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Lessons from Solingen

Baha Güngör / mllMay 29, 2013

Twenty years after the arson attack in Solingen, right-wing extremism is a bigger threat than ever, says DW's Baha Güngör.


Twenty years after the arson attack by right-wing extremists in Solingen on May 29, 1993, when five Turkish girls and women between the ages of four and 27 died, many ceremonies are taking place to ensure that the incident is not forgotten and repressed by the public.

But hasn't "Solingen" already been forgotten and repressed? Aren't the errors in the investigation of the killings of eight Turks, a Greek and a German by the National Socialist Underground (NSU) - 10 years of errors which are a disgrace for a country governed by the rule of law like Germany - the terrible result of the repression of the far-right danger in Germany?

Güngör, Bahaeddin Photo DW/Per Henriksen 11.10.2012
Baha Güngör is head of DW's Turkish serviceImage: DW

Who remembers nowadays the "Hoffmann military sport group," or the 1982 "Turk murder of Nuremburg," or the background to the worst far-right riots since World War II in Hoyerswerda in 1991, or the arson attack in Mölln on November 23, 1992, where two Turkish girls aged 10 and 14 were burnt alive with their grandmother?

Those Vietnamese, Africans, Arabs and Americans who drew the attention of the neo-Nazis and escaped the fascist mob with injuries were lucky. Others died after shootings, some were beaten to death, and some died in mysterious circumstances, even while in police custody.

Fighting right-wing extremism

Germany will never be able to forget the National Socialist rule of violence, the Holocaust or "Kristallnacht." International opinion and above all, Israel, will ensure that Germany is reminded whenever there are gaps in its memory. But Germany must also not repress the memory of Hoyerswerda, Rostock, Mölln and Solingen. Germans are obliged to counter the growing impression that "the Muslims are the new Jews," as Wolfgang Benz, the prominent expert on anti-Semitism, has said.

It is the duty of a democratic state based on law to defend itself against the threat of fascism, especially since its beginnings are often ignored. In the early 1980s, levels of far-right violence had already reached new records, with more than 1,500 incidents a year. The same domestic intelligence agency and police which should be sinking into the earth with shame over the failures regarding the NSU were then talking about "living time-bombs" who were ready "to move straight into violence."

No tolerance for racism

The memorial events in Solingen will, as is usual with such events, provide the representatives of political parties, of religious and ethnic groups, cities and communities with plenty of opportunities for image cultivation. They'll find fine words to express their disgust at the inhuman actions, and they'll read them from manuscripts into microphones. But speeches won't prevent future attacks.

Instead, what is most needed are concrete steps. One of those should be that the Islam Conference be emancipated from its undignified role as an anti-terrorism committee. It's high time for cultures and religions to be meeting as equals. It might help if election campaigns did not involve pro- and anti-Islamic wordplay, or polarizing debates about asylum seekers and immigrants. And no racist act, be it ever so harmless, should be swept under the carpet.

Wishful thinking? Yes! It is the wish of many people in Germany that Hoyerswerda, Rostock, Mölln and Solingen, just like all the other attacks and violent acts against people with other cultural or religious roots, should never be repeated. Regardless of our skin color, name and religion, we all sit in the same boat, in which there is no room for right-wing, left-wing or religious extremists.

Otherwise Germany will find it has a problem with its assumption that it is a democratic state ruled by law, with equal rights for all, whose power may not be deployed one-sidedly against immigrants and Islam.