Germans are widely hostile to far-right groups, but opposition to multi-culturalism is on the rise -- and getting violent
German police stand guard during a neo-Nazi rally in Dortmund in September / Reuters
The murders of about ten Germans between 2000 and 2007 are back in the public eye. That's because police have now found two handguns, as well as the bodies of two suspects, which link the murders to neo-Nazi groups.
The details of the original murders are no less ugly than the recent discovery. The victims were largely of foreign origin, including ethnic Turks, an ethic Greek, and a policewoman. The BBC provides extra background for those who are unfamiliar with the case, but the lingering image is a haunting one: kebab store owners shot in the face in broad daylight.
It's hard to think of a country that would be blasé about neo-Nazi-perpetrated murders. But there are extra reasons for the furor here, in which stories on the murders have quickly shot to the top of the most-read, most-commented, and most-recommended lists on the major German papers' sites: this case treads on very sensitive ground for Germany.
The German far-right is about as marginalized in Germany as it possibly could be. Skinheads are treated with a mixture of scorn and disgust, and though free speech is protected in the country, there are a number of exceptions, including hate speech and Holocaust denial. It is not uncommon in some German cities to see an extremist passing out pamphlets with a disgruntled-looking policeman standing guard. The officer isn't just there to monitor the pamphleteer, I've had several Germans suggest to me on such occasions: he or she is also there to make sure that some passer-by doesn't become so enraged by the sight of a neo-Nazi as to start a fight. In a country where even Scientology, widely ignored in the U.S., is seen by many as a threat to democracy and Tom Cruise's role in Valkyrie is an affront, neo-Nazis provoke a lot of anger. That neo-Nazis could carry out these murders, and that the extent of the perpetrators' network is not yet known, gets people pretty worked up.