Despite Chancellor Angela Merkel’s warm welcome to refugees, which included setting aside $6 billion to help feed and house the new arrivals, there has been a surge in anti-immigration violence in Germany. In response, the German government has openly accused the far right of organizing anti-immigrant rallies, and called on Germans to “stand together” against the perpetrators, the New York Times reported Wednesday.
The violence surrounding anti-immigration sentiments in Germany has been increasing, setting off a new level of concern. Violent incidents included the stabbing of a politician overseeing refugees, a veiled call to reopen concentration camps at an anti-immigration rally of nearly 200,000 people, arson attacks on refugee shelters, threats made to local officials responsible for feeding and housing migrants and mock gallows -- with nooses labeled for Merkel and her deputy and leader of Social Democrats Sigmar Gabriel -- were even erected at an anti-immigration event last week. Recent polls revealed that half of Germans said the country already had "too many refugees" and only one person in three agreed with Merkel's refugee policy, according to CNN.
"It is a pity for Germany and the German people what's being said here today -- as if they represent the people," said Ernst Nehrich, who was standing in the crowd at an anti-immigration rally, CNN reported. "What they are saying is in complete contrast to what people here demonstrated for 25 years ago. It's enough to make me cry.”
Taking note of the increasing hostility, the government has swiftly responded. The head of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, Josef Schuster, noted that “the incitement against refugees has reached a level which is absolutely horrifying and completely unacceptable,” the New York Times reported, and the violence has sparked a debate over whether hate speech should be banned from social media sites. Hate speech in the country is often subject to investigation and prosecution when spoken or printed.
Germany’s government also recently spoke up about controversial remarks made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this week. Netanyahu had accused the World War II Palestinian grand mufti of Jerusalem of having suggested the genocide of the Jews to Adolf Hitler, the Guardian reported. In response, Germany stepped up Wednesday night, taking responsibility for the Holocaust.
"All Germans know the history of the murderous race mania of the Nazis that led to the break with civilization that was the Holocaust," Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said when asked about Netanyahu's remarks, Reuters reported. "This is taught in German schools for good reason; it must never be forgotten. And I see no reason to change our view of history in any way. We know that responsibility for this crime against humanity is German and very much our own."