The bus to Clausnitz drives between rapeseed fields, past trout ponds and over asphalt covered with pollen from the surrounding spruce trees. On the trip from Dresden, the bus reaches a straight, ascending road leading to a hilltop, after which the road descends steeply. Those driving the road could be forgiven for thinking the world ends after this knoll.
Clausnitz lies in the valley below; the fragrant smell of apple blossoms hangs in the air.
On February 18, a bus carrying 20 refugees followed this route to Clausnitz. The passengers were to move into apartments in three different buildings in town.
When the bus rolled in, Michael Funke, the mayor of Clausnitz, was sitting down for an evening meal. Later that evening, he learned that residents of Clausnitz had gathered and unfurled sheets daubed with slogans. One read: "Resistance".
Thomas Hetze, the hostel director, was waiting in his office in one of the three buildings for the refugees to finally arrive. At the time, hardly anyone was interested in the fact that he is a member of the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD), a party with an anti-refugee message that has been gaining ground recently in polls and elections. Later, he would hear local residents shout, "We are the people!" a term used in protests against the East German regime in the run-up to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
In the village below, Ronny was just opening a bottle of Radeberger beer when a text message arrived on his mobile phone. "It's starting." Oh my god, Ronny thought to himself before driving up the hill to the upper village. Later, he watched as a police officer pulled a refugee out of the bus using a chokehold.
That evening, a woman in a blue compact blocked the bus just a few meters from the accommodations. A few Clausnitz residents unfurled a sheet on a tractor with the words "Our Country, Our Religion, Home, Freedom, Tradition" scrawled across it. The police report stated that 100 Germans stood around the bus and the refugees refused to get off. Someone filmed the ordeal, and the video wound up on the Internet, ensuring notoriety for Clausnitz. The video became symbolic of what some people in Germany think of the refugees and how they treat them.
But memories also remain of the word Reisegenuss, or "pleasant journey" on the digital sign in the windshield of the bus in which these passengers were traveling -- passengers whose fear could be seen on their faces. The bus company was called Reisegenuss -- but the image became emblematic of cynicism.
Memories likewise remain of the moment in which a German police officer grabbed a young refugee by the neck and forced him to leave the bus.
And memories remain of just how loud and aggressive the men were as they shouted, "We are the people!"
A Month in Clausnitz
Was it hatred? Is Clausnitz a Nazi village? Is the situation more complex than that? And if yes, how? What kind of people live in this part of Germany, in the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) region of the eastern state of Saxony? How do they see things? What drove them to block a bus carrying refugees?
On the search for answers to such questins, I spent a month living in Clausnitz. I rented a guest room on a farm for eight euros a night.
One of the first village residents to speak with me was a refugee. Sitting on a bench in front of his home, he told me his story. He comes from a place full of forests and lakes, he said. Before the war, his father had worked at a paper factory, but he then went to the front and died there.
His mother fled with her son - making parts of the journey on foot and others in a horsecart. His mother carefully preserved a paper cornet as they fled that she had filled with a mixture of oatmeal and chocolate. She gave her son three spoonfuls of it each day.
His mother had no money to give to smugglers to ensure they would be taken to safety, so she gave them her wedding ring.
When the boy grew weak, she said to him: "We have to make it to Clausnitz."
Today, that boy is 76 years old. He hasn't set eyes on his home village of Hammermühle in Pomerania (in today's Poland) since he fled 70 years ago. Hans-Peter Neitzke is a tall, upright man with a fisherman's cap and blue overalls. He rented me my room.
When people learned one year ago that Syrian refugees would be coming to a village next to Clausnitz, his phone rang and a man told him he was collecting signatures against the refugees, Nietzke explains. "But I'm a refugee myself," he told the man.
