But what remained largely unnoticed were the attacks on foreigners and asylum hostels. More than 4,000 have occurred since 2015, some involving the use of molotov cocktails, baseball bats, and with armed neo-Nazis even raiding children’s rooms. In 2016, an average of 10 hate crimes each day against migrants was officially registered.
What does that mean for daily life in the places where these attacks happened? To take the full measure of it, you have to live here. There’s the conversation at the bakery where an old woman complains about the “bad” foreigners, and the woman serving her agrees. There’s the conductor on the tramway who deliberately checks only the tickets of the black passengers. And there are the attacks on leftwing cultural projects or community centres – stones thrown, beatings, the violence you experience when you try to get involved. And there’s the passivity of the so-called civilian population – locals who stand by when a black person is beaten up in the town centre. Racist, fascist normality sets in.
Youth centres and social workers are rare. People who try to act against far-right groups by launching “alternative” projects live dangerously, in daily confrontation with hatred. You struggle to set up a school workshop against extremism, and have to look hard to find people who would even consider this kind of work in rural areas. After all, who wants to live in a Nazi village? Those with German passports can choose to stay away from these towns where car tyres get punctured and homes are subjected to arson attacks just because some people don’t like who you are, where you come from, or what your political position is. But not everyone can leave easily. Asylum seekers have a residency obligation if they want to receive benefits or work permits.