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Germany

Town Remembers Deadly Attack on Turkish Family

Ten years ago this week, four German youths set fire to the home of the Genç family in the town of Solingen. Five family members, including three children, died and became worldwide symbols for victims of racism.

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A memorial stands on the site of the home, which was torn down immediately after the attacks

The small town of Solingen is planning big things for this Thursday.

Ten years after four right wing youths set fire to the home of a Turkish family, killing five and injuring 14, the city is planning another somber ceremony to remember Gürsün Ince, 27, Hatice Genç, 18, Saime Genç, 4, Hülya Genç, 9, and Gülüstan Öztürk, 12. The town has worked a decade to rid itself of the hateful association with right wing violence that propelled it into the international headlines in 1993.

Following the attacks on May 29 the city responded quickly, setting up anti-racist organizations and events to integrate the city's foreigners and planting trees at the site of the burned down house, one for each victim. This Thursday, the town plans to add to the symbolic gestures by renaming a street in honor of the Genç's hometown in Turkey, Mercimek.

Working to distance itself from the attack

As much as they've accepted the horrible incident as a part of their town's history, Solingen officials work hard nowadays to send out the message that they're no different from any other town.

"The words 'Solingen is everywhere' dominated the discussions," wrote the town's Mayor recently. "Even today, I'm convinced that there is nothing that differentiates us from any other city."

But the name of the city has stuck -- as it has with brutal attacks on foreigners in Rostock, Hoyerswerda, Hünxe and Mölln -- imprinted on the minds of Germans as a symbol of right wing racism. The fire in Solingen capped a wave of violence against foreigners in the years following the fall of the wall, highlighted by high-profile cases in those five towns.

German President a valuable ally

German President Johannes Rau, who at the time was premier of North-Rhine Westphalia, the state in which Solingen is located, has made frequent visits back to the home of the Genç family and will hold a speech on the anniversary day. Other politicians are planning meetings with members of the Turkish community, Germany's largest foreign community.

"The most moving for me has been the poise the Genç family has shown," Rau told the German press agency, dpa. "There was no hate, no leave-taking (from the greater community), only the call for reconciliation between people and the population. That was the positive signal after the horrible incident."

The Genç family continues to live in Solingen. With the more than 1.4 million euro they received in insurance and donations, the family built a high-security home surrounded by a wall and a fence and watched over by security cameras.

"Allah should burn them"

Of the survivors, Bekir Genç, now 25, remains the worse off. He suffered burns on over 36 percent of his body and had to be operated more than 20 times.

Two of the four men convicted in 1995 of the crime after a lengthy trial, were released early from their ten-year sentences. The other two -- Markus Gartmann, 23 at the time, and Christian Reher, 16 at the time -- remain behind bars.

The Genç family lawyer is trying to get President Rau to help them track down the two released from prison in order to collect the hundreds of thousands of euros a court ordered the arsonists to pay the family. Mevlüde Genç, the mother and grandmother of four of the victims, told the newsmagazine Der Spiegel that she was against the pair's early release.
"Allah should burn them," she said. "like they have burned me."

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