Clausnitz is home to 844 residents. That means that around 750 of those residents were not standing in front of that bus on Feb. 18. Hans-Peter Neitzke was among those who stayed home. He first learned about the incident on the television and he was ashamed when he saw the images. He says that after World War II, at least half the residents of Clausnitz were refugees, Germans who had been forced to flee regions lost in the war, including Silesia, Pomerania, East Prussia and Sudetenland. There were also people from Dresden whose homes had burned to the ground.
It's a day in mid-May and Mr. Neitzke is wearing a nicer shirt than normal - light blue and freshly ironed. He wants to take his wife to a tea dance. He's fond of dancing the quick step. Before going dancing, he stops by a local event taking place behind the Clausnitz village history museum. A special party has been organized to give locals a chance to meet and learn more about refugees. The event takes place in the middle of the village on the grounds of the local primary school.
The village itself looks like so many other typical German hamlets. The hedges are precisely trimmed, the sidewalks are clean, the streets are lined with half-timbered buildings and the tulips are in bloom. The village used to be home to a copper mine and the street names recall that past. Clausnitz is still home to a butcher and a bakery. Women push around strollers at the meet-and-greet and there's one man missing a leg. The organizers are also there.
Three sausages are burning on the barbeque and a woman gives a speech in front of a large tent. There are a few children playing in a nearby playground but no one is sitting inside and listening except for me.
A little while later, a few more adults arrive; in the end, 45 bratwursts are sold. But the turnout was small. That doesn't necessarily mean that the villagers are xenophobic. But one could say that the foreigners aren't very important to them. Or that they really weren't interested in celebrating their encounters with the refugees in the form of a party. Or that they had something better to do. Neitzke himself only stays a short time at the party -- he wants to continue on as fast as possible to his quick step.
On the playground, a man is standing next to his son, looking at a seven dwarves puzzle. The blacksmith has an eyetooth of gold and a back built like an ox. His name is Thomas Hetze and he asks if we can find somewhere quieter to talk.
Hetze, 48, was one of the most sought-after man in the country for a few days this spring. That's when news emerged that he was the head of a hostel for asylum seekers, and also a member of AfD.
'We're Not Staying Here in the Jungle'
Hetze lives in a village near Clausnitz and his home is surrounded by forest on three sides. There's a small apple tree at the entrance and his wife is mowing the lawn next to it. Hetze has invited me over for a BBQ. He tries to maintain his joie de vivre, but it's been difficult for him to do since Feb. 18. He says he sometimes wakes up at night with the feeling he is trapped in a locked box. He has bloody pustules on his forearms and although his doctor hasn't yet determined the cause, Hetze thinks they are from stress.
After the bus arrived, almost every single German media organization reported on Clausnitz and on Thomas Hetze. Many considered him to be the man responsible for the melee. It was indeed spectacular that a person who was a member of the right-wing populist AfD, with its anti-refugee message, could also be the director of an asylum-seeker hostel. Then, of course, there's the name, Hetze, which is close to the German word for agitator. His brother told one television news organization that Hetze had organized the blocking of the bus, although it would later emerge it had been a misunderstanding. His other brother builds containers for refugee accommodations. The impression was created in the media that Thomas Hetze had been responsible for blocking access to the home that he ran.
After placing the BBQ in the right spot, Hetze gives me a tour of his home. It looks like a museum dedicated to Hetze's travels. There are bottle gourds from Papua-New Guinea and Tibetan prayer flags hang on the wall, as does a golden sword from India. Hetze relates how he cycled along the Cote d'Azur after the fall of the Berlin Wall and how he stole the juiciest peaches of his life. He has traveled down the Nile River in a rubber dinghy, slept in a cloister in Nepal and fallen in love in California with a woman from Paris. He and Sandrine remained together for a few years. He tells of how he ate grilled Nectomys (water rats) in the Amazon and how an indigenous South American showed him how to use a blow tube to snort the crushed inner fiber of a tree in the jungle in order to get high.
He's the kind of guy you could go on listening to for a few days, but there is an enormous elephant in the room. How could someone as apparently cosmopolitan as Hetze be affiliated with Alternative for Germany?
