causing death. According to a consultant, there is no criminal offence for queer, trans or interphobic hate crime. The police have only been explicitly recording crimes based on gender or gender identity since 2020. According to an EU survey, one in five trans* people has already experienced violence and physical assault.
Anti-queer attitudes and heteronormative intolerance are widespread among the population. Malte C. displayed moral courage.
In memory of Delfin Guerra and Raúl Garcia Paret, a mural was made under the Saale Bridge in Merseburg. The two Cuban contract workers died as a result of racist hounding on 12 August 1979.
As early as 11 August, violent clashes had broken out between two sides, Cubans on one and Hungarians and Germans on the other, in the course of which other Cuban contract workers not involved in the conflict were also beaten. The next evening, a group of contract workers confronted their tormentors in a discotheque in Merseburg. Eventually, however, the Cubans were forced to flee. A larger group of GDR citizens hounded the men onto a bridge. It is not known whether the Cubans wanted to effect an escape by jumping into the water or their pursuers threw them off the bridge. Once in the water, they were pelted with bottles and stones. The bodies of Delfin Guerra and Raúl Garcia Paret were not recovered until days after the crime.
The Volkspolizei („People’s Police“) began an investigation that same evening. The Ministry of State Security, however, had the investigation discontinued so as not to jeopardise relations between the GDR and the Socialist Republic of Cuba.
The witch hunt in Merseburg was an expression of institutional and social racism in the GDR, which, however, presented itself as an anti-fascist state. The racism experienced by contract workers from Angola, Cuba, Mozambique, Vietnam and other countries was therefore hushed up. None of the perpetrators were punished for the lynchings in Merseburg. As a result, Cuba ended their practice of dispatching contract workers to the GDR. Although there is no statute of limitations for murder, the public prosecutor’s office in Halle rejected the resumption of the investigation in 2016, citing the investigation conducted at the time. In doing so, the West German judiciary adopted the politically motivated assessments of the GDR.
The perpetrators remain unpunished. The mural commemorating the two Cubans has been removed. Legal proceedings in respect of damage to property against the artists were dropped in 2021.
Ignatz Bubis, Chair of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, visited the scene of the crime on the first anniversary of the racist arson attack in Mölln. With this gesture, he commemorated the victims and warned of the dangers of right-wing extremism. During the night of 23 November 1992, neo-Nazis threw incendiary devices at two houses. Three people were killed: ten-year-old Yeliz Arslan, 14-year-old Ayşe Yılmaz and 51-year-old Bahide Arslan. Nine others were seriously injured. Mölln became a symbol of the rise of right-wing radicalism in reunited Germany.
The arson attack sparked outrage and attracted a great deal of attention. After a few years, however, the families of the victims were no longer invited to participate in the design of the official commemoration of the city of Mölln; as well, they were no longer allowed to choose for themselves which speakers were invited. The event thus became an empty ritual. This is one of the reasons why the Arslan family developed their own form of commemoration: the Möllner Rede im Exil („Mölln Speech in Exile“).
Since 2013, the two affected families, together with supporters, have been commemorating the attacks in Mölln and similar incidents every year. The speakers are selected by the families. Solidarity with other victims of right-wing violence is just as important to Faruk Arslan, the father of Yeliz Arslan, who died in the attack, as it was to Ignatz Bubis in 1993. At the Mölln Speech in Exile in 2021, Faruk Arslan said with reference to the recent attacks: „I am not only the father of Mölln; I am also a part of Hanau, I am a part of Halle, I am a part of Berlin, I am a part of all the victims….“
More than 3,000 letters expressing condolence and solidarity as well as offering help to the Arslan and Yılmaz families remained for years in the possession of the city of Mölln, which withheld them. The families only learned of the letters by chance in 2019. The perpetrators of the Mölln attack were released after only a few years.
The memorial in front of the Olympia-Einkaufszentrum („Olympia Shopping Centre“, abbr. OEZ) in Munich commemorates the nine victims of the attack on 22 July 2016. On that day, Armela Segashi, Can Leyla, Dijamant Zabërgja, Giuliano Josef Kollmann, Hüseyin Dayıcık, Janos Roberto Rafael, Selçuk Kılıç, Sevda Dağ and Sabina S. were murdered.
After committing the murders, the 18-year-old German-Iranian ended his own life. The classification of the attack was debated for a long time: was this the act of a mentally ill person or a politically motivated act of terrorism? It took several years and expert opinions before the homicidal intentions and the right-wing extremist, racist attitude of the perpetrator were established. The perpetrator publicly gave the Hitler salute and felt admiration for the right-wing terrorist mass murderer who killed 77 people in Norway on 22 July 2011 in Oslo and on the island of Utøya. He similarly admired the right-wing terrorist who attacked two mosques and murdered 51 people in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March 2019. These murders served as models for the attack on the OEZ.
