St. Kilian’s Church in Heilbronn, Germany. The scene of a racist crime that dares not speak its name…at least, not if you’re talking to the major media, the police, or the state prosecutor’s office:
Let’s imagine that a refugee stabs several passersby without warning and injures one of them badly. The word “Terror” would probably be prominent in the news the next day. Now let’s imagine that the victims are refugees, and the culprit a Russian-German. How would the reactions fall? On Saturday, that very thing happened. The scandal stayed within bounds. For many newspapers, the attack was only worth a passing mention. The culprit was supposedly under the influence of alcohol, they said, almost apologetically. That the motive could have been racism was only mentioned after two days.
What happened? On Saturday night, a 70-year-old man stabbed three young refugees without provocation as they stood in front of St. Kilian’s Church in central Heilbronn. A 17-year-old Afghan was badly injured in the attack. His two friends, from Iraq and Syria, sustained minor injuries. The state prosecutor’s office called it grievous bodily harm, but not attempted murder. The culprit was let go. He was supposedly not a flight risk nor likely to reoffend.
Stefan Reiner, of the Left Party and the Anti-Rightist Network of Heilbronn, on the other hand, characterized the attack as “an incomparable crime”. The 26-year-old sharply criticized the police: After the attack, they changed vital information about the victims and the assailant. They stated that the 70-year-old man was a “Russian”, even though he is a German national as well. The Heilbronn police were even criticized by the police union for this.
And the motive? The racist background to the attack was at first completely concealed. Only on Monday did the state prosecutor and the police explain that the assailant “wanted to send a message against the current refugee policy”. A “message against the current refugee policy”? For Reiner, the activist, this choice of words is a “cheapening and relativizing of the crime”.
In Heilbronn, the city and the police have been trying for years to play the right-wing problem down. Several times, they claimed that there was no organized right-wing scene in the city, just a few isolated right-populists. Welcome to the city where the [neo-Nazi] NSU, in 2007, murdered policewoman Michèle Kiesewetter. According to Reiner, the officials are closing their eyes “in order not to throw a bad light on the city”. Even the NSU investigation report said that the police had done “a catastrophic job” in the fight against the right.
Racist voices have a long tradition in Heilbronn. In the 1990s, an active far-right scene established itself there. For the German Nationalist Party (NPD) and its youth wing, the city was a vital source of support for a long time. The Alternative for Germany (AfD) reached its electoral high-water mark for Baden-Württemberg in the federal elections of 2017 in Heilbronn, with 18 percent of the vote. “In the city, there’s a fertile racist soil for the AfD to tap into.” In the surrounding areas, as well, there’s a well-organized rightist scene.
For Reiner, Saturday’s incident is just the tip of the iceberg. In recent weeks there has been regular outcry against refugee youths, who, like Saturday’s victims, met in front of St. Kilian’s. “And it shows. Someone let their deeds follow the words.” On Friday, leftist and civil-society organizations, as well as refugees, will hold a vigil. For Reiner, it’s clear: “We can’t just go back to business as usual.”
What? Germany, and more specifically the city of Heilbronn, has a Nazi problem? When did THAT happen?
Well, if you really want to go to the root of the problem, you’d have to turn back the pages of your history book about a hundred years or so, to when a crappy little Austrian PFC named Adolf Hitler (né Schicklgruber), disillusioned by the Triple Alliance’s defeat in the Great War, decided to blame the matter, not on imperialism or colonialism or racism or any of the other responsible internal isms, but on an outside source that had nothing to do with it all — namely, Jews. They run the banks, he claimed, erroneously. They run the media, too! They run everything, and they have run Germany into the dust! Out of the loins of the old Roman Catholic Christ-killer fabrication and a certain Czarist forgery from Russia, the bastard back-stab myth was born, and with it, an unholy brew of bullyboy politics that spread and metastasized like a cancer from the fusty old beer-basements of Bayern all the way up to the North Sea.
THAT’s when Nazism became Germany’s problem, and it has been a bugaboo there ever since.
And while the concentration camps were the high-water mark of the shit-hurricane, there has never been any shortage of outsider-blaming in a land where scapegoating has been a national sport and pastime for as long as there have been fine, upstanding locals who can’t bear to do even a tiny bit of introspection when things go badly for them. Sure, it’s no longer kosher to point fingers at the Jews, but that doesn’t mean other non-Christian people on German soil are not fair game. These days, it’s refugees. Specifically, Muslim refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and anyplace else such people have had to flee war, political instability, and the grinding poverty that makes life there impossible.
That such people are victims of violence, not perpetrators, should be obvious to everyone. And to everyone with eyes that can see past the ends of their noses, yes, it is. But let it never be said that the blue, blue eyes of Nazis are pure and unclouded! Just as they can’t look within for answers to their own problems, so they can’t see the problems that drove refugees to Germany from without. They are blind with hate, and they keep bumping into things with knives drawn. That’s what makes them so goddamn dangerous.
And in Heilbronn, they most certainly are: They don’t just stab refugees there, they also shoot police officers. Michele Kiesewetter was murdered, and her colleague barely left alive, while investigating a series of neo-Nazi murders, specifically those of local Turks. The same Nazi gang are also suspected in the disappearance and murder of a little girl, whom they may have pimped out to pedophiles, and/or made pornographic videos of, in order to raise money for the NSU terror campaign. (These ties are in dispute, thanks to contaminated evidence handled by an inept lab worker. Yes, it’s a hot mess in every way.)
Meanwhile, not a thing has been said about the 70-year-old who stabbed the three young refugees, other than that he is a “Russian”, and that he was bombed out of his skull on alcohol on the night in question. Well, it’s not as if Russian-German citizens can’t be racist, or that alcohol consumption somehow negates his responsibility OR his bigotry; at most, it only emboldened a bigot to act on impulses that he already had. Lots of Nazis are drunks; so fucking what? Lots of drunks are also Nazis. And in the German right-wing scene, particularly in the AfD hotbed of Heilbronn, such impulses are part of the landscape…and have been for a very long time.
At least the last hundred years, in fact.