By Katrin Bennhold
30 August 2018

CHEMNITZ, Germany (The New York Times) – Waving German flags, with some flashing Nazi salutes, the angry mob made its way through the streets, chasing after dark-skinned bystanders as police officers, vastly outnumbered, were too afraid to intervene.

A Syrian refugee and father of two, Anas al-Nahlawie, watched horrified from a friend’s fourth-floor balcony. They were hunting in packs for immigrants just like him, he said. “Like wolves.”

For a few perilous hours over two days this week, the mob owned the streets of Chemnitz, where anger exploded after word spread that an Iraqi and a Syrian asylum seeker were suspected in a knife attack that killed a German man early Sunday.

Chemnitz, a city of some 250,000 in eastern Germany, has a history of neo-Nazi protests. Usually they draw a few hundred from the fringes of society — and far larger counter-demonstrations, city officials say. The crowd this time was 8,000-strong. Led by several hundred identifiable neo-Nazis, it appeared to be joined by thousands of ordinary citizens. More marches are planned Saturday.

The city had never seen anything like this — and, to some degree, neither had post-World War II Germany. The rampage now stands as a high-water mark in the outpouring of anti-immigrant hatred that has swelled as Germany struggles to absorb the nearly one million asylum seekers who arrived in the country after Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to open the borders in 2015.

That decision sharply divided Germany, with critics soon arguing that Ms. Merkel’s administration had lost control of the situation. Three years later, what the government is struggling to control is an anti-immigrant backlash.

Riot policemen stand guard as far-right-wing supporters and Neo-Nazis protest on 27 August 2018, after a German man was stabbed in Chemnitz, Germany. Photo: Reuters

Neo-Nazis are growing bolder and stronger, and they are better organized, officials and sociologists say. The far-right Alternative for Germany party is a growing power in Parliament — another shock to the system — and has started to normalize angry sentiments about immigrants that before would not have been uttered aloud, bringing them into the mainstream.

In the face of this newly assertive far right, Chemnitz has become a test of state authority. Some say it has even become a test of Germany’s postwar democracy. [more]

Chemnitz Protests Show New Strength of Germany’s Far Right

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