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A German man of east African origin is fighting for his life after being brutally beaten up. But authorities say that while racial tensions have been rising in Potsdam, the attack is not part of a trend.
The brutal atttack took place at this tram stop in Potsdam
Police have no new leads in a brutal Easter morning attack on a German citizen of Ethiopian descent in Potsdam, in the state of Brandenburg, near Berlin. The victim, a 37-year-old engineer, is fighting for his life after being repeatedly kicked in the head by at least two people.
Authorities said, however, that they have several clues, including a recording of a telephone call the victim made as he was arguing with his assailants. Although the message is difficult to decipher, certain parts come through clearly. Specifically, the words "dirty nigger" and the victim's own voice, asking his attackers to behave, can be heard. He had made the call to his wife, but she was asleep, and didn't get the message on her voice mail until the next morning.
The city's public prosecutor's office is treating the crime as an attempted murder of a xenophobic nature. Spokesman Benedikt Welfens said that while racial tensions had been rising in Potsdam, the attack was not part of a trend.
"As far as I can tell, there are an increasing number of minor attacks, insults, provocations, and, of course, foreigners will sometimes be insulted or bodily attacked, but never before in this dimension," Welfens said. "This is for me an isolated incident, unlike anything I have seen before in all the years I have been on the job."
Attack has changed Potsdam's atmosphere
According to Potsdam's mayor Jan Jakobs, the "despicable" attack has changed the city.
"Something like this can't help but change the atmosphere of a city," Jakobs said. "Until now, people had the feeling they could walk freely on the streets, and I know from lots of people who have come here from other countries that they enjoy living here. What happened today could make finding that feeling a bit more difficult."
Jörg Schönbohm wants to see the assailants punished
He said he was "highly unsettled" by the attack's brutality.
Brandenburg Interior Minister Jörg Schönbohm said there would be strong penalties for the crime.
"In this country we do not tolerate that extremists chase, beat up or even murder people because of their skin color, religion or political positions," Schönbohm said at a press conference on Monday.
Courageous taxi driver saved victim
The victim was born in Addis Ababa, but has had German citizenship for several years. He is married to a German woman and has two children. He was waiting at a streetcar stop early Easter Sunday morning in a quiet residential neighborhood near the famous Sanssouci palace, when two strangers began to insult him. He answered back and was then hit with a bottle, thrown to the ground and beaten up. The assailants stole less than 200 euros ($245) and his keys.
The right-wing party DVU is represented in Brandenburg's state government
Welfens said the fact that he's still alive can be attributed to a courageous taxi driver.
"When the taxi driver saw the victim hit the ground, he approached the scene and got out of his taxi, then moved towards the apparent assailants, who then fled the scene of the crime," Welfens said. "As far as we can tell, the taxi driver saved this man's life."
The taxi driver followed the thugs, but lost them in the dark. He described them as two Caucasians, between 180 and 190 centimeters (around six feet) tall, with short hair -- possibly shaved heads. One wore a black bomber jacket with a white logo, and one of them may have been a woman -- a theory that prosecutors also share, after hearing the high pitch of one of the voices on the recording.
Potsdamers show their solidarity
The victim is in the hospital, with severe injuries to his skull and ribs. Doctors have placed him in an artificial coma to relieve swelling on the brain. His condition is being described as stable, but critical.
Prosecutors in Potsdam have offered a 5,000-euro ($6,113) reward for information leading to the arrest of the attackers.
On Monday night, protesters took to the streets in a show of solidarity with the victim -- and to demonstrate that racist violence will not be tolerated.