The former mayor of a small German village who resigned last month -- after his tolerant stance toward refugees made him the target of neo-Nazi protests -- is speaking out Saturday about the “horrific xenophobia” he said is threatening to spread throughout the whole of German society.
“[T]he seeds of neo-Nazism are germinating right here,” Markus Nierth told the German news outlet Deutsche Welle. “And that’s why it’s time to stand up.”
In the interview, Nierth spoke candidly about growing intolerance in Tröglitz, a tiny village northwest of Leipzig, where he served as honorary mayor and advocated a “peaceful coexistence” with asylum seekers taking refuge there. That stance attracted the ire of the far-right National Democratic Party (NDP), whose members staged angry protests outside Nierth’s house. Local police did not have the resources to provide adequate security, and so Nierth stepped down out of safety concerns for his family, as the Guardian reported.
Nierth’s comments follow an arson attack early Saturday morning that damaged a housing complex where 40 refugees were set to move in. As DW reported, police confirmed that the complex had been broken into and lighter fluid was used to start the blaze. “This is all so terrible and shows the extent to which these people will go,” Nierth’s told DW.
The incident is indicative of others in Germany and throughout Europe, where tensions between Europeans and immigrants are escalating in traditionally tolerant communities. Tröglitz is not far from Dresden, where the anti-Islam group Pegida (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the Occident) was founded last year. The group, DW reported, has seen its popularity grow in Tröglitz.
Nierth said he hopes the housing complex can be repaired. He told DW he was planning a demonstration Saturday evening at Tröglitz’s “Peace Square” and encouraged everyone in the region to attend and show their support. “We will be there just to show them that we aren’t afraid,” he said.
Read the full interview with Deutsche Welle here.