Dresden counters right-wing extremism following bomb attacks | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 29.09.2016
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Dresden counters right-wing extremism following bomb attacks

Earlier this week, the Saxon capital of Dresden was rocked by two apparently xenophobic bomb attacks. Linda Vierecke reports on how people are coping after the explosions.

Ten-year-old Ibrahim runs excitedly out of the mosque and looks around curiously to see what is happening outside the door of his house. A lot has been going on since an explosive device was detonated on Monday night outside the mosque where he also lives. Neighbors have been stopping by to offer support. A police patrol car is parked on the opposite corner to offer protection, and camera teams film the house with its pitch-black door and the candles in front, over and over again.

Mahmut Bacaru sends Ibrahim back inside. Bacaru is on the board of the Fatih Camii Mosque of the Ditib parish in the Dresden neighborhood of Cotta. When asked if he still feels safe in Dresden, he says: "I have lived here for 20 years and I've never seen anything like this before. And I never want to again. Dresden is such a beautiful city - why do some people want to bring the city down?" he asks.

Mahmut Bacaru (DW/L. Vierecke)

Mahmud Bacaru had always felt safe in Germany - until now

Right-wing extremists and racism in Saxony

It is still not entirely clear what spurred the attacks, although police suspect a xenophobic motive. In the annual "Report on German unity," the federal government identified a cluster of right-wing extremist violence in east German states. Most of the incidents occurred in the state of Saxony, where foreigners make up about 3 percent of the population.

The region has the highest proportion of organized neo-Nazis in Germany.

Markus Kemper has been dealing with racist hot-spots in Saxony for 15 years. His mobile advisory team from the Saxon cultural office helps, for example, clubs and associations who have Neo-Nazis amongst their members and don't know what to do about it. "In the last two years the number of right-wing extremist assaults in Saxony has increased by 90 percent - it's because of the heated atmosphere and the demonstrations by the Pegida movement," Kemper tells DW.

For the last two years, this anti-Islamic and racist movement has been gathering thousands of Dresden citizens on the streets every Monday to demonstrate against what they perceive to be the "Islamization of the Western World."

"Pegida has been a catalyst for neo-Nazis and other racists," says Kemper.

Using Twitter against Pegida

Deutschland Polizei untersucht Tatort nach Anschlag auf Moschee

Dresden was rocked by two explosions on Tuesday

On this Monday, around 2,500 people have gathered again. Ludwig Rehnolt looks closely at the banners held by Pegida supporters and quickly types something into his cell phone. He is here almost every Monday as an observer for "Street-Twitter," a Twitter project that reports on campaigns and demonstrations to do with the topic of refugees and asylum. "We are documenting exactly what is happening and being said here so that no one can deny responsibility later." The 25-year-old chemistry graduate sends out 22 tweets this evening - each one is checked by his colleagues for grammar and content before being put online.

"Pegida is creating a climate of brutalization, and we want to do something about that. There have to be clear boundaries between what is allowed to be said and what is really a right-wing and xenophobic body of thought."

On this particular Monday evening, there are a couple of young men from the Saxon neo-Nazi scene amongst the participants. They already know who Ludwig is and don't like him. One young man at the rally comes straight up to him and threatens him directly: "We know who you are - we know what you're doing here. I just want to tell you this, so there's no trouble." But Ludwig and his colleagues from Street-Twitter keep going regardless. Every week.

Moral courage to face right-wing extremism

There are a lot of committed citizens in Dresden who have been working for many years to promote an open-minded and multicultural city. Since the Pegida demonstrations began, their numbers have increased. One of their initiatives has been the creation of the "Monday Café" at the Dresden Theater. Refugees are welcome to seek advice and make contacts there.

And, of course, it's all about bringing the themes of everyday life to the stage: Romeo and Juliet, for example, played by German and Arabic youths, where the Montagues are from Aleppo and the Capulets from Dresden.

"Of course it's important that we position ourselves as a theater and say: Hey, these are values that we can take off the stage and that we want to use together in everyday life," says David Lenard, the project manager of the Monday Café. He hopes that many more people in Dresden will join in.