"As an individual, you have no chance whatsoever," begins Hetze. He says he took a look at all of Germany's political parties. He sat on the local council successively as a representative of the conservative Christian Democrats, then as a member of the small Freie Wähler party and then as part of the business-friendly Free Democrats.
Last year, he drove to the AfD office in Freiberg, about 30 minutes away. He liked what he heard - the critique of the United States, the criticism of the TTIP trans-Atlantic free trade agreement, the critique of open borders immigration and pretty much everything about party leader Frauke Petry.
'Experience with Other Cultures'
Few likely would have cared about all that if Hetze hadn't come up with the idea of applying for a job which entailed assisting refugees. At the time, he thought to himself, "I could apply my experience with other cultures."
He began working last December as a trainee director at a hostel for refugees in Freiberg. Hetze says he doesn't feel like the work he does stands in contradition with his activities on behalf of the AfD.
"I have nothing against immigration," says Hetze. "I can understand that they come. If things were going bad for me financially or there was little to eat, then I would also take off. I feel that anyone coming from a war zone who needs help should also get it."
He began his job as hostel director in Clausnitz two days before the refugees arrived. He helped furnish their apartments.
As the bus pulled up, he knew some of the people who were standing in front of it, but he says he had never seen many of them before. He boarded the bus and listened as one of the Arab women said something that the interpreter translated as: "We're not staying here in the jungle."
By late that evening, all the refugees had entered the home. One woman had a nervous breakdown and kept punching her own leg. Most of the others were tired and hungry. Hetze grabbed some cornflakes from his office and handed them out. Then, at 10 p.m., he called the manager of a supermarket in the next village and asked him to open the store for him. He had someone pick up some bread and cheese.
Hetze lost his job three days later. "For his own safety," his employer told him, he would be given another post. He was moved into the construction and garden maintenance department.
"Oh well," Hetze says.
He drinks a few glasses of beer and eats several pieces of pork with the help of a pocket knife. He says he once even used the knife to fix his car while he was on his way to a missionary in Kenya, but that's a different story.
'Crime Against the German Nation'
Sitting on Hetze's terrace, grilling steaks and listening to the way he talks about the refugee's plight, one could be forgiven for thinking: Wow, this is a pretty good guy - he's not a xenophobe, he's a good German.
But the results of a Google search of Hetze's name also include a speech that he gave in Freiberg a few months before the incident with the refugee bus. In it, he speaks of an American master plan to weaken Europe. "It will result in the invasion of hundreds of thousands of economic refugees, is fully incomprehensible and represents, in my eyes, a crime against the German nation." Hetze is a man full of contradictions. He's a member of the AfD, but also nice. He wants to be the director of an asylum-seekers' hostel, but he also explains how he helped prevent the opening of a similar facility in a village near Clausnitz.
Hetze explains how an attempt was made to turn a small hotel with 53 beds into an asylum-seekers' hostel with 88 beds. He felt that wasn't right.
So he'd rather not have the refugees?
"The refugees would have gotten cabin fever there," he says.
By this point in our conversation, I started getting the feeling that the ground was shifting beneath my feet. It's a feeling I got while chatting with him at the BBQ and while talking to other people in Clausnitz, too. Things that you start to think are certain can crumble at any time.
But does that mean that the people of Clausnitz hate foreigners? Nowhere else in Germany have I experienced the kind of readiness to help others that I have seen here. When I came down with a cold, a woman living with us said, "I have a chicken in the freezer." An hour and a half later she brought me a pot of steaming soup. At the end of the trip, my host's wife gave me the floral DDR-era drapes I had liked so much. One time, when my host's daughter came for a visit, another family offered to let me stay for free at their house, gave me a key and placed a basket full of bread rolls at the breakfast table each morning.
But in Clausnitz, there's also a restaurant called Raststübel, although it's more of a snack stand. They serve things like meatballs with gravy and goulash for €3.60. A scythe hangs on the wall as decoration.
