In Germany, the city of Dresden, Saxony, is regarded by many as the “base camp of far-right forces”. It is the first place in Germany where the “patriotic Europeans oppose Western Islamization” (Pegida movement). On November 2, Dresden has entered a “Nazi state of emergency” in response to the rising tide of Nazism.
November 9th marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. In a commemorative atmosphere, the “Nazi” warning in Dresden is like a string of discordant notes, reminding people of a shocking fact that the visible wall has collapsed, but the invisible wall still exists. In Germany, where far-right forces are rising, the “Neo-Nazi” dispute is coming.
Right wing base camp
On the evening of November 1, the Dresden City Council passed a resolution with 39 votes in favor and 29 votes against. The resolution announced that Dresden had entered a “Nazi state of emergency” and the resolution condemned Dresden’s new Nazi demonstrations and asked the Dresden City Council to fund anti-Nazi education projects and banned far-right rallies in the future.
“Dresden has Nazi problems, and we must do something about it.” It was Dresden’s left-wing party politician Max Aschenbach. “Anti-democracy, anti-plurality, anti-social and far-right extreme ideas, including violence, are happening more and more frequently in (Dresden).”
Although this bill is considered by some politicians to be “ulterior motives” and “exaggerated”, it is almost an indisputable fact that Dresden is Germany’s right-wing base camp. And this point, the “foreigner” living in Dresden knows it best.
Daniel Alfahr, 28, is a refugee from Syria. In 2015, he fled the bombed Damascus while studying at the University of Damascus. He had originally planned to travel to the Netherlands, but was stopped at the German-Austrian border after a long and dangerous journey through the Mediterranean. Daniel was first sent to Munich, and a few months later he was sent to the Dresden refugee camp in Saxony.
“When I came, Dresden was not prepared for receiving refugees.” Daniel recalled. “We lived in more than 1,000 people in temporary tents. The situation was too bad. As long as it rained, everyone was soaked. Our tent was crowded with 140 people, there was only one kitchen, and we had to wait at least two hours every time we used the kitchen. ”
Compared with Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt and other cities, Dresden is not famous. Although it was once the seat of the royal city of the Saxony royal family, it was also called “Florence on the Elbe” because of its beautiful scenery, but the most well-known memory is still probably the “Dresden bombing” in World War II. Dresden was almost razed to the ground during the British-American bombing.
Before World War II, Dresden was a prosperous industrial city, producing high-end industrial products such as cameras, watches, and automobiles. During the 40 years of East German rule, Dresden continued its position as a heavy industrial center, but was unable to restore its pre-World War II glory.
In 1989, after the reunification of Germany and Germany, Dresden was as old as it became a famous tourist attraction. Well-known scholar Jin Yan visited Dresden in 2009. She described it in the book, “I was taken aback as soon as the car drove into the city: I didn’t see any big ‘privatized factories, let alone the streets. The legacy of democracy sees the entire Saxony city. The beautiful Baroque ‘ancient architecture: Our Lady’s Cathedral, Zwinger Palace, Albert Hall, Semper Opera House, Tash The Berg Palace, the court church, the royal castle … there are ancient styles, and the dark stone is the material. It seems to be weathered, and many sculptures have been carefully ‘old-made, a little’ weathered.
Despite the city’s return to beauty, Dresden’s economy remains depressed. Daniel had no plans to stay in Dresden for a long time. He planned to get the identity documents of the refugees and set off for the Netherlands. However, the plan was unable to keep up with the changes, and the waiting time for the instruments was extended from the originally expected three months to one and a half years. He could only learn German while he started volunteering. He gradually met friends and regained his interest-playing the trumpeter in a band.
Rise of conservative populist parties
Dresden entered the public eye again, at the end of 2014. Since October 2014, a protest called “Patriotic Europeans Against Western Islamization” (Pegida for short) has risen in Dresden, and has since spread to many German cities. The promoters demand that the government tighten its refugee policy and oppose the so-called “islamization.”
This blatant xenophobic movement soon gained a certain mass base in Dresden. At peak, more than 10,000 people took to the streets to support Pegida. The reason seems easy to understand-refugees. Taking a set of data from June 2019 as an example, Dresden has 45,600 registered foreign residents, accounting for about 8% of the total population of Dresden. Although this number is not high, just 5 years ago, when the Pegida movement began, foreigners in Dresden only accounted for 2.8% of the total population. In five years, the number of foreigners has nearly doubled, and this does not count those who are not registered. Accordingly, the number of people who endorse the Pegida concept has also increased.
Daniel remembers very well that he had encountered several malicious provocations in Dresden. Once, someone shouted to him near the train station, “Get out of Germany.” Another time, he took the Dresden city tram, and when he sat down in a seat, the German next to him quickly Get up and change to a seat in another compartment. In Dresden, posters of “Welcome to Immigration” that were originally posted everywhere were either covered by anti-immigration graffiti or destroyed by people.
Ironically, Daniel was a Catholic since he was a child. But for many in Dresden, Daniel’s appearance proved to be potentially dangerous.