All the perpetrators mentioned used the same murder weapon. Like the Christchurch attacker, the 18-year-old streamed his act live on the Internet. People of like mind reinforce one another’s delusion of the „superiority of the White race.“ They do not act in isolation from one another, but are rather part of a global network and hope to achieve fame through their deeds. The Christchurch murderer donated several thousand euros to the „Identitarian Movement“ in France and Austria. The right-wing extremist youth movement has also been active in Germany for years. Its supporters help to make racist narratives socially acceptable and have a significant influence on the radicalisation of the AfD.
Right-wing terrorism is not only directed against those murdered who, as was the case in Munich, come from German Sinti families and families with an immigration background, but also against the very foundations of democracy. Victims‘ initiatives are calling for the names of those murdered to be held in memory. In addition, they show solidarity with the victims and relatives of other right-wing terrorist attacks in order to draw attention to the ongoing threat of right-wing violence in Germany.
After the Oktoberfest attack on 26 September 1980, the Theresienwiese, the festival’s official ground in Munich, is a picture of devastation. A 21-year-old right-wing extremist had killed twelve people and himself with a handmade bomb; a further 221 people were injured.
The investigation initially led to the conclusion that the perpetrator had acted out of personal motives and committed an extended suicide. However, his membership in the two right-wing extremist organizations, Wiking-Jugend („Viking Youth“) and Wehrsportgruppe Hoffmann („Paramilitary Sport Group Hoffmann“) already suggested at the time that the perpetrator was involved in a terrorist network. In 1981 alone, 33 depots of explosives and weapons were found in Germany. The Hoffmann Network was also involved in the anti-Semitic murders of Rabbi Shlomo Lewin and his partner Frida Poeschke in Erlangen on 19 December 1980. The aim of the right-wing insurgents was to spread terror and work towards staging a coup.
To this day, the victims suffer from the fact that the attack was never properly investigated. Robert Höckmayr was twelve years old in 1980. His two younger siblings fell victim to the attack. Höckmayr survived, but still suffers from the consequences today. At a commemoration, he called for more government support: „[We] want […] our dignity back, respect for our rights and our destinies. Because for us survivors, life should go on again […]. And for that, we need help.“ It was not until 40 years after the attack that the Federal Prosecutor’s Office dropped the assumption of the suicidal lone perpetrator and classified the act as right-wing extremist. On 3 November 2020, a fund of 1.2 million euros was approved to compensate the injured and the bereaved families. Of the 221 injured, 82 people were still alive at the time of the decision.
The photo from 1940 shows Reinhard Gehlen in a Wehrmacht uniform in front of a group of German officers and soldiers. Gehlen was jointly responsible for the logistics of the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.
After the first defeats of the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front at the end of 1941, Gehlen was ordered into its secret service. His duties included providing the military leadership with information about the constitution and intentions of the Soviet armed forces. In the course of his activities, Gehlen was implicated in crimes against Jews, Soviet prisoners of war and civilians. About 30 million Soviet citizens fell victim to the war of extermination in the East.
After the German defeat in May 1945, Gehlen surrendered to the Americans. He sensed that the Western Allies would soon unite against the Soviet Union and planned to take advantage of the situation. An example of this was his storing secret service dossiers on the Soviet Union in barrels and burying them in Bavaria. His calculation worked: from 1946, he built up the „Gehlen Organisation“, financed by the USA and named after him. Reinhard Gehlen did not work for the United States out of conviction. Rather, he found space in his work for his pre-existing anti-communist attitude and protection from personal prosecution.
Gehlen was an ardent supporter of Nazism, an anti-Semite and an anti-communist. Although the American foreign intelligence service was repeatedly dissatisfied with him, he became the founding head of the Bundesnachrichtendienst („Federal Intelligence Service“, abbr.: BND) in 1956. The BND was staffed almost exclusively by its „old comrades“ from their time in the Wehrmacht secret service; these were generally able to continue their careers in West Germany unscathed, and thus also escape prosecution.
At her trial, Jennifer W. covers her face with a file folder. At the end of the hearing, she is sentenced to ten years in prison for crimes against humanity and aiding and abetting attempted murder by omission and enslavement resulting in death.
In 2014, Jennifer W. travelled to Iraq to marry a fighter of the terrorist militia „Islamic State“ (IS). Like many other women and men, she had been won over by propaganda on social media. Islamist propaganda is aimed in particular at adolescents and young adults from all parts of the population. The Islamists specifically target those without prospects or in crisis situations. Thus, life in the „caliphate“ of the „Islamic State“ promises belonging to a select community with an exclusive claim to truth. The propaganda also promises the opportunity to exercise power over supposedly worthless „infidels“. In addition, leading a life pleasing to God by strictly following the laws of Sharia will purportedly restore order to everyday life.
