Germans prepare for Carnival parades and festivities for months, sewing costumes, practicing in marching bands and building floats. Should such events be canceled after fatal racist shootings in Hanau?
Carefree Carnival partying is unimaginable for most Hanau locals in the wake of racist attacks that left 11 people dead in their town on Wednesday. While the city's main Carnival parade was canceled, celebrations and parades will go ahead this weekend in Frankfurt, just 25 kilometers to the west, and other German cities that celebrate Carnival, Fastnacht or Fasching, as the annual "fifth season" is called. The main events in 2020 began on Thursday, February 20, and continue for six days through Shrove Tuesday, the day preceding Ash Wednesday.
Minute of silence
During the colorful hours-long parades, public life grinds to a halt. People prepare for the events for months, and many do not want to miss the fun or cancel events in response to the Hanau shootings. "We have a smile on our faces today, but in our hearts, we feel with the people of Hanau, also with the bereaved," said Christian, Cologne's traditional Carnival prince on Thursday before observing a minute of silence ahead of the day's festivities (photo).
Spreading joy is what Carnival is all about, even in difficult times, Cologne mayor Henriette Reker, who was injured in a knife attack in 2015, told public broadcaster WDR. The city has not canceled any of the numerous Carnival events or parades, big or small.
Reker's tweet contained a personal statement: "I myself have experienced what can happen when one takes a stand in favor of an open society. But in Cologne, we don't back down a single millimeter in the face of right-wing agitation. These agitators want to scare us. We have to answer with courage and determination."
The mayor canceled Friday's appointments to participate in a protest in Cologne against the far right.
Parade organizers in Cologne and Düsseldorf plan to add a topical float on the Hanau racist attacks to the Rose Monday parade. "It won't be a laughing matter, either, but a statement," said Jacques Tilly, who designs floats for the Düsseldorf parade.
Organizers in Mainz, another major Carnival hotspot, plan neither cancellations nor minutes of silence. But organizers everywhere are taking a hard look at security arrangementsfor their events.
Reactions on social media have been mixed, with quite a few people taken aback by happy partygoers.
This user reminds readers that speakers at Carnival events have repeatedly spoken out against extremism, saying, "Nowhere else have we heard such clear statements against hate, racism and far-right activities as at the carnival celebrations in Mainz."
Others disagree. This user says he simply can't have fun on a day when the country was "hit in its most sensitive spot" and suggests not celebrating Carnival at all this year.