A sudden surge of anti-immigrant mob attacks in eastern Germany has renewed fears of another wave of xenophobic violence like the one that swept the country in the early 1990s. The most recent spate of violence began on August 26, after the arrest of two men—one from Iraq and one from Syria—following a murder of a 35-year-old man during a street festival in the city of Chemnitz caused an angry right-wing mob of 1,000 to rampage through the city, hunting down and attacking foreigners. The next day, 6,000 people gathered for a second far-right march, giving Hitler salutes and chanting anti-immigrant slogans, and overwhelmed police.
The murder that set off the anti-immigrant frenzy occurred after an altercation at an annual street festival on Saturday night ended in a fight; one man died of knife wounds, and two others were injured. The news that the police had arrested suspects from Iraq and Syria ignited the climate of widespread xenophobia and Islamophobia, causing false rumors to spread. Police have dismissed as false rumors on social media that suggested the fight was related to the sexual harassment of a woman.
The man who was murdered—a carpenter identified as Daniel H—also had immigrant roots (his father was Cuban). But many news reports in Germany did not mention this, enabling the Far Right’s framing of the incident as “immigrant” suspects arrested in the killing of a “German.”
The next day, the mobs started gathering. Their slogans included “For each dead German, a dead foreigner” and “Chemnitz is ours—foreigners out.” Some journalists said they were not safe enough to continue reporting. The crowds shouted “Lügenpresse” (“Lying press”) at them—a Nazi slogan which is now also part of the vocabulary of Trump’s supporters.
Islamophobia and Xenophobia in Germany’s East
Saxony, the eastern state in which Chemnitz is located,…