During a general debate at the Bundestag, Germany’s federal parliament, Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the rampage seen at protests organized by radical right-wing organizations in Chemnitz. The harshness of her comments were seen as atypical for Merkel, who is usually more restrained.
She said there was no excuse for agitation, Nazi chants and “assaults on people who look different.” The German head of government stated she understood people who were outraged when they heard that the perpetrator of a crime was previously convicted and had been obliged to leave the country. She was referring to a recent case in which a German man was killed in Chemnitz. A Syrian and an Iraqi citizen were arrested as suspects.
But anger at foreign culprits was no excuse for attacks on a Jewish restaurant or police officers. Again, Merkel was referring to recent events in Chemnitz. The kosher restaurant ‘Schalom’ and its owner were attacked by a Nazi mob last month. He was injured. Only quick police action prevented a further escalation.
Merkel also criticized prejudice towards Eastern Germans. “Generalizations about residents of Chemnitz, of Saxony or Eastern Germany are just as wrong and inappropriate as generalizations about refugees.” She also rejected statements by representatives of the radical right-wing party AfD at the Bundestag. They had accused Merkel’s govermment of “endangering the inner peace” in Germany.
Alexander Gauland, one of the AfD’s parliamentary leaders, had listed crimes which he said happened in Germany in the past few days, all of which were allegedly perpetrated by foreigners. Gauland mentioned “dark skin colors” and other attributes. He also said hatred was not a crime.
The Social Democrat’s (SPD) former chancellor candidate Martin Schulz called Gauland’s speech outrageous. He accused the AfD of a “fascist rhethoric” and got standing ovations for his comments.
Schulz said the AfD (‘Alternative für Deutschland’) usually “reduced all political circumstances to one single subject, which was usually a minority in the country.” This was a remedy used in fascism. The AfD blamed the migrants for everything, Schulz said. “A similar diction has been heard in this building before”, he stated, indirectly referring to the Hitler regime.
“I believe it is time for all democrats to stand up against this kind of rhetorical buildup”, Schulz said. Again, representatives of several democratic parties in the Bundestag applauded.
Johannes Kahrs, a Social Democratic MP, called the AfD “radical right-wingers”. Shortly after he told Gauland: “Hate makes people ugly. Take a look in the mirror.” After those statements, the AfD parliamentary group left the assembly room.
The recent events, including Nazi protests, in Chemnitz have led to a big discussion in Germany, including arguments between the head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Georg Maassen (Maaßen) and the bigger part of the government. He had said no foreigners had been chased by Nazis in Chemnitz. Today, Maassen backtracked to some extent.
Also the right way to fight the AfD has been discussed even before the latest incidents took place in Chemnitz, but even more now. Many high-ranking politicians in moderate parties on both sides of the aisle have said all democrats needed to dissociate themselves from the AfD in more distinct ways. So far, the AfD’s popularity, especially in Eastern Germany, has not decreased.