Sunday

25th Jul 2021

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

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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.

Court verdict sees sun set on Greece's Golden Dawn

While the leaders of Greece's Golden Dawn facing lengthy jail terms, the atmosphere remains tense in Athens and some other parts of Greece. Depending on the exact sentencing, further clashes between anarchist-leftists and remnants of the extreme-right may ensue.

News in Brief

  1. Macron changes phone after Pegasus spyware revelations
  2. Italy to impose 'vaccinated-only' entry on indoor entertainment
  3. EU 'will not renegotiate' Irish protocol
  4. Brussels migrants end hunger strike
  5. Elderly EU nationals in UK-status limbo after missed deadline
  6. WHO: 11bn doses needed to reach global vaccination target
  7. EU to share 200m Covid vaccine doses by end of 2021
  8. Spain ends outdoor mask-wearing despite surge

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. Far left and right MEPs less critical of China and Russia
  2. Why is offshore wind the 'Cinderella' of EU climate policy?
  3. Open letter from 30 embassies ahead of Budapest Pride
  4. Orbán counters EU by calling referendum on anti-LGBTI law
  5. Why aren't EU's CSDP missions working?
  6. Romania most keen to join eurozone
  7. Slovenia risks court over EU anti-graft office
  8. Sweden's gang and gun violence sets politicians bickering

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us