WORLD

The fire this time

Nazis target Turks and other immigrants

ANDREW BILSKI December 7 1992
WORLD

The fire this time

Nazis target Turks and other immigrants

ANDREW BILSKI December 7 1992

The fire this time

GERMANY

Nazis target Turks and other immigrants

ANDREW BILSKI

JOHN HOLLAND

The memorial service drew up to 10,000 mourners to a small mosque in Hamburg. Outside, three coffins draped in Turkish flags rested on tables while a Moslem cleric read from the Koran. The coffins contained the bodies of a 51-year-old Turkish woman and two Turkish girls, aged 14 and 10, who died during a Nov. 23 firebomb attack by Nazi youths in nearby Mölln.

Nine other people were injured in the fire, including an 82-year-old woman and a 9-month-old baby. It was the deadliest of more than 1,800 racist or anti-Semitic incidents in Germany this year that have killed at least 16 people—and it sent shock waves through Germany’s 1.8-million member Turkish community. Turkish Ambassador Ornur Oeyman told the mourners:

WO R L D

“For 30 years the Turks have worked and lived in peace here in Germany.

We did not deserve such treatment.

We have contributed a lot to make this society prosper.”

Within days of the attack, the federal prosecutor’s office, which is conducting the Mölln investigation, announced the arrest of 25-year-old Michael Peters and eight teenage accomplices on suspicion of forming a Nazi gang with possible links to the firebombing. And the government banned the Nationalist Front, a small, ultra-right party which calls for the deportation of all foreigners. But those actions did not soothe the anger of Germany’s Turkish community, the country’s largest ethnic minority. In Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, home to most of the city’s 140,000 Turks, roving bands of Turkish youths

clashed with police after faffing to find -

racist skinheads on whom to avenge themselves. “We really will kill the next skinhead we see,” said 21-year-old Mehmet, wearing a balaclava pulled down over his head revealing only dark eyes flashing with menace. He refused to give his last name. Added a masked companion, who also demanded anonymity: “It’ll be an eye for an eye with these Nazi cowards, but we’ll cut off their balls, too.” Because Germany’s rightist violence has been largely directed at asylum seekers, refugees and Jews, the Mölln attack deeply shocked the country’s long-established Turkish community. “These are not people who arrived with just the clothes on their back and a knapsack, and are out in the streets begging,”

said Mölln Mayor Joachim Dörfler. “Some of these people have been here for 30 to 40 years and they have rights, too.” For most Turks, those rights do not include German citizenship or the ability to vote. But they do include equal protection under the law. Said Ertiken Ozean, a Turkish community leader in Berlin: “We real-

Kohl lashed out at reports that describe Germany as xenophobic. Apparently determined to avoid alienating right-wing voters, he diluted his defence of foreigners by saying that leftists threatened Germany’s democracy just as much as rightists.

Bonn’s chief of domestic counterintelligence, Eckhart Werthebach, challenged Kohl’s assertion. Werthebach said that there were far more extreme rightists in Germany—about 40,000 in a population of 79 million—than leftists. He added that he was concerned that skinheads in loosely organized gangs might join established ultra-right parties. Even more alarming, a recent opinion poll showed that German intolerance towards ethnic minorities is rising: 76 per cent of respondents said that there are too many foreigners in the country. In another eerie reminder of the Third Reich, fear is spreading among Germany’s five million handicapped people that they will be the next target of rightist violence. Some Germans in wheelchairs say that they have already been spat on by young thugs, beaten up and told: “Under Hitler you would have been gassed.” Indeed, concerned politicians have begun to sound warnings about attacks on the handicapped, who in the view of master-race ideologues are weaklings with no right to live. Declared Social Democrat Opposition Leader Björn Engholm: “Foreigners are the target today. Tomorrow it will be the disabled—this has already started—and the day after tomorrow, left-wing trade unionists and others who think differently.”

In that hate-filled climate, some German Turks are threatening to take up arms ^ to defend themselves. A 5 Turkish community counselpt lor in Hamburg who gave his I name only as Akmet, said that “■ he was stabbed 12 times by a A Turkish woman mourns the Mölln victims: intolerance knife-wielding skinhead 10 - years ago. Now, he says that

ly believed that we had somehow managed to integrate. Now we see that there are some people who will stop at nothing to drive all nonGermans out of Germany.”

As the attacks on foreigners continued, Chancellor Helmut Kohl tried to stop the rising wave of violence. He denounced the Mölln firebombing as “a disgrace,” and praised the contributions of Germany’s gastarbeiter, or guest workers. Kohl said that many foreigners had arrived in West Germany in the 1960s and 1970s at Bonn’s request to help rebuild the country’s economy, which was still suffering the aftermath of the Second World War. Official data show that there are about 2.6 million foreigners in the workforce of 27 million. But

he has stopped believing that Germans will ever accept him as anything but an auslander, or outsider. “But you know, we won’t give in or move away like the Jews are doing,” said Akmet, referring to a recent flurry of visa applications to Israel by Jews in Frankfurt. He added: “We aren’t the Jews of yesterday and surely not the Jews of tomorrow. If we have to strike back then there will not be a blade of grass growing anywhere.” Following the tragedy in Mölln, that nightmarish prospect of revenge killings sent a deep chill through all Germans.

ANDREW BILSKI with JOHN HOLLAND in Berlin