Germans must fight racism says Foreign Minister Heiko Maas

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has told Germans to stand up and help defend democracy. He warned Germany's reputation is threatened by the specter of xenophobia and racism.

Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has called on citizens to do more to fight racism and defend democracy after far-right protests in Chemnitz.

Politics | 29.08.2018

"Unfortunately, a complacency has spread within our society that we have to overcome," he said in an interview with the newspaper Bild am Sonntag

"We have to get up off the sofa and speak up. The years of being in this discursive coma vigil must come to an end."

Maas also admitted that his generation had been handed freedom, the rule of law and democracy. "We didn't have to fight for it, and we sometimes take it for granted," he said.

Read more: In Chemnitz, minister promotes education as answer to extremism

He called on the whole of society to save Germany's reputation.  "If the Hitler salute is made on our streets today once again, it is a disgrace to our country,"

"We must stand up to the right-wing extremists. We can't duck away. We must come out against neo-Nazis and anti-Semites," he said. "Only then will Germany's reputation not be permanently marred by xenophobic crimes." 

Read more: Chemnitz fears for reputation after demonstrators duel

How the Chemnitz protests unfolded

Death sparks demonstrations

The demonstrations were sparked by a deadly brawl that broke out in the German city of Chemnitz in the early hours of Sunday (August 26). What started out as a war of words resulted in a 35-year-old man being stabbed to death. Hours later, spontaneous, anti-migrant protests took over the streets of Chemnitz.

How the Chemnitz protests unfolded

German-Cuban killed

A German-Cuban man was stabbed in an altercation involving 10 people, several of whom were of "various nationalities," police sources said. The victim, named only as Daniel H., was apparently well-known among various political groups in the area. Two men in their 30s were also stabbed and seriously injured, and a 22-year-old Iraqi and 23-year-old Syrian are in custody over the killing.

How the Chemnitz protests unfolded

Police reinforcements called

By Sunday afternoon, some 800 people had gathered to protest the man's death, including far-right groups. Authorities said the crowd was largely uncooperative and threw bottles at police officers. Police reinforcements had to be called in from nearby cities. The mobilizations were spontaneous and are thought to have surfaced following calls to demonstrate on social media.

How the Chemnitz protests unfolded


German authorities said that that far-right groups spread misinformation on the internet. Among the false claims was that the victim of the knife attack died protecting a woman.

How the Chemnitz protests unfolded

Protests and counterprotests

Thousands of far-right and counterdemonstrators faced off in a second day of protest Monday. Several people were injured as objects and fireworks were hurled. Video footage showed the far-right "Pro Chemnitz" movement holding a banner with a quote from early 20th century poet Anton Günther reading "German and free we aim to be."

How the Chemnitz protests unfolded

'No place for Nazis'

Counter-demonstrators denouncing right-wing extremism also took to the streets of Chemnitz. Among the protesters were Antifa, who clashed with right-wing demonstrators.

Explaining German extremism

According to Maas, his European colleagues had "very often" queried him about the right-wing extremist marches in Chemnitz. When it came to xenophobia, right-wing extremism and racism, he said, Germany was rightly subjected to particular scrutiny.

Meanwhile, Federal Justice Minister Katarina Barley (SPD) told Bild that the investigations in Chemnitz had to clarify to what extent right-wing extremist networks were behind the demonstrations and xenophobic riots.

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"We do not tolerate right-wing radicals infiltrating our society." Barley intervened in the investigation this week after xenophobic riots and the Hitler salute were shown during demonstrations.

The riots in Chemnitz stemmed from the stabbing death of a 35-year-old German man by two immigrants.

av/aw (KNA, Reuters, dpa)

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