Images of mobs chasing immigrants through the streets of Chemnitz, of neo-Nazis making the Hitler salute, chanting “Foreigners out” and hurling bottles and fireworks have gone around the world.
Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the violence. Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, heavily criticized for taking two days to comment, finally made a statement, saying he could understand the hurt felt by the people of Chemnitz following the fatal stabbing that triggered the violence.
“But I want to say quite clearly that this in no circumstances justifies the call to violence or rioting. There must be no room for that in our country,” he said.
The chaos followed the stabbing of a 35-year-old German-Cuban man on Saturday night. A Syrian and an Iraqi have been arrested on charges of manslaughter in the killing, which prompted hundreds of far-right demonstrators to gather in the city on Sunday and assault people who looked like immigrants in an outpouring of hatred that shocked the nation.
Not enough police
On Monday evening, some 20 people were injured in even bigger protests that drew in neo-Nazis from across the country. The police were criticized for failing to contain the unrest and Justice Minister Katarina Barley said authorities must prevent the emergence of no-go areas.
“People who threaten, attack and foment hatred of minorities must be held to account,” she said. “Chase scenes and vigilante justice must never happen again in Germany.”
Economists warned that the increasing aggression against migrants was bad for business. “Events like in Chemnitz will exacerbate the economic and social polarization in Germany,” the head of the DIW economic research institute, Marcel Fratzscher, told Handelsblatt. “Not just foreigners but a big majority of Germans don’t want to live in cities and regions where people take justice into their own hands and where there’s xenophobia.”
He said it was high time that authorities in the regions affected took a clear stance for immigration, tolerance and diversity. “That’s the only way to break the vicious circle in which weak regions in eastern Germany in particular are being thrown back ever further — economically, socially and also politically.”
The deputy head of the Leibniz Institute for Economic Research in Halle, Oliver Holtemöller, said Chemnitz risked taking an economic hit because of the rioting. “Public order is an important factor for economic prosperity,” he said. Known as Karl-Marx-Stadt in East Germany, Chemnitz is the third-biggest town in the eastern state of Saxony after Leipzig and Dresden and home to some 3,000 companies including a VW plant with 1,650 employees,
The federal government’s commissioner for eastern Germany, Christian Hirte, warned against vilifying an entire state. “The state of Saxony and all who work for law, order and openness there deserve our support and not our lecturing,” he said.
Mr. Seehofer, the interior minister, has offered the Saxon authorities support from the federal police.
The state’s governor, Michael Kretschmer, said his authorities can handle the situation. They will likely be put to the test again soon. Police are bracing for more violence in Chemnitz.