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A Weekend of Racism

August 21, 2007

Eight Indians were attacked by a violent mob in a village in the state of Saxony. Germany needs to ask itself whether it really is doing enough to fight right-wing extremism, says DW's Daniel Scheschkewitz.

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Anyone who has lived outside of Germany for some time knows how alert people are to reports about racism and xenophobia in Germany, especially when they involve physical violence. And even more so when they occur in the part of Germany considered a right-wing extremist stronghold, such as the region south of Leipzig.

The brutal attack on eight Indians in the small town of Mügeln is all the more disturbing in view of the fact that anti-racist organizations have repeatedly pointed out how dangerous parts of eastern Germany are for foreigners. And in this case, there weren't even any indications that violent skinheads would go to the local fair.

Luckily the eight Indians got away with their lives. But the trauma will remain -- as will scars from the wounds inflicted on them by the mob that the police could only control by putting themselves in danger.

The investigation will have to determine the extent to which the violence was organized and whether it did indeed stem from neo-Nazis. But the shameful fact remains that the people of Mügeln did not protect the foreigners. The mayor's statement that the guilty parties weren't locals can't change that. Clearly, things that our society simply cannot tolerate remain possible even now, more than 10 years after the brutal attacks on asylum seekers in the eastern Germany towns of Hoyerswerda and Rostock.

Thus, it was good that Georg Milbradt, the premier of Saxony, where Mügeln is located, didn't hesitate for a moment to go there and find out for himself what had happened and to express his disgust.

But that's not enough.

Germany's political authorities have to ask themselves whether enough is being done when it comes to education and prevention -- in schools, in the social welfare system, but also in prosecuting cases and preventing crime.

And there must be more to it than preserving Germany's reputation abroad. The soccer World Cup showed last year that we are indeed a hospitable country that welcomes people of all skin colors and religious beliefs. But Germany must learn for its own sake to accept foreigners, and that must also happen in places where there are few jobs for Germans.

Another deplorable incident last weekend showed how far away from that state we in former West Germany are: a German national soccer team player said he was called a "black pig" by an opposing team's German goalkeeper. That, too, is a scandal!

Whether as the child of black African immigrants in the Bundesliga or as an Indian businessman in Saxony, unfortunately people who are willing to become integrated in German society far too often run into barriers. Those who expect immigrants to be willing to integrate must also be prepared to protect them -- from physical violence and verbal abuse.

Daniel Scheschkewitz is an editor at DW-RADIO (ncy)