Immigrants, real or perceived, are often the target of far right terrorist attacks.
SOLINGEN, GERMANY — Immigration is always a contentious topic. There are those who see newcomers as vital to a nation’s growth, especially economic, and who advocate for high levels of intake. There are also those who believe ‘one is too many’. Some of these hold to racially supremacist views and are convinced that the country in which they live belongs to them, and them alone.
Throughout history opposition to immigration has on occasion taken violent form. Beyond simply not wanting to welcome newcomers, there is the view that they bring diseases and other social ills. The solution to all these potential problems: keep the door firmly closed.
One set of violent actors that is perhaps most usually associated with anti-immigrant views is that which we broadly call the ‘far right’. This is a very expansive term which is used to encompass neo-Nazis, white supremacists, white nationalists, and the like. And they are all against high levels of immigration – or any level at all.
A country which has seen a high number of groups of this nature is modern Germany. Perhaps not surprisingly (or surprisingly?), neo-Nazis seem to flourish there. The country that was brought to the precipice of complete annihilation thanks to the Nazi regime now has a worryingly elevated presence of individuals who appear to want to go back to the days when Adolf Hitler and his crew ran things.
These extremists are particularly obsessed with those they consider to be ‘un-German’. One group is especially targeted for their wrath – and violence: the so-called ‘Gastarbeiter’ (German for ‘guest workers’). Beginning in the mid-1950s the former state of West Germany welcomed several million foreign workers (many of whom were Turkish) to address labour shortages. The original plan may have called for them to ‘go home’ eventually but many stayed, brought their families and became German citizens.
This is, of course, unacceptable to neo-Nazis and their rejection has taken a very violent turn on occasion. On this day in 1993 a group of xenophobic arsonists burnt down a house in the western German city of Solingen, killing five girls and women of Turkish descent. The perpetrators were quickly identified as a group of youths and men aged between 16 and 23 years old,all of whom reported to be members of the far-right skinhead ‘scene’ in Solingen. In 1995, they were sentenced to prison terms of 10 to 15 years for five counts of murder, 14 counts of attempted murder and arson.
There is room for legitimate debate on immigration. Legitimate debate does not include arson and murder.