The first time I enter the restaurant, around 15 men turn to stare at me. The conversation in the room evaporates.
I keep going back, sitting down at a table for lunch and ordering meatballs. Sometimes I spend up to three hours there in a corner. Nobody talks to me. One day, the pensioners sit together at a long table, side-by-side, and stare at me.
At a party, a man whispers to me: "We know where you live." Another shouts "Get lost!" into my face.
A Mayor in Tears
Michael Funke, the local mayor, is a lean man and you can see that he's been very athletic throughout his life. Less obvious is his passion for the heavy metal band Iron Maiden.
When one Clausnitz man threatens to punch me late one night because I "only talk nonsense," Funke rests an arm on my shoulder and says: "Come on man, let's drink a beer at my place."
Funke was there when the bus arrived and he helped the refugees carry their luggage into the hostel. He also tried to send home the Germans who had gathered. Funke says that Clausnitz residents didn't come that night in order to frighten the refugees. He says they were curious and also that they wanted to protest against Chancellor Angela Merkel's immigration policies.
Funke has spoken with so many journalists about that evening that when he talks about it, he sounds like he's on auto-pilot. The topic annoys him. He wants people to report on how there are lots of long cross-country skiing trails here. "It would be nice if you could do a little promotion for us," he says.
So, here goes a few lines of advertisement. Clausnitz has long cross-country skiing trails, wonderful hiking trails, a very good local history museum, a gas station, a florist, a former mine (that can only be visited on special holiday occasions) and a supermarket.
There's a football club and one for lace-making, a group that meets to play the accordion and also a hiking group.
During the last federal parliamentary elections, 276 Clausnitz residents voted for Merkel's CDU party, 53 for the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), 44 for the far-left Left Party, 30 for AfD, 27 for the FPD, 23 for the neo-Nazi NPD, nine for the Pirates, 7 for the Freie Wähler and six for the Green Party.
The boy who was pulled forcibly from the bus in February can often be spotted coming in and out of Funke's house -- because he's apparently fallen in love with the mayor's daughter. Funke's wife Ina helps organize donations of clothing for the refugees.
A Cat Named 'Hitler'
Funke, it seems clear, is a good man. Then he talks about a night in spring, shortly before the bus incident, when he organized a meeting with about half the village's residents in a gymnasium because he wanted to inform locals about who was coming.
Funke read every word from four pages of notes. He read: "You can generally assume that refugees aren't carrying any dangerous diseases, but you can never be 100 percent certain."
He no-doubt meant well, but it was a sentence that introduced the kind of tone that xenophobes love to latch on to.
One Clausnitz resident, who is rumored to have a cat named "Hitler," allegedly said: "They shit on our sidewalks." Others yelled that they don't want the "Kanaken," a derogatory German word that refers to foreigners.
Funke relates all of this in a matter-of-fact tone -- but then, from one second to the next, this large, proud man starts crying. It immediately becomes clear the burden he is forced to carry as mayor of this town.
"We are the people," he says. "They are abusing this slogan. How stupid can they be?"
He relates how, after that evening in the gymnasium, his 14-year-old daughter Lisa came to him and cried in his arms. "I never would have thought that people can be so full of hate," she said. Her father Michael Funke simply answered: "That's life."
His oldest daughter was just finishing her high school graduation exams and was planning to head for the US in the summer to work as an au pair. Hardly any of the town's young and educated stay in the region. The biggest employer in Clausnitz is an agricultural collective and there are also a couple of carpenters. Those who can, leave. Some go to Dresden but many more go further afield. In 1980, 5.2 million people lived in the state of Saxony, but today the state's population has fallen to 4 million. One forecast claims that only 2.6 million will be left by 2050. Mostly, it is the elderly and those without an education who stay behind, mostly male.
It was almost only men standing in front of the bus: The mayor, the hostel director and most of those seeking to block the bus were males. At times, the mood was a bit reminiscent of a young men's shared apartment where beer is drunk every evening.
