Neo-Nazi stabbing shows western German ills
The stabbing of a German police chief on his doorstep in southern Germany, which prosecutors suspect is a revenge attack by neo-Nazis angry about a crackdown on their activities, has exposed the uncomfortable reality that western Germany has troubles of its own.
The attack has shocked Germany and rekindled a fierce debate about how to tackle neo-Nazis and whether to ban the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD).
But most of all, it exposes as a myth the belief many western Germans cling to — that the far-right is a problem confined mainly to former Communist eastern states where unemployment is high and young men are lured into the far-right scene due to a lack of any other prospects.
In fact, Bavaria has a long had close ties with the far right — starting with Hitler’s Munich “beer hall” putsch in 1923. Support for the NPD is strong in some areas and it was in Passau that a neo-Nazi tried to place a flag with a swastika on the coffin of a far-right activist at his funeral a few months ago.
The northern Bavarian town of Graefenberg has been waging its own campaign against neo-Nazis who hold regular marches through the town to protest against a local authority decision barring them from gathering at a German war memorial.
Many German politicians have been reluctant to acknowledge the scale of the problem posed by far-right sympathisers, despite warnings from the country’s top policeman and from the Office for the Protection of the Constitution — that neo-Nazis are becoming more violent.
What is more, attacks on foreigners occur every month and get much less attention in the German media than the weekend assault on the Passau policeman, an establishment figure.
If politicians fail to recognise the problem, Germany risks damaging its image abroad as memories linger of World War Two and the Holocaust.