NSU trial : Racism is in society's wallpaper

As the start of Beate Zschäpe's trial made her the globally famous face of Germany's neo-Nazis, Der Tagesspiegel's Andrea Dernbach says the problem is so much bigger than one person, and even ten murders.

The victims of the murder series were, apart from police officer Michéle Kiesewetter, migrants.
The victims of the murder series were, apart from police officer Michéle Kiesewetter, migrants.Foto: Reuters

After a series of racially motivated crimes unique in Germany's post-war history, the justice system showed - by its assignment of the places to witness the trial, and the fact that there were far too few of those places - how much public interest is seen as appropriate. No matter which valid, internal reasons there may have been, the refusal to hold the trial in a larger place even if one not situated in a justice building, sends a message: don't make such a fuss, this is business as normal. We're doing what we always do.
But it is so obvious that this is not a normal trial that one must ask oneself why so much effort was made ahead of time, to demonstrate the opposite. Possibly because those who make decisions in Munich simply don't think any differently than those people in whose names they will deliver a verdict? The victims of the murder series were, apart from police officer Michéle Kiesewetter, migrants. People like them now make up a fifth of the German population, but in public discussions they practically only ever appear as problem groups. When a Ghanaian engineer or a Turkish tailor with a decent income and well brought-up children is mentioned, they have the label "exception" either explicitly or implicitly attached.

Problems of mistrust, rejection and deadly hate

But the NSU murders dramatically showed that it is not they who as a group who create problems, rather it is they who have problems as a group, independent of their academic qualifications, income and lifestyle - simply because their accent, darker skin or a non-European name make them part of "the other". Their problems are prejudice, mistrust, rejection - or also deadly hate. The NSU is not alone - 152 people have been wiped out by far-right violence since German reunification - our Tagesspiegel colleague Frank Jansen has researched this for years.

Many of those whose right to life was negated by the killers were homeless people, punks, Left-wingers but remarkably many were killed because they were not called Müller, Meier or Schmitt. And it speaks for itself how often the authorities, police and government closed their eyes to this racist background - not even half of the 152 have been officially recognised as victims of the far right. The religion monitor project of the Bertelsmann Foundation has recently again shown how strong this rejection is - although a majority in Germany welcome diversity, 51 percent see Islam as a threat.

This marking out of people as Muslims, foreigners or Turks has become stronger over the last few years. At least partly to blame for this is, paradoxically, the integration debate that was as needed as the modernisation process from which it came.

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