The murder of a German-Cuban man played into the hands of the far-right. But what exactly took place in the east German city and what consequences might this have?

Many different groups of people are finding themselves drawn to the east German city of Chemnitz, including journalists.

I wanted to shoot a report in Chemnitz along with a journalist friend of mine, but during a conversation with local police, which we wanted to use for quotes, I was advised against travelling there because of my "presumably foreign appearance" - and it was implied that my safety could not be guaranteed.

The fact is that it was not only my freedom of press that was suspended in Chemnitz, it was in fact a restriction on the general freedoms of all people who are supposedly "foreign".

On the evening of 25 August, a fight broke out between a large group of people in the city centre and one man was stabbed and later died in hospital.

The far-right quickly pounced on this and presented the confrontation as a murder by a foreigner with a "German" as the victim. In an attempt to rebutt German Chancelor Angela Merkel's immigration policy, they termed this case as a final escalation. According to them, the state cannot guarantee the security of Germans, which is why they, the far-right, must ensure security themselves.

Exploiting tragedy

On the Saturday night of the fight, a propaganda campaign kicked off, which reached its climax with a protest on Sunday. About 1,000 right-wing extremists used the death as a populist appeal to take over the city centre of Chemnitz.  Under the guise of a demonstration they marched through the streets and indiscriminately attacked people who they perceived as "foreign". Among them were tourists visiting for the city festival.

Merkel spoke of hunts and hatred on the streets and condemned the racism and violence, whereas other politicians were not as clear, terming it as a "reaction" or even "normal".

The state-funded counselling centre, the Saxony "RAA Sachsen", issued a press release where they said that migrants should avoid the city centre for their own safety. The centre conceded that it is hard for them to admit this, but this is the way it is.

It didn't take long for video recordings to spread from Chemnitz. Right-wing radicals can be seen hunting people, there are multiple clashes with the police and hundreds of mostly right-wing extremists shouting racist slogans. The Nazi salute is visible in various photos and videos. 

"Our battle cry is: kill," says one of the radicals into the camera. Many of those assembled were quite obviously drunk and aggressive. Journalists reported assaults on the spot and a general climate of hostility.

The federal state of Saxony's series of scandals continues. Earlier, the region hit the headlines when a demonstrator from the anti-Islam organisation Pegida approached a TV team during a rally against Chancellor Angela Merkel. The demonstrator acted aggressively, however the police questioned the journalists, not the demonstrator, which was caught on camera

The reporter, Arndt Ginzel, accused the police of making themselves Pegida's accomplice. Saxony's Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer said that the police had acted professionally. Two days later it was revealed that the Pegida demonstrator was actually an official of the German State Criminal Police Office. 

When there are major left-wing demonstrations in the region, the police have in the past summoned 400 police. With a total of up to 4,000 right-wing extremists, the police organised less than 300 civil servants. The protesters used this to their advantege.

Grief-induced violence?

The far-right justifies their own actions as the result of grief and they are defended by the far-right AfD party, which is currently the third-biggest party in the German Bundestag. 

The German Minister of the Interior, Horst Seehofer, who belongs to the extremely conservative CSU, did not comment at first. On Tuesday, after the protesters had already raged in Chemnitz for almost three days, he described the riots as unacceptable. Yet he qualified it by describing the alleged anger/grief of the protesters as understandable. In doing so, he indirectly legitimises their false narrative.

Take the grief angle with a grain of salt. The people around the deceased spoke on Monday, and a close friend of Daniel Hillig said that people should not to be deceived by the extremists, after his death. 

Daniel Hillig himself was of Cuban origin. His friend reminded everyone that those same people who now pretend to care about his death are people Hillig had to fight with in the past himself, because they did not accept him as truly German. Hillig was politically left, and not an opponent of Merkel’s immigration policy. He was actually an archetypal enemy of the far-right.

The fact remains that the far-right has distorted this, and a number of other incidents to make themselves out to be the victims. There is no form of grief in which Nazi symbols are justifiable. Nazi symbols are forbidden in Germany. Nevertheless, numerous video recordings show how policemen are not doing anything in the face of the Nazi salute on several occasion.

As a reminder, the neo-Nazi extremist terrorist organization NSU, which is responsible for several murders, also acted in Saxony and was supported there by informants of the state authorities. During the recent chain of scandals, far-right activists published the arrest warrant for the suspects of the killing online, which os an internal police document. After journalist drew attention to it, the police initiated an investigation and Germany's Interior Minister Seehofer again called the publishing "unacceptable".

But no action followed. 

If one looks at the series of current scandals in Saxony, apart from the NSU and the around 2.200 attacks on refugees in 2017, then it must undoubtedly be stated that: Germany might have a Nazi problem. 

The chairman of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster, pointed out that the Chemnitz case is by no means an isolated case and that such scenes should never happen again in Germany. 

If one knows history, the value of this statement should become clear. 

While politicians and the media find it difficult to admit that there might be a Nazi, or neo-Nazi, problem, thousands of people traveled to Chemnitz to oppose the far-right. Although it tends to be presented as a "left-wing counter protest", it is not just left-wing groups like the Antifa, but also people from all areas and parts of the country who are ready to defend freedom through their presence.

Germany's hope is that in the face of the progressive brutalisation of language and the growing AfD, young generations and the centre of society will not only warp, but will effectively make people aware of why Germany should know best where unrestrained hatred of "the other" can lead.

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