Socialist Worker

Anti-racists in Germany take on politicians promoting panic over refugees

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2486

German chancellor Angela Merkel

German chancellor Angela Merkel (Pic: Flickr/Christliches Medienmagazin pro...)

Racist politicians are trying to use horrific New Year’s Eve attacks on women in German cities to push back against solidarity with refugees. Their attempts are also boosting racist groups.

More than 500 women have filed criminal complaints over attacks in Cologne—40 percent of them sexual assault cases including at least one alleged rape.

A leaked police report describes women having to “run an indescribable gauntlet of drunken men”. It said they threw firecrackers and bottles at the women, robbed them and groped them.

Similar incidents have been reported in Hamburg, Stuttgart and Bielefeld.

The attackers have been described as of north African appearance and some suspects are asylum seekers. Much of the ensuing debate has blamed Arab and Muslim “culture”.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has proposed changing the law to make it easier to deport asylum seekers who commit crimes.

This would introduce a two-tier system, where criminals who commit the same act would receive different punishments according to their country of origin.

Cologne police chief Wolfgang Albers was suspended last Friday. Police initially played down the attacks, reporting a “calm” night despite later admitting the opposite.

Mayor Henriette Reker proposed a “code of conduct” telling women to keep at “arm’s length” from strangers to avoid attack.

This holds victims, instead of perpetrators, responsible for sexual assault. It underlines that sexual violence and the attitudes and structures behind it are fully part of European society.

Yet politicians have been quick to racialise it—and not just in Germany.

Belgium’s immigration minister Theo Francken announced compulsory classes for non-European migrants “on how to behave with women … in our Western culture”.


The hypocrites at the top have legitimised racist gangs who carried out a series of organised beatings in Cologne last Sunday evening.

A group of several dozen attacked six Pakistanis near the train station where the New Year’s Eve assaults took place. Two victims were hospitalised. Separately, a Syrian

refugee was attacked.

Several far right groups had put out calls on social media inciting vigilante attacks on foreign men. Police describe “deliberately provocative” groups gathering before the attacks.

This followed a “refugees not welcome” demonstration by racist organisations Pegida and Hodesa (Hooligans Against Salafism) in Cologne the previous day.

Police say 1,700 took part, though a local newspaper estimated 600 “drunken hooligans”.

Despite the backlash, the bigots aren’t going unopposed.

The racist demonstrations were dwarfed by a 4,000-strong anti-fascist counter demonstration.

Some 1,000 people joined it from an earlier flash mob against sexual violence in front of Cologne cathedral.

Another demonstration took place the previous week.

Many Germans are outraged at attempts to blame 1.1 million refugees for attacks by a tiny minority—especially from those who do nothing for women.


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