Wächtersbach: German town lives in fear after racist shooting | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 25.07.2019
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Wächtersbach: German town lives in fear after racist shooting

On Monday, a young Eritrean man was shot and gravely wounded in a small German town. The racially-motivated shooting has left the residents of Wächtersbach living in fear. DW's Miodrag Soric reports.

A lanky young man — roughly 30 years of age — sits underneath a tree in a Wächtersbach park, northwest of Frankfurt in the German state of Hesse. He works as a nurse and is on his lunch break. The man, who six years ago moved to Germany from Eritrea, doesn't want to give his name. After all, the fear of racist violence is real. On Monday, a right-wing extremist shot and gravely wounded a 26-year-old Eritrean man near this very park.

Miraculously, the man survived — even though it is clear the perpetrator, who used a semi-automatic 9-millimeter firearm, had intended to kill him. The two did not know each other. The perpetrator had sought out a random, dark-skinned victim. So no wonder other people of color in Wächtersbach are now scared to leave their homes.

Watch video 00:51

Eritrean man shot in Germany

Mesut Gezici, who counts himself among the town's Turkish community, is deeply concerned. Sitting outside the local mosque, he sips on some tea. Gezici was born and raised in Germany, and works as an office administrator. He says he is "a bit worried" about the future of his three children. Gezici hopes the police will send officers to guarantee the safety of the mosque during Friday prayers. Some 300 to 500 people worship there each Friday, he says. Gezici says that in the long-term, the town needs to get "Christian and Jewish representatives, labor unions and [political] parties" together for a roundtable discussion. Because, as he says, many local residents are scared after Monday's shooting. Gezici insists that to maintain security, everyone will have to work together.

The perpetrator announced the attack

Wächtersbach Mayor Andreas Weiher is aware of these concerns and wants to dispel locals' fears. He used to work as a policeman before going into politics, which lends him a certain degree of credibility when talking about security issues. Weiher has promised tougher "security measures," even though it is clear the police cannot be present everywhere around the clock to keep violent racists in check. He says he hopes the people of Wächtersbach will pay closer attention to potential acts of violence and inform the police when right-wing extremists threaten to carry out attacks.

Wächtersbach Mayor Andreas Weiher (DW/M. Soric)

Wächtersbach Mayor Andreas Weiher has promised tougher 'security measures' in the wake of the shooting

Indeed, it's possible Monday's attack could have been thwarted. The perpetrator had announced his plans while at his local pub. Guests and neighbors were aware of the man's far-right beliefs. But those who were in the pub are refusing to give testimony, claiming they had not taken seriously the man's "boasting." In reality, however, several people associated with the attacker seem to share his racist worldview. That much is clear from their social media posts.

Growing radicalization

A young man in a sports bar popular with members of the local Turkish community says "people are increasingly showing their true colors." He, too, wants to remain anonymous. He says "it is alright" if Germans tell him the people of Wächtersbach do not like foreigners. "But shooting at foreigners is unacceptable."

In a nearby ice cream parlor, 17-year-old Elliot Cruz is meeting his Italian and Turkish friends. They are currently training to work in construction. Elliot's parents are from the Caribbean. Elliot, like his parents, is a person of color. He says Monday's shooting came as a shock. "It is obvious this attack targeted a specific group of people," he says. "I guess I have to be more careful from now on."

Wächtersbach, Elliot Cruz (DW/M. Soric)

Elliot Cruz says that, after the shooting, he has 'to be more careful from now on'

The owner of the ice cream parlor, Maren Pillot, is appalled by the attack. She says she is distraught to see "such a thing happen in Wächtersbach." On the day after the shooting, she joined roughly 400 locals in a vigil at the crime scene. She says the attempted murder reflects a "radicalization, that is only now becoming apparent."

Opposite the ice cream parlor, Gelinde von Rhein-Winkler is buying magazines at a stationer's. She says a friendly Eritrean family used to live in her house for a long time. She believes most locals condemn Monday's attack, though she concedes that, unfortunately, Wächtersbach is also home to people harboring hateful views.

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