By: Erin Martin
In early November, a city in Germany, Dresden, declared a “Nazi emergency” that has accumulated due to recent years of right-wing extremist activity in the city. Dresden, the birthplace of the anti-islam Pegida movement, has long been viewed as a far-right city that is growing in ideological strength. Political leaders in the city are finally deciding to take action and call out those who have been rallying with racist attitudes stating, “‘Nazinotstand’ means – similar to the climate emergency – that we have a serious problem. The open democratic society is threatened,’ local councillor Max Aschenbach, who tabled the motion, told the BBC” (Dresden). Until recently, politicians refrained from speaking about the “Nazi emergency” and left-wingers have had a growing frustration and want them to take action against this group. This motion of declaring a “Nazi emergency” has no legal bearing on the group, it is only acting as a symbol of local leaders opposing the Nazi beliefs. Many other political leaders are unsatisfied with the motion and believe that more action should be taken to deter the rising right-wing party. Leaders have used the term “Nazinotstand,” meaning they have a serious problem, to describe the growing Nazi support in Dresden.
In recent years East Germany as a whole has seen a growth in anti-immigration support and islamaphobic groups trying to take action. Dresden was the birthplace of the PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West) in 2013 and has upheld those beliefs ever since. This group still often holds rallies for their beliefs in the city. Howwever, the Nazi emergency began after a major attack on the eastern city of Halle. A gunman entered a synagogue and attempted to shoot and kill people marking Yom Kippur, the holiest day practiced in Judaism. He unsuccessfully entered the synagogue and only shot the door multiple times. Though later, the gunman followed two people out and killed them. After being interrogated the gunman admitted his motivations were anti-semetic which coincided with his far-right agenda. He streamed his attack online for 35 minutes and published it to a far-right manifesto which attracted supporters with similar violent, anti-semetic values. The city of Dresden is calling upon its people to help victims of far-right violence and protect the minorities in order to unite the city.
There definitely isn’t full support for this new motion from the all of the political leaders in Dresden. The Christian Democratic Union has discussed that the motion is taking a step too far. They have admitted that the Nazi emergence is less than ideal as they state; “CDU councillor Hans-Joachim Brauns said: ‘We certainly have something very undesirable. These are demonstrations that have a right-wing extremist background. But the motion that the city council has now adopted does not make that any better.’” (Mortimer). This Christian Democratic Union believes that such a motion will provoke the radicals which led to them to vote against the motion in early November. Jan Donhauser, chairman of the CDU group on Dresden council has openly stated that he doesn’t believe that the far-right beliefs are extreme enough to divide their city with this motion with what he believes to be strong rhetoric against the far-right. Unfortunately, Saxony, the state that includes Dresden is historically a far-right area meaning that political leaders who oppose the far-right extremists will have a hard time rallying strong support against them. In the recent September elections the Alternative for Germany (AFd) party, which was the first far-right party to enter Germany’s national parliament, came second in regional elections. The support of anti-immigrantion reform is strong in Dresden.
While most leaders can agree that racist beliefs and anti- semitism have no place in Dresden, they have different opinions about how to combat this growing issue. I believe that more political leaders should be condemning the far-right violence to prevent an increase in anti-semetic attacks and growth of anti-immigrant policies. Racist attitudes and motivations in Dresden should be addressed and the motion should do more to prevent the extremist views. I think if the non-state actors will strong right-wing beliefs aren’t shut down then violence against Jewish and Islamic groups in the country will escalate.
This event has a strong relation to our course material as we continue our discussion about ethnic and ideological differences contributing to potential conflict within the state. The far-right extremists in Dresden are targeting the Jewish people within the city. The population of far-right wingers in the city are not small-scale and the political differences are further polarizing the city and Eastern Germany as a whole. The question I would like to ask is, is it likely that the ethnically motivated violence will lead to civil conflict between far-right wingers and those who support immigration in Eastern Germany?
Overall, the motion set in early November to symbolize the opposition of far-right beliefs in Dresden is a step forward for Germany. As more and more local, political leaders support this motion, it will hinder the growing movement of anti-semetic attitudes and actions. There has been enough violence against immigrant groups and certain ethic groups and the people in the city need to take action to prevent extremist values from strengthening.
“Dresden: The German City That Declared a ‘Nazi Emergency’.” BBC News, BBC, 2 Nov. 2019, www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-50266955.
“German Halle Gunman Admits Far-Right Synagogue Attack.” BBC News, BBC, 11 Oct. 2019, www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-50011898.
Mortimer, Caroline. “Dresden Declares ‘Nazi Emergency’ over Far-Right Threat.” Euronews, 4 Nov. 2019, www.euronews.com/2019/11/04/dresden-declares-nazi-emergency-over-far-right-threat. Woodyatt, Amy. “German City of Dresden Declares ‘Nazi Emergency’.” CNN, Cable News Network, 3 Nov. 2019, www.cnn.com/2019/11/02/europe/nazi-emergency-dresden-grm-intl/index.html.