Image from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/11/03/berlin-walls-fall-marked-the-end-of-the-cold-war-for-the-american-public/
Even before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, vast swaths of people from East-Germany had attempted to flee into the west. Many would attempt to cross the wall in Berlin with some even being killed. Of course this issue would spill over once the Soviet Union fell, and many individuals that made it into the west were not all necessarily coming in with good intentions, and the Molnar article explains how German society found itself more multicultural then it ever had been, and that this had created a lot of tension among the far-right. This tension would spill over in the form of violence against non-Germans, and would highlight that racist sentiments were still very much prevalent in Germany even by the 90’s. What is even more shocking is that these sentiments were not just disorganized far-right groups, but the German government itself “Chancellor Helmut Kohl and his government developed a plan that sought to dramatically reduce the number of Turks in Germany by paying them and their families to leave Germany forever. The plan, overwhelmingly supported by the German people, was put into law in 1983.” (Molnar) The fact that this action was overwhelmingly supported by the German population hammers home that those racist sentiments were still there. What is even scarier is that it is still present pretty much to this day as highlighted by Mamonova when she talks about how the right-wing party “Alternative für Deutschland” is heavily backed by eastern villages in Saxony where racist anti-refugee sentiments are very strong. Why do they still feel this way though? Is it really just remnants of fascist ideology, or is there something else at play here?
Christopher Molnar, “Greetings from the Apocalypse”: Race, Migration, and Fear after German Reunification” Central European History, (2021), 1-25.
Natalia Mamonova, Jaume Franquesa, and Sally Brooks, “‘Actually Existing’ Right-Wing Populism in Rural Europe: Insights from Eastern Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom and Ukraine,” The Journal of Peasant Studies 47, no. 7 (2020): 1497–1525
One Reply to “Persistent German Racism in the Post-Soviet Era”
I think that you’re absolute right to wonder why racist anti-refugee sentiments persist in Germany. However, I wonder if that question is really two seperate questions combined, the first being why do the Saxon villagers feel aggrieved (I would suggest economic inequality), and the second being why do they direct their grievences at a racialized other (perhaps a combination of the nature of populism generally and the history of Germany in particular?).