Germans Urged to Help End Racist Attacks


In the strongest government appeal yet to end a wave of right-wing violence, Parliament on Thursday urged everyday Germans to stop merely distancing themselves from the racist attacks and to personally help end the ugliness.

The Bundestag, or lower house, issued a declaration condemning "the violent acts against foreign citizens and asylum-seekers, as well as racist and anti-Semitic attacks. We Germans know from our history that extremism, hatred and violence always lead to disaster," the brief statement said.

"Every citizen is urged to not merely distance themselves from violence, but instead to also help, through personal involvement," to bring an end to the attacks, it added.

The condemnation came amid growing criticism over Chancellor Helmut Kohl's seeming reluctance to support the half-million foreigners seeking asylum in Germany. Neo-Nazis, skinheads and other right-wing militants have staged almost nightly attacks against refugee hostels, throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at terrified families inside.

Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger told the Bundestag that 10 foreigners have been killed by right-wing extremists so far this year, compared with three last year. Of 1,296 acts of violence against foreigners reported through September, she said, 813 were in western Germany and 483 in the formerly Communist east.

During two hours of debate before the Bundestag passed Thursday's resolution, Interior Minister Rudolf Seiters said he was looking into the possibility of banning some neo-Nazi groups. Seiters also stressed that the problem cannot be resolved by police and the justice system alone. He called for a campaign to encourage schools and families to work with youngsters and "nip the potential for violent extremism in the bud."

"Over 80% of the violent right-wing extremists are under 20 years old," he noted.

The Bundestag is expected to debate changes in the country's liberal asylum laws later this year. But unlike Thursday's declaration, the main political parties have so far failed to reach any consensus on how best to deal with the unmanageable flood of mostly economic refugees. The human tide from Eastern Europe and the Third World is expected to reach 1 million next year, and the bottleneck in processing cases already affects 400,000 applicants.

Roughly 95% of the applicants typically fail to qualify for asylum, but merely applying guarantees months, and often years, of subsidized living in Germany while the paperwork is completed.

Public anger over the situation has mounted since German unification two years ago, and hostility is especially high in eastern Germany, where housing is scarce, unemployment is high and civil rights is a new concept after 40 years of communism.

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