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Good Saxony, bad Saxony

February 23, 2016

Is the East German State of Saxony more xenophobic than the rest of the country? Or is that just nasty prejudice? In the wake of events in Clausnitz and Bautzen generalizations alone won't help, says Marcel Fürstenau.

Bautzen Brandanschlag auf geplantes Flüchtlingsheim
Image: Getty Images/S. Gallup

Outside, a raging mob, in the bus, scared refugees. The police cannot get the brutal masses on the street under control. Instead, the police violently drag refugees out of the bus against their will and transport them to a shelter. The reason, it is said, is to get them to safety. An explanation that sounds plausible in light of the threatening scenes that anyone can view on the Internet.

It is a hateful situation in Clausnitz, one that could spin out of control at any moment. Or are the police trying to divert attention away from their own failings. One cannot seriously judge the situation from the distance. Nevertheless, many are quick to place blame. This attitude can also add to the escalation - at least on a rhetorical level. In any case it will not help solve the problem.

Only one thing is clear: Seemingly placid Saxony is once again experiencing anti-refugee excesses. It does not just seem as if this happens more often in the state than elsewhere, it simply does. Refugee shelters often burn there, as in Bautzen on Saturday. The brutalization is crystal clear. Rescue workers are hindered as they attempt to extinguish the fire, and hate-filled bystanders cheer at the sea of flames. There is no way to gloss over it, and absolutely no excuse for it. Saxony is on its way to becoming a synonym for the ugliest that Germany can be.

Whoever joins Pegida now supports violent instigators

For many, Saxony has been exactly that for quite some time. The "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West" (Pegida) has brought it about. For more than a year now thousands of people have been marching through the streets of Dresden every Monday evening, and they have become increasingly radicalized.

Initially there were perhaps many among them that rightly felt that they were being ignored or misunderstood by politicians. But now, anyone who still supports this xenophobic and racist movement knowingly positions themselves outside of civil society. The same goes for Pegida-like movements in the rest of the country.

Kommentarfoto Marcel Fürstenau Hauptstadtstudio
DW's Marcel FürstenauImage: DW/S. Eichberg

Refugee shelters are not just burning in the East: Just as the uprising of decent people and help for those in need is not only happening in the West. But examples of goodwill are overshadowed by events such as those in Saxony. The justified and medially amplified disgust is simply louder and more encompassing than the solidarity activities of 100 decent people in Clauswitz last weekend. Who among us took notice of the impressive human chain of 13,000 in Dresden on February 13 to commemorate the city's destruction shortly before the end of the Second World War? Those people sent a clear signal that they refused to let the date be appropriated by right-wing groups and the mood propagated by Pegida.

Saxony has more than an image problem

Such images are also part of Saxony. Then good news is broadcast around the world from the scarred, yet beautiful, city on the Elbe River. The pictures displace that ugly face, but only briefly. Following the repulsive events of recent days, Saxony is in danger of being labeled as hopelessly right-wing and extreme. Unfortunately, there is always a reason to do so.

It does not help to point to the anti-immigrant sentiments that can be found all over Germany. Saxony has much more than an image problem. That will only change when more people make a conscious decision to take to the streets to protest against Pegida than with Pegida. And that means every time. Especially in the days following events like those witnessed in Clausnitz and Bautzen.

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Marcel Fürstenau
Marcel Fürstenau Berlin author and reporter on current politics and society.