German state governor Roland Koch, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, has won praise from the far-right National Democratic Party for his campaign against "criminal young foreigners" and his calls for immigrants to embrace German values.
The NPD, which states that an "African, Asian or Oriental" can never become German, said Koch's comments provided "impetus to at last take political action in response to the frighteningly high proportion of foreign and foreign-born violent criminals."
"Germany must remain the land of the Germans, so that our children don't suffer the same fate as the (American) Indians who were unable to stop the immigrants and now live on reservations," Peter Marx, general secretary of the NPD, said in a statement.
The anti-immigrant NPD is a legitimate political party and receives public funding even though many of its views are derived from Nazi ideology. Germany's domestic intelligence agency describes it as "racist, anti-Semitic, revisionist," and there have been periodic calls to ban the party. An effort by the government and parliament to outlaw the NPD failed in 2003 due to a legal bungle.
Koch, fighting to win a third term as governor of the western state of Hesse in an election on January 27, has focused on immigration and youth crime to revive his campaign after opinion polls showed he was at risk of losing power.
Seizing on the brutal attack by two youths, a Turk and a Greek, on a German pensioner two weeks ago, Koch called for tougher laws on youth crime. He said Germany had "too many criminal young foreigners" and that immigrants must abide by the rules enshrined in the country's Christian culture.
Kitchen Hygiene Guidelines for Immigrants
He followed up his call for tougher youth sentencing with a six-point list of values this week which included respect towards the elderly, punctuality, hard work, politeness and the following guideline for immigrants:
"In residential estates with a high proportion of immigrants there must be clear rules and of course consequences if they are not respected," wrote Koch. "German must be the language in everyday life and it must be clear that the slaughtering (of animals) in the kitchen or unusual ideas about waste disposal run counter to our principles."
Koch's rules were published on Thursday in mass circulation daily Bild Zeitung, which has vigorously supported his statements with front page headlines and editorials over the last week. The rival center-left Social Democrat Party accused Koch of blatant populism, and immigrant groups said he was stirring up hostility against foreigners for political gain.
Bernd Schlüter, a spokesman for Germany's Protestant Church, said: "This is an indecent catalogue of rules for campaign purposes which can do a lot of damage to our society."
He said the references to slaughtering animals in the kitchen and unusual rubbish disposal were "hair-raising examples" to cite. In an interview with Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper, Schlüter also criticized Koch for claiming to be the spokesman of a silent majority of Germans.
Crime By Foreigners Declining
Koch's calls for tough action on youth crime won applause from fellow Christian Democrats and spawned proposals ranging from setting up boot camps to deporting foreign criminals. Chancellor Angela Merkel backed Koch in a newspaper interview due to be published on Sunday, telling Bild am Sonntag newspaper that boot camps and brief "warning shot" jail sentences for young offenders could help curb youth crime.
She dismissed as "absurd" criticism from rival parties that Koch was abusing the issue for his election campaign. "It's natural for such an issue that affects people to be discussed in the campaign," she said. "We can't have people avoiding the subway at night because they're afraid of being attacked."
She pointed out that 43 percent of all crimes in Germany are committed by people under 21, of which almost half are foreign. Yet the debate is at odds with official figures which show that overall crime committed by foreigners in Germany has actually been falling.
According to the 2006 crime statistics compiled by Germany's BKA federal police force, crime committed by non-Germans stood at 22.0 percent in 2006, down from 33.6 percent in 1993, though it still outweighs their share of the general population.
Some 15 million people with an immigrant background live in Germany, about 18 percent of the population. They include 3.2 million Muslims, the majority of whom are of Turkish origin.
"Evidently there are double standards in the debate about crime," DITIB, an umbrella group representing Turks and Muslims in Germany, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "While the brutality of a Greek and a Turkish youth provokes a populist and exaggerated reaction, assaults by far-right Nazis barely elicit any sympathy from these politicians.
"If this results in political gains in the upcoming elections, Germany will face a very worrying future."