Critique Against Racist Campaign: German Immigrants Have Had Enough
After weeks of enduring a xenophobic onslaught from Roland Koch, the governor of Hesse, Germany's immigrants are fed up. The conservatives' rhetoric, an open letter says, is feeding prejudice and fomenting a social split.
It was bound to happen. After weeks of being portrayed by Hesse Governor Roland Koch as being little better than uncivilized savages, Germany's immigrants on Thursday struck back.
Koch has been running a xenophobic campaign for re-election in Hesse -- and Merkel has done little to stop him.
Koch began demanding that more action be taken against "criminal young foreigners" after a Dec. 20 attack, perpetrated by a 20-year-old Turkish man born in Germany and a young immigrant from Greece, on an elderly man in the Munich subway. But many of his comments have seemed to veer away from the problem of youth violence in Germany and taken on racist overtones.
He said "it must be clear that the slaughtering (of animals) in the kitchen … runs counter to our principles." He also said: "People who live in Germany must behave properly and refrain from using their fists. That's how one behaves in a civilized country."
Those with foreign backgrounds in Germany have felt under attack by the blast of rhetoric and accuse Koch in Thursday's letter of "tactical populism." The treatise also points out that many of those Koch has lumped together grew up in Germany. It is a fact emphasized by Mehmet Tanriverdi, president of BAGIV, a Germany-wide group representing immigrants.
"The current debate is rather artificial," Tanriverdi told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "It is merely a way for Koch to make headlines in his campaign. There is a problem with youth violence, that is true. But many of these youth being talked about are German citizens and were born and raised here. We can't just send our problems over the border to other countries."
Tanriverdi was one of a number of leaders from Germany's immigrant community who participated in Chancellor Merkel's "Integration Summit" last summer. The idea then was to come up with ways to improve the integration of those with foreign backgrounds in Germany. Now, says Tanriverdi, it seems like all that work was for naught.
"It is baffling that the CDU would invite us to such a summit and invest so much time into finding solutions to the problems that exist, only to then support the kind of campaign being waged by Mr. Koch," Tanriverdi said.
This campaign poster in Munich has upset many in the Bavarian capital.
In Munich, meanwhile, anger is exploding over a campaign poster on display showing images of the Dec. 20 subway attack. The poster, displayed in support of the Christian Social Union -- a sister party to the CDU that exists only in Bavaria -- reads "No clemency for violent criminals" across the top. In small print on a silhouette of the attack's victim, it reads "so that you won't be next." Munich Mayor Christian Ude, a Social Democrat, called the ad a "low point in democratic culture."
Stay informed with our free news services:
© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2008
All Rights Reserved
Reproduction only allowed with the permission of SPIEGELnet GmbH
MORE FROM SPIEGEL INTERNATIONAL
German PoliticsMerkel's Moves: Power Struggles in Berlin
World War IITruth and Reconciliation: Why the War Still Haunts Europe
EnergyGreen Power: The Future of Energy
European UnionUnited Europe: A Continental Project
Climate ChangeGlobal Warming: Curbing Carbon Before It's Too Late