A small group of eight men and women got together in 2015 in the Dresden suburb of Freital to send a signal with a bomb attack to refugees and the people who help and support them. Thank goodness no one was killed, but hatred and violence have become normal in Germany. Almost 2,000 refugees fell victim to racist violence in 2017. Refugee shelters are attacked almost daily. Now the Dresden Higher Regional Court has sentenced the members of the so-called "Freital Group" to four to 10 years in prison. And rightly so!
Their willingness to use violence doesn't come out of thin air. Hatred is sown daily. The rise of the far right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has given a loud voice to racism, exclusion and verbal attacks against those who think differently. The party itself refuses to take any responsibility for violent excesses on the right fringe.
But it supplies the words and emotions that serve as ideological nourishment for a minority prepared to use violence. If right-wing politicians resort to foul-mouthed profanities to insult, defame and debase people, if they stigmatize migrants as strangers who should be driven out of their German homes, then they also bear political responsibility for escalating violence.
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A surprisingly large group of politicians — including the federal government — puts up with the corrosive force inherent in these attacks. The reason is presumably as simple as it is shattering: the majority of German society is not affected by the consequences. The victims of the attacks are for the most part minorities: refugees, migrants, left-wing politicians.
Turning a blind eye, however, undermines the highest basic right Germany's self-understanding is built on. It also corrupts the most important lesson learned from the horrors of the Nazi regime, put into words in the German constitution, Article 1: "Human dignity shall be inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority." Human dignity, not German dignity.