The rise of Saxony right-wing forces is also the epitome of Germany. Data released by the German Ministry of the Interior show that in the first half of 2019, there were 8,605 criminal cases involving far-right criminals in Germany, of which 363 were violent attacks, which injured at least 179 people.
The situation in Dresden is also replicated in other former East German states. Last Sunday, the German parliamentary elections were held in Thuringia, Germany. The left-wing party that emerged from the former East German ruling party and the right-wing populist German Select Party received 31% and 23.4% of the votes respectively. In the past, “People’s Democratic Parties” such as the Social Democratic Party lost a lot of votes. In the Brandenburg State Assembly elections in September this year, the German Select Party also won more than 20% of the votes, making it the second largest party in the state parliament.
As a dark horse that has emerged out of nowhere, the German Select Party has become the most important opposition party in just a few years, and their main appeal is “anti-immigrant”. The German Select Party was born in 2013 during the eurozone debt crisis. At the beginning, its main appeal was to oppose assistance to EU member states in debt crisis, such as Greece, but then gradually transformed into an anti-immigrant party. During the refugee crisis from 2014 to 2015, the German Select Party absorbed more and more xenophobic and hate Muslim forces and gradually turned to the right-wing conservative populist line.
In 2017, Germany held a federal election. Germany’s choice party was a hit and it became the third largest party in the Bundestag for the first time. They called on Germany to withdraw from the euro zone and reintroduce Mark; to close its borders and to receive refugees selectively.
Statistics show that, in a total of five federal states in the former East Germany, the German Select Party has become the second largest party in the state parliament. During the European Parliament elections in May this year, the German Select Party became the largest party in multiple constituencies in eastern Germany. For Western Germany, this is unimaginable.
More importantly, these right-wing thoughts in reality prompt some people to take action. In June of this year, Walter Lubuk, chairman of the Kassel District Government of the state of Hesse, was shot dead. The German Federal Prosecutor’s Office subsequently stated that the case was suspected of being committed by far-right elements. Lubke was known for his support of German immigration policies and was repeatedly threatened with death. On October 9, a terrorist attack took place outside the Harley-Synagogue in the eastern German city. The suspect is believed to have a far-right view.
Despite encountering such “unpleasantness”, after learning the language and obtaining identity documents, Daniel suddenly did not want to go to the Netherlands anymore, he decided to stay in Dresden.
Staying in Dresden is not easy, there are fewer job opportunities, and it is an indisputable fact that income and pensions are lower than in West Germany. But Daniel got a job here, and he plans to start next year to continue his unfinished university studies. “I try to show that I just want to find a peaceful place to live. We are not here to Islamize this country.”
The walls of Yokohama and Germany are still there
On November 9, the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, a grand commemorative ceremony was held throughout Germany. Against the background of celebration, discordant notes from the east seem to remind the country that although the Berlin Wall has fallen, the “wall” that runs between East and West Germany still exists.
In terms of economic development, the former East Germany, including Dresden, still cannot keep up with the west. Many East German cities have experienced economic downturns, and their wages and benefits are lower than those in the western cities. In terms of national identity, East Germany And West Germany’s understanding of “Germany” is also very different.
In the opinion of Anton Pelinka, a visiting professor at the Vienna Institute of Foreign Affairs and a well-known political scholar, the neo-Nazi tide in Dresden reflects the division between the former East and West Germany. Compared with West Germany, East Germany has a higher unemployment rate, a less prosperous economy, a lower standard of living, and a lower level of identity. This has not only economic reasons but also historical reasons.
From a transformation point of view, the transition in East Germany did not succeed as expected. The original manufacturing industry disappeared and new industries, such as tourism and service industries, were replaced, but they could not meet the demand for employment.
After the merger of the two Germanys, East Germany’s development was not ideal, and it became the one that “stayed behind”, which also gave some East Germans a feeling of being “colonial.”
This sense of loss became stronger after the refugee crisis in 2015, dissatisfaction with their own situation, evolved into the fear and exclusion of foreign immigrants, and also became a breeding ground for populism.
Psychoanalyst and writer Matz also believes that in eastern Germany, there are a large number of so-called “unification losers” who did not integrate well with unified Germany after the upheaval in 1989. These problems that have emerged after reunification have been passed down from generation to generation in many families, because even the younger generation is a victim of drastic changes in social structure and the environment.
Matz said the psychological damage was a breeding ground for anger and hatred. The refugee problem is a real problem facing cities in eastern Germany: the task of hosting refugees has overwhelmed the community, and the lack of publicity and interpretation has further exacerbated the problem.
There are still many people working hard. Daniel has joined several integration plans in Dresden. His latest job is to participate in a voluntary tour guide to introduce visitors to Dresden’s landscape and tell his refugee experience. In his opinion, communication is the cure for fear.
In Daniel’s words, Pegida is not the entire definition of Dresden. “This isn’t just a Nazi city. Dresden is more than just Pegida. She is much more than that. She is multicultural and has all kinds of people.”