The women of the „IS“ were responsible for the recruitment of female members. Jennifer W. worked as a morality police officer in Iraq and helped, among other things, to enforce compliance with the strict codes of conduct and dress code for women. Together with her husband, she kept the Yazidi Nora T. and her daughter as slaves. Her husband regularly beat and abused both of them. In order to punish the child for bedwetting at night, this Islamist tied up the girl and left her to die of thirst in the blazing sun. Jennifer W. did not intervene and allowed the five-year-old child to perish.
Jennifer W.‘s husband was convicted by a German court for his actions, as was she herself. In January 2023, the crimes committed by the „Islamic State“ against the Yazidis were recognised by the Bundestag as genocide.
On 2 June 2019, a right-wing radical—known to the police and affiliated with the neo-Nazi scene of the German federal state of Hesse—murdered the Hessian CDU (Christian Democratic Union) politician and Kassel district president Walter Lübcke, a long-time advocate of human rights and democracy.
Since declaring his support for admitting refugees to Germany, Walter Lübcke had been harrassed online. He became widely known due to a video published on the Internet by the neo-Nazi M. As a result, Lübcke came to be seen as an enemy of the right-wing extremist scene. The film shows an extract of a speech given by the politician at a citizens‘ meeting, taken however out of context. In it, Lübcke says that living in Germany and standing up for local values is worthwhile—and that those who do not represent these values have the freedom to leave the country. As a result, his later murderer E. posted threats and hate comments against Lübcke. In the course of the murder investigation, the authorities were able to secure an „enemy list“ constructed by the perpetrator. Local politicians, journalists and members of Kassel’s Jewish community, among others, were included in the list.
M. had procured for the perpetrator S. the weapon intended for the murder. On the evening of his death, Lübcke stepped onto the porch of his apartment building to smoke; here, he was executed with a shot to the head. Whether was also at the scene at the time of the crime could not be clarified. The murderer was already known to the police and had been convicted of racist acts. Allegedly, he had withdrawn from the active neo-Nazi scene a few years earlier. However, as was the case with M., he underwent weapon training in a gun club.
For the murder of Walter Lübcke, the perpetrator was sentenced to life imprisonment. M. was acquitted of the charge of aiding and abetting murder. The question of possible supporters of the perpetrator has not yet been clarified. Through acts such as the murder of Walter Lübcke, right-wing terrorists are seeking to create a climate of fear intended to intimidate politicians and journalists, among others.
In 2016, 92-year-old Zilli Schmidt, née Reichmann, shows her prisoner number, tattooed on her in March 1943 in Auschwitz by the SS. The „Z“ stands for the discriminatory designation for Sinti and Roma, who were systematically excluded, apprehended, deported and murdered in National Socialist Germany.
In order to escape persecution, Zilli Reichmann’s family moved from the German federal state of Thuringia in 1938 to the border area of today’s Czech Republic, just recently under occupation at the time. In 1940, the family fled to German-occupied France. Her father hoped to escape persecution as a member of the Sinti minority in the country, partly because his son was stationed there with the Wehrmacht.
Nevertheless, the entire family was deported to Auschwitz. On 2 August 1944, Reichmann was deported from Auschwitz to the Ravensbrück concentration camp for forced labour. Her four-year-old daughter was murdered along with the rest of her family on the same day in Auschwitz-Birkenau. In 1950, she applied to the Bavarian State Compensation Office for „compensation payments“. She was—as she said—“speechless“ when she met people there who had carried out „racial biological examinations“ on her.
All Sinti and Roma were forced to undergo these examinations under National Socialism. Those persecuted by the Nazis for political, religious, social, ideological or „racial reasons“ were permitted to apply for compensation payments. Sinti and Roma were often not included, on the grounds that they had been persecuted as „criminals“ or „work-shy“, not for „reasons of race“. This argument was confirmed in 1956 by the Federal Court of Justice, which thus perpetuated the racist narrative about Sinti and Roma. Zilli Schmidt’s application was also initially rejected in 1953. She sued for many years and finally received partial compensation. By the time of her death in 2022, she had not been awarded any compensation for her daughter’s murder. In 2016, she said: „Germans were allowed to kill Gretel, but they were not responsible for compensation.“
Do we recognise racism?
Are we blind to racism?
What makes authoritarian thinking so attractive?
Who benefits from ideologies of inequality?
When is history history?
Where is the limit of our compassion?
Do Nazis wear combat boots?
Who is involved?
Who is not involved
What does anti-Semitism look like today?
Do we listen to the victims?
Why is reappraisal necessary?
Why does this still concern us today?