There is little new in Clausnitz to offer these men and they can't get out. There is just one football team, one carnival club, one grocery store and only one Maypole is put up every year. There are a couple of auto-repair shops where people meet up to drink, but the beer tastes the same everywhere. Those who live in Clausnitz don't have a choice. You can't climb up to a nearby hilltop to discover a new reality. If someone from Clausnitz climbs up to a hilltop, all they can see from the top is Clausnitz.
People here frequently talk about "over there," and they mean Western Germany. The fall of the Wall is often a topic of conversation and village residents speak of the feeling of being abandoned by the state once before. Those who haven't come to grips with reunification, with democracy, capitalism and globalization, have withdrawn into the nationalist nest.
Clausnitz can be a dark place, with streetlights turning off at 11 p.m. The birds go silent. The night in Clausnitz is a vast void.
After two weeks in the village, my phone rings. "Hello," says a man. "If you have the balls to write the truth, then I'll meet with you." In two days at the war memorial. He says he was there when the bus arrived in Clausnitz and that he stood in front of it.
Two days later: The memorial is constructed with a number of square stones. An inscription on one of them reads: "An admonition to the living." After a few moments, a small man walks around the corner and gives me a firm handshake. He is wearing well-oiled hiking boots and has an open face with blue eyes.
We hike up the hill until we reach an opening at the edge of the forest. The man walks over to a tree and digs around among its roots. "Only gypsies don't have any stockpiles," he says, as he pulls two bottles of beer out of a hole.
We sit on a bench and he opens the bottles with the edge of his steel lighter. He asks me not to use his real name because he is afraid he might lose business or that "ticks," as he says, might leave his company when they read what he thinks about people who don't come from Germany.
He has a name that one often hears in Saxony. We'll call him Ronny. "This is our home," he says. "We have lived here for generations. We want to keep living here the way we always have."
He'll go on talking for seven hours, will drink a lot of beer and will address myriad issues: the blocking of the bus, the dangers presented by Islam, the lessons taught by right-wing populist author Thilo Sarrazin, the local bird population, Angela Merkel and the communist youth organization FDJ, the dangers presented by organized car thieves, Arabs and gypsies.
Ronny says that he worked for a few years in the West together with Turks, Russians, Italians and Bavarians, adding that they made a great team. He also says that an Albanian from Kosovo lived in his apartment building, a Muslim with whom he once sat around a fire drinking wine. Ronny has also traveled: to Norway, Slovenia and Romania. He says: "The further south you go, the worse it gets. The further north you go, they get more orderly. They have to work their asses off in summer, otherwise they don't have anything to eat in the winter or anything to keep them warm. They don't have that in the south, it's always warm there. Nordic people have to work hard the entire summer. In the Erzgebirge, the people were always orderly and had a lot to do."
Ronny takes a gulp of beer and keeps talking. "Telling people from down there that the day starts at 7 a.m., they just don't get it. Their women work and the men sit around in their shacks with their shisha."
Ronny says he's not a right-wing extremist. The neo-Nazi NPD party makes him barf, he says, with their campaign posters that say "Give Gas!" He says the following about immigrants: "If they behave themselves and work here, nobody has a problem."
He also says: "Our society has developed over centuries. Islam, with all of its dangerous potential, doesn't fit. We don't want it, we don't need it."
"If you look at the Ten Commandments, you shouldn't steal, you shouldn't commit murder, you shouldn't commit adultery -- those are all values that have become rooted in our society. It's different in Islam. They want to have their Sharia, they can oppress their women. There is only Allah and everything else is bunk. When a Muslim meets a Christian, he beats him on the head until he falls on his face. We don't need that and we don't want that. And people in the Erzgebirge are the kind who defend themselves."
As he talks, he swings his feet under the bench. Ronny has talked himself into a rage. He's been sitting there, his jacket open, for an hour.
