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[FYI] German Official Pessimistic About Far-Right Violence
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- Subject: [FYI] German Official Pessimistic About Far-Right Violence
- From: Nathalie Merle <email@example.com>
- Date: Sun, 27 Aug 2000 03:02:59 -0700 (PDT)
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BERLIN, Aug. 25 -- Foreign Minister
Joschka Fischer is pessimistic about
the eradication of rightist extremism in the
east of Germany. It will take a "generation
and a half," he said, to overcome the
wounds of an area that reminds him of his
youth "in the twilight zone" between
democracy and authoritarian tradition.
In an interview, Mr. Fischer said the
anti-immigrant violence that has become the
chief focus of German political debate in the
last month is not confined to eastern
But the fact that the postwar decades saw
"no development of civil society" in the east
when it was under Communist rule left that
area more vulnerable to neo-Nazism, he
"I remember growing up in the 1950's and
we were in this twilight zone between
democracy and the Nazi heritage," said the
foreign minister, who is from western
Germany. "And now I go to to the east and
I feel I am back in my youth. Not only the
landscapes, but also the minds. And so
there is a potential for neo-Nazi ideas
among a small minority, but a very violent one."
A bomb in the western city of Düsseldorf that wounded nine immigrants,
six of them Jews, and a spate of anti-immigrant slurs or attacks in the
led Mr. Fischer to a much-noticed statement this month in which he
deplored German "passivity" in the face of xenophobia. "We need a
reaction," he reiterated in the interview.
Asked if he saw a danger of rightist terrorist groups emerging, a sort of
"Brown Army Faction" that would parallel the Red Army Faction of the
1970's, Mr. Fischer said such a possibility was being watched "very
The foreign minister, a leader of the Green Party and a man who has
made a long personal journey from anti-American protester in the 1970's
to staunch defender of Atlanticism today, said he was divided about the
idea of banning the rightist National Democratic Party, which has been
identified with violent extremists.
"I am split," the minister said. "I am a radical supporter of free speech.
But freedom of speech is one thing in America, and another here in
He explained that in the light of Germany's Nazi past, neo-Nazi
movements could not be viewed as they might be in another Western
country. Extra severity is needed, he said, as demonstrated by the fact
that the selling of Hitler's "Mein Kampf" is illegal here but not in the
Pressed about whether banning the National Democratic Party was
appropriate, Mr. Fischer said there was evidence that the youth
organization of the party provided "the organizational cells for many of
these violent acts."
He continued, "Yes, I am split, but if the facts are sufficient, then the
must be done."
Although the government can recommend a ban, any decision would
ultimately be made by the Constitutional Court. Many analysts say
barring the party would merely force its supporters into other rightist
Claus Leggewie, a political scientist close to the Greens, said: "A ban is
not good policy. It is ridiculous and would be counterproductive. What is
needed are vigils, demonstrations, by hundreds of thousands of people,
like those we had when the first anti-immigrant attacks occurred in the
But since then, Germany seems to have grown used to the occasional
racist violence that unification has brought. Overcoming the problem will
take time, Mr. Fischer said. "How long did it take to close the wounds of
the Civil War in America?" he asked. "Here we certainly need one and a
The minister said he was appalled that some of the people calling
themselves German nationalists could identify with the Nazi movement.
"Every German patriot must hate Hitler," he said. "He destroyed our
country, destroyed our culture. Here in Berlin you feel it. He destroyed
the Jewish culture that had been very important for our identity and
history. He destroyed the German minorities in Eastern Europe."
Mr. Fischer's own family was among those German minorities -- the
millions of ethnic Germans in Eastern Europe driven from their homes
after World War II. His family fled in 1946 from near Budapest, where
they had lived for two centuries.
Ultimately, Mr. Fischer suggested, Europe's wounds would be healed by
the unification of the continent. Comparing Europe's of the United States,
he said, "We are passing the phase of the
Confederation and entering the period of the constitutional process and
He added: "Either Europe will have a weak central body and a
confederation of independent states, and that will not work. Or we will
move ahead to a real European constitution and a new European central
Asked what would be governed by the individual nations of the European
Union and what by the central body -- in effect, a European government
-- Mr. Fischer declined to give details, but said, "Very important parts of
sovereign decisions should be transferred to the central body."
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