Germany's leading nationalist party wants all immigrants out - and it seems its extremist rhetoric is attracting growing support. But opponents say the movement is igniting violence and causing a dangerous rift in society.
“We want the immigrants to leave Germany. First the illegal ones, and then the others too,” said Uwe Meenen from the National Democratic Party.
The NDP have curried favour with their right-wing supporters by organizing concerts and gatherings. But their opponents argue they promote hatred.
“What they have achieved is that in some regions in East Germany, there are nearly no immigrants. It is not due to economic reasons, but it is because no-one really wants to go there – immigrants are always threatened,” explained Anetta Kahane from Amadeu Antonio anti-racist organization.
One anti-Nazi group recently managed to dupe right-wing concert-goers into wearing their bogus T-shirts. When they were washed, the far-right slogans dissolved to reveal a message urging the wearer to leave their neo-Nazi group.
German police intelligence has estimated that there are 8-10,000 hardcore militant neo-Nazis in the country. Those behind the t-shirt stunt say that those numbers mean Germany fascist problem is in the top five in Europe.
“Every year, statistically, you have about 15-20,000 hate crimes in Germany. About 800 out of this number are violent crimes, which also places Germany in the top five in Europe,” stated Daniel Koehler from Exit Deutschland anti-Nazi organization.
When confronted with accusations of inciting hatred, NPD members remained unmoved.
“Germany is the state of the Germans. But today there are parts of Berlin with more than 30-40 per cent of foreigners. It is just too much,” maintained Uwe Meenen.
German has large ethnic minority populations from Turkey, the Arab world and beyond. Many families now have second- and third-generation members with German citizenship. Today, they are now reaching a critical mass and producing political representatives ready to defy anyone who tells them they do not belong to Germany.
Whereas most political parties are now finding candidates from the ethnic groups they represent, those on the right are emblazoning their posters and banners with the message, “Go back where you came from!” The yawning political divide means the potential is there for German politics to become a lot nastier.
Meanwhile, it’s business as usual for shoppers in Berlin’s Turkish quarter. But while immigrant-owned fruit and vegetable shops in this multi-cultural city continue to do a roaring trade, a debate is raging over whether this cosmopolitan area will become a vector for cultural exchange, or a frontier between what are increasingly being seen as foreign territories.