Ronny lives together with his wife and children in a house on the hillside, a half-timbered home that he renovated himself. His family has been living there for six generations, he says. A swing sways in the wind at the entrance and a beehive stands in the yard. We sit down next to a tiled stove in a room inside and the head of a dead stag hangs on the wall above Ronny's head. He sets more beer out on the table.
"Those who are coming to us are just young men, brutal, extremely criminal," he says. He has a good memory for crimes that have been committed by foreigners and talks of Iraqis who allegedly raped a girl in Chemnitz and of an asylum-seeker who raided a discount supermarket in Freiberg armed with a machete. A quick check reveals that the crimes actually did take place.
This year, the Saxony Interior Ministry released statistics on the number of crimes perpetrated by refugees. According to the data, 6.7 percent of the migrants committed offenses while 93.3 percent did not. There are astounding facts to be gleaned from the database, such as the fact that 81.9 percent of Algerians in Saxony broke the law while only 1.4 percent of Syrians did.
When the interior minister of Saxony presented the numbers, he warned against putting all refugees under "blanket suspicion." He said: "A disproportionately high number of men between the ages of 20 and 30 are coming. An above average number of crimes around the world are committed by members of this age group."
Ronny has started talking faster. One can see that the issue of crime is important to him. "We don't want them to shove their way in with their faith and their way of life. We have a different way of life. Our way of life includes: punctuality, work, honesty, diligence, everything else, the way people treat each other, trust. Up until a few years ago, we didn't lock our car. Where can you still do that? Things have changed so much in the last few years that you simply can't do that anymore."
Because of foreigners?
"For the most part. We also have Hartzer in the village and have enough problems with them." The word "Hartzer" refers to unemployed people who receive long-term welfare payments from the so-called "Hartz IV" program.
'They Come in Packs'
Aside from refugees, there are hardly any foreigners at all in Clausnitz. There is one woman there who grew up as part of the German-speaking minority in Romania and there are a couple of ethnic Germans from Russia as well. There had never been Muslims in the town until now.
Ronny says: "You come alone and they come in packs. Many people have told me that. That's why I'm happy that I live here. In Freiberg, it happens that you as a German have to cross the street because 10 of them are coming toward you. Particularly as a woman. We don't want that here in the village."
"If something was to happen here in the village," says Ronny, "something big like in Chemnitz where they sexually harassed that girl. If that happened in Clausnitz, I don't want to know what would happen. Blood would likely be shed."
His brow twitches as he speaks, repeatedly pushing forward as though there is a huge amount of energy inside that has to get out.
"If one of them was to rape the child of someone in Clausnitz and the child was harmed, it could get bad."
He pauses for a moment and then takes his right hand off the table and slides it down his right leg. When he pulls it up again, he is holding a knife in his hand. Its steel blade is sharpened on both sides and it's perhaps 20 centimeters long. "I forged it myself, I made everything myself. That's a blade from the American times when they were still hunting buffalo," Ronny says.
He stands up. "Come on, let's go have a cigarette." I follow him into a room where his father is putting wood in the stove and Ronny begins talking about the night the bus arrived. "Organized protest? Total nonsense. We had a customer who received a text message saying that the police had arrived. Whoa, let's go. We had just opened an evening beer and we said, come on, let's drive up there and see what's going on. We had the straps already prepared, they were in a corner somewhere. They were people from Clausnitz, totally normal people who were there out of curiosity. What came wasn't bad, something we could certainly live with from a security point of view. The bus was completely surrounded by police. People from other villages also came and they had also brought beer. They yelled "get lost" and "you Kanaken," something like that. But nothing brutal. There weren't any Hitler salutes or anything like that."
'Kanaken' and 'Animals'
So why did he yell?
"The situation changed only when they started violently pulling the people out of the bus."
"I don't know if you can totally understand the situation. The cheated, curious villagers were standing around the bus and they could see from the very beginning that the people in the bus didn't want to get out. And then a few do-gooders started pulling the people off the bus."
I ask several times why he started yelling and if I have correctly understood his explanation, he is saying it was because volunteer helpers from the church congregation and an interpreter started pulling the refugees out of the bus.
