Friday, 25 August 2017

pogrom und pulverkessel

Twenty-five years ago this week and just separated by double the amount from World War II in 1992—a couple of years into the reunification, the Lichtenhagen district of Rostock experienced horrendous xenophobic riots. Despite thousands of by-standers applauding the attack of a hi-rise complex sheltering asylum-seekers with Molotov-cocktails and stones, no one was killed but the onslaught that lasted several days and tragically inspired parallel attacks was nonetheless a very dark moment in recent German history and seemingly one whose lessons were squandered.  Ignoring early rumblings that indicated the tensions in the city between residents and refugees were growing, government and law-enforcement authorities carry much of the blame for their inaction.  The focus of the pogrom, the first act of its kind since the war, was the so called Sonnenblumenhaus, which the state government had designated for the sheltering of some three hundred asylum-seekers per month while their applications were vetted.  As the world came to terms, however, with the new realities of a collapsed Soviet Union, the system soon became overwhelmed with over eleven-thousand individuals, mostly Roma from Romania, living in the building and camped out on the surrounding grounds.  Instead of increasing support, services were cut and living conditions soon became intolerable.  Police were inattentive to maintaining the peace and provocateurs grew emboldened, going so far to recruit outsiders that also haboured such feelings of hatred.  Unfortunately these episodes have become frequent occurrences and the culpability falls on all of us.