The past two weeks in Germany have been dominated by demonstrations in the Eastern German city of Chemnitz. A male resident of Chemnitz was stabbed to death and two others fatally wounded. Two suspects, both asylum seekers, one from Iraq and a Syrian were arrested. The residents held a demo to mourn and protest. The next day, thousands of neo-Nazis held an even bigger demo to protest against ‘criminal foreigners’.
I live about 500 km away from Chemnitz in the south western part of Germany but as I watched the charged crowd and the “Ausländer raus!” chants, I felt my blood turn cold. It was no longer about two criminals. It was now about all foreigners which in Germany means anyone who doesn’t look ‘German’.
Neo-Nazis were prowling the streets and I wondered how it must feel like to be a person of color right at that moment listening or watching from your window somewhere in Chemnitz. What do you tell your kids? That it’s all going to be okay?
This was not the first time neo-Nazis were holding a demo in Germany. And yet this demo felt different. I have been thinking about why the events in Chemnitz unsettled me so much and I think I have finally figured out why. The first reason is that it didn’t feel like some fringe elements. It felt like these were ordinary folks calling out for foreigners to be thrown out of Germany. Thinking of hostility towards foreigners as something that’s restricted to fringe elements or some hateful freaks gives one a sense of security.
The second reason is that police seemed initially overwhelmed and one got a glimpse of how life could be if law enforcement ceased to function. Would it even be possible for a ‘foreign’ looking person to live in Germany?
I honestly don’t think so.
Chemnitz has since calmed down. Many Germans, both prominent and ordinary folks have gone to the streets demonstrating against neo-Nazis. This should make me feel better and it does but only to a certain extent. I can’t help feeling that there is a dark cloud hanging over the horizon that refuses to go away.
Many Germans are against Nazis but they are also wary of foreigners. For foreign looking people like me, it is a terribly uncomfortable space to be in.