Opinion: Germany speaks volumes with silence on racist cops | Opinion | DW | 17.09.2020
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Opinion

Opinion: Germany speaks volumes with silence on racist cops

Once again, reports of nationalists on Germany's police forces have surfaced. Lawmakers and law enforcement unions seem disturbingly unconcerned, DW's Hans Pfeifer writes.

Imagine what would have happened if the interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Germany's most populous state, were to tell the press that 29 Islamic State sympathizers had been fired by the police force after an eight-year period during which they shared IS propaganda and material promoting violence in a chat group. Imagine that prior to this the press had reported numerous instances of death threats sent by unidentified IS sympathizers to their enemies from police computers. Imagine the uproar that this would have sparked across Germany: Police forces would have been tuned on their heads to weed out extremists. And rightly so.

Pfeifer (DW/B. Geilert)

DW's Hans Pfeifer

Yet, now that a racist cell in the NRW state police has been reported, authorities are acting as if it were only a minor affair. For eight years, 29 police officers had shared pictures of Adolf Hitler and racist jokes in a chat group; they have now been fired.

Read more: Ferguson prompts Germany to reflect on its own police force

Despite this scandal, NRW state Interior Minister Herbert Reul refuses to resign. The federal Interior and Heimat Ministry has branded the affair a "shame," but Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has not publicly commented on the matter. Germany's largest police union, the GdP has expressed little concern about the racists within its ranks. And the somewhat-smaller German Police Trade Union is busy railing against Berlin bicycle lanes and the youth wing of the Social Democrats for arguing for more oversight, while questioning whether the country should take in people in Greece further displaced by the massive fire at a sprawling refugee camp.

Read more: Germany: Hundreds protest police violence in Hamburg, Düsseldorf

Where's the outrage?

Aside from a few calls for an investigation, Bundestag lawmakers do not seem otherwise concerned. And this is not the first time that news of racists in the German police and military has been reported. In the past, nationalists have shared pictures of Hitler and Nazi symbols, disseminated death threats and racist insults, and even stockpiled guns and ammunition.

Read more: When are German police allowed to use guns?

These officers are not merely disgruntled citizens fed up with German Chancellor Angela Merkel's asylum policies: They are veritable fascists who support the Nazi ideology, which led to the murder of millions of Jews, Roma people, Slavs, queer people, dissidents and people with disabilities. They are enemies of the state, clad in state uniforms.

Read more: Germany debates racial profiling in policing

So far, attempts to investigate the extent of racist and nationalist elements in the German police have failed. Indeed, just recently Seehofer blocked a study into the problem.

Read more: Muslim Council demands apology for Cologne police's racial profiling

Every single case further undermines citizens' trust in the state's security apparatus. Who, after all, would someone turn to who is being threatened by neo-Nazis? Would they feel comfortable going to the police? Hardly.

That German lawmakers show so little concern about racists among the police can have only explanation: They feel no empathy for immigrants, people of color, religious minorities and their allies, who are in great danger because the police have been infiltrated by the nationalists.