Evening falls and we drive to a restaurant where Ronny eats a Wurstsalat (German sausage salad) and drinks more beer. At some point, he stops talking about "guests" and "foreigners" and starts referring to them as "Kanaken" and "animals."
Before he heads home, he shows me a couple of cable ties -- of the kind used to tie people up -- that he has hidden in his car. Ronny says: "I always have them with me. What if I have to head out one night and there they are standing in front of my company?"
He takes a shortcut through the forest. Once in Clausnitz, he turns onto Cämmerswalder street and brakes in front of the houses where the refugees live. He looks at the dark windows and says, "everything's okay." None of the refugees can be seen.
When hostel director Thomas Hetze was standing at the barbecue, he had a friend with him, a lawyer, who lives in a neighboring village. He said: "This is a depopulated area and there is a lot of stupidity, and stupidity breeds fear."
But in Clausnitz, it wasn't just fear on view when the bus came. There was something darker on display. The people didn't just stand there, they yelled. And their shouting was full of hate.
They Like Sausage
Before I leave, I meet with Ronny once again. He chats, gives me some beer and, as we are saying goodbye, says: "Do you like to ski? If the opportunity arises, we could go cross country skiing together."
So what have I learned from spending a month in the Erzgebirge? There isn't a Nazi village. There isn't one Clausnitz resident who is representative of all the others. The only thing that all those I met have in common is that they like sausage.
As a reporter who grew up in a Western German city, it is tempting to think that xenophobia is an Eastern German problem. Indeed, the government's most recent report on the state of German unity (a report compiled every year to look, at how Western and Eastern Germany are coming together) found that there are four times as many right-wing extremist acts of violence in the East as in the West on a per capita basis. One eighth of all xenophobic crimes in Germany are committed in Saxony.
There are a number of reasons for that, none of which mean much on their own, but taken together they may provide some clues. In Saxony, there are a lot of rural poor and they aren't impressed with the fact that refugees get €143 in spending money each month. Most people in the state aren't religious. To be sure, very few people in the West are religious either, but people in Western Germany at least have an idea about the effects religion has on a society. Someone who doesn't understand religion is likely to be afraid of a Muslim who prays five times a day. In rural Saxony, there are hardly any foreigners, and people tend to be afraid of things they aren't familiar with.
Clausnitz is a part of Germany that is disappearing. Agriculture is important here and the Internet is slow; many families have known each other for generations; people like to drink beer and to eat Jagdwurst. Clausnitz is not a typically German place. Rather, it is typical for what Germany used to be, quite a long time ago. And the people who live here realize that.
The refugees unintentionally plunged Clausnitz into a crisis, dividing the town into two camps. The one half wants to help the refugees and the other half wants to be rid of them. In that regard, Clausnitz is extremely representative of the Germany of today.
Michael Funke, the mayor, says that many of the town's residents came to him after that night of the bus incident. "That's not what we wanted," they said, according to the mayor. "What should we do?"
"Apologize," Funke said. "To your neighbors and to the refugees."
So far, nobody has done so.
On the day of my departure, nine apartments in Clausnitz housed people who arrived on that bus. Their windows look out onto a potato field. In Clausnitz, for example, live three sisters from Syria whose houses back home lie in ashes. There is a married couple and their two sons from Lebanon. Majdi, the father, is a small man who is severely disabled. His son Luai is the boy that a German policeman pulled off the bus with a chokehold. Luai now plays football for SV Clausnitz.
A young couple from Kandahar in Afghanistan also lives in Clausnitz. They aren't married, but Sadia is six-months pregnant. Back home, the two might face death by stoning from the Taliban. The couple just recently received word that they are going to be deported. If everything goes according to the plan laid out by the immigration authorities, another bus will soon roll into Clausnitz. To pick up the couple and take them away.
The article you are reading originally appeared in German in issue 39/2016 (September 17th, 2016) of DER SPIEGEL.
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