Thursday

18th Jul 2019

Chemnitz neo-Nazis pose questions for Germany

  • Thousand of far-right supporters and neo-Nazis protested after a man was stabbed to death, allegedly by a Syrian and an Iraqi (Photo: Tim Mönsh)

Far-right and anti far-right demonstrators were back on the streets of the German city of Chemnitz on Thursday evening (30 August), amid concerns over a possible rise of neo-Nazis at the heart of Europe.

Michael Kretschmer, the leader of Saxony, the region where Chemnitz is located, was expected to hold a meeting on democracy, days after far-right demonstrators clashed with police and chased and beat foreign-looking people.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The demonstrations, on Sunday and Monday, were organised to protest against the death of a 35-year old German, who was stabbed on Saturday, allegedly by an Iraqi and a Syrian.

Pegida, an anti-immigrant movement, the far-right Alternative for Germanyt (Afd) and neo-Nazi groups have called for new protests on Thursday, with the police increasing its presence after it was caught off guard in earlier gatherings.

On Wednesday, the UN human rights commissioner, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, said he was shocked by the events, and by the Nazi salute made by some demonstrators in particular.

Referring to the 1930s, he said it was "frightening to see how the same devices are being used again."

"But it's particularly I think worrisome to see it in Europe because of the enormous traumas that Europe itself witnessed during the 20th century," he said.

The UN official added that it was "fundamentally important that public officials throughout Europe denounce all of this."

The German chancellor and president had already condemned the events.

"There was targeted harassment, there was rioting, and there was hate on the streets, and that has no place under our rule of law," Merkel said on Tuesday.


President Frank-Walter Steinmeier insisted: "Let us not be intimidated by a mob of punching hooligans. Hate should not have free rein anywhere in our country."

Specific attention

In Brussels, European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said that the issue "requires specific attention" and would be discussed at a seminar of the college of EU commissioners on Thursday and Friday.

He said he did not want to react "off the cuff" to comparisons with the 1930s and insisted that the discussion should be placed in the "broader context of current political and social developments".

He added that commission president Jean-Claude Juncker "will have the opportunity, in his State of the Union speech [on 12 September], to express the position of the institution".

"Let's not overreact," said political scientist Bernd Huetteman, a lecturer at the Passau university and vice-president of the European Movement, however.

He told EUobserver that while the Chemnitz protests and violence were a "provocation", it would be "a mistake to see a change in the overall mood in Germany."

"It's not a turning point," he said, pointing to the fact that AfD were reaching a peak in opinion polls, while the Greens were also making progress.

Biggest mistake

Huetteman explained that the situation in Chemnitz, a city in the former East Germany, was more a symptom of the post-communist transition, with people feeling left out, in societies where there were no intermediate bodies, such as trade associations or trade unions, for decades.

He warned against demonising people in Saxony, because "the biggest mistakes were made by Western politicians after the fall of the Berlin Wall".

"It's more a problem between the state and society," he said.

In the wider picture, anti-EU and far-right forces are enjoying a new momentum in Europe ahead of EU elections next year.

Earlier this week, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban teamed up with Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini to wage a campaign to "stop illegal migration".

"What Orban and Salvini are doing is fuelling what these people [in Chemnitz] are doing," Huetteman noted.


But he insisted that "80 percent of [Chemnitz] people are not racists and have no authoritarian thinking."

Xenophobia on the rise in Germany, study finds

Germans, in particular those living in the east, are demonstrating higher levels of xeonphobia and backlash against religious minorities than when compared to five years ago, according to a new study.

Former Malta opposition leader fears for his life

Simon Busuttil spent 10 years as an MEP before returning to Malta to lead the opposition. He now fears for his life amid probes into high-level corruption in Malta's government.

News in Brief

  1. Selmayr to leave EU commission post
  2. EU 'appeasement' of Iran like that of Nazis, Israel says
  3. Report: EU anti-trust chief to go after Amazon
  4. Report: France to back Kovesi for EU prosecutor
  5. Trump energy leases to dump more CO2 than whole EU
  6. EU selling more goods to US despite Trump tariffs
  7. EU deplores latest Israeli demolitions
  8. EU draws up Venezuela torture sanctions

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory
  2. Von der Leyen faces gender battle for commission posts
  3. EU proposes yearly rule of law 'reports'
  4. Poland 'optimistic' despite new EU law checks
  5. What did we learn from the von der Leyen vote?
  6. Is Golden Dawn's MEP head of a criminal organisation?
  7. Finland rejects call to end sponsorship of EU presidency
  8. MH17 five years on: when will Russia be punished?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us