Support for Nazi ideas haunts Germany, says minister

Support for Nazi ideas in Germany is making people fear for their lives, a government minister said on Tuesday.

Wolfgang Tiefensee, the minister responsible for east Germany, was speaking after a mob of about 50 Germans attacked and chased eight Indians through the streets of a small eastern town at the weekend.

”People are fearing for their health, people are fearing for their lives,” he told reporters. ”Slogans are being chanted in Germany that remind us of the years 1939 to 1945 [World War II].

”We can’t have this on German streets, we can’t have this in schools and at the workplace.”

Widespread shock greeted news of the attack during a fair in Muegeln, near Leipzig, late on Saturday.

Images of the victims with black eyes and stitches were on the front pages of leading newspapers on Tuesday. About 70 police were needed to rescue the men and restore order after they fled to a pizzeria and the mob tried to force its way in.

India’s ambassador to Germany said she was ”very concerned”.

”We need to ensure that such an event is never repeated,” Meera Shankar told daily Der Tagesspiegel on Tuesday.

In New Delhi, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna said: ”We have taken up the matter with the German government and have requested that the German authorities take action to address this issue and prevent future incidents of the kind.”

German industry is suffering a serious shortage of skilled workers and political leaders said the attacks sent out a worrying message to foreigners considering a move to Germany.

”It’s a scandal what happened in Muegeln,” said Volker Kauder, parliamentary chief of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats. ”The fact people were evidently looking on and that nobody had the courage to intervene makes me very sad.”

According to media reports, the attackers chanted racist slogans like ”Auslaender raus” [Foreigners out] and pelted the Indians with bottles.

Since German re-unification in 1990, racist violence has broken out sporadically in the poorer east of the country.

Last year crimes committed by neo-Nazis and other right-wing extremists reached their highest level since 1990.

In Muegeln’s state of Saxony, the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) entered the regional parliament in 2004 after winning more than 9% of the vote in an election.

Minister Tiefensee said the seriousness of what occurred could not be understated.

”These incidents again remind us the subject of right-wing extremism is something we need to deal with continually in Germany, and particularly in eastern Germany,” he said. — Reuters

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