German city Dresden declares Nazi emergency

Racist: Marchers demand the expulsion of Muslim immigrants. © Getty

Does talk of a Nazi revival belittle the past? Last week, Dresden declared a “Nazi emergency” over right-wing extremism. But many say there’s no serious comparison to the party of the Holocaust.

When Dresden City Council considered a motion last week to declare a “Nazi emergency” in the city, leading politicians dismissed it as an exaggeration and a distraction.

But when councillors voted to back the motion by 39 to 29, it set off a chain reaction of horrified media coverage across the world and a new focus on Germany’s worst nightmare.

The motion declared that “anti-democratic, anti-pluralist, misanthropic and right-wing extremist values and actions, including violence in Dresden, are increasingly becoming apparent”.

More than 70 years after the Allied Occupation Force attempted to put a stake through the heart of the monster by abolishing the Nazi Party on 10 October 1945, was it rising once more from the grave?

The state of Saxony has long been a stronghold of the far-right Alternative for Germany Party. In elections in September, support surged, up 17.8% from 2014 to finish on 27.5%.

Its capital city Dresden is also where the anti-Islam Pegida movement began in 2014, and where it continues to hold rallies.

Anger has been stoked by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s belief in providing sanctuary for refugees.

Does talk of a Nazi revival belittle the horrors of the past?

Undead

Of course it does, say many wise voices. Just consider. There have been fewer that 100 deaths due to German neo-Nazi terrorism in the past 20 years. Hitler killed 10 million people in half that time, in the biggest state-sponsored, industrial-scale murder the world has ever seen.

It does not belittle the past to see its echoes in the present, say others. Nobody is pretending this is a repeat. But the racist and violent language is very similar. The “siren call” of a “Fourth Reich” is spreading again, says respected historian Gavriel Rosenfeld in a new book. We ignore it at our peril.

You Decide

  1. Do you think racism is getting worse?

Activities

  1. Make a timeline of the rise and fall of the Nazi Party and some of the main events in its history.

Some People Say...

“Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.”

George Santayana (1863-1952), Spanish-born philosopher

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The Nazis persecuted people who they didn't think were worthy members of society — most notably, Jewish people. They introduced laws that discriminated against them and took away their rights. Between 1933 and 1945, the Nazis created more than 40,000 concentration camps in areas they controlled. Some were work camps and some were extermination camps, where the Nazis could kill people in great numbers.
What do we not know?
Whether Germany’s rising anti-immigration parties are really “Nazi” parties or more correctly described as right-wing populist parties. Many commentators, for instance, see their rise as part of the same international trend that saw voters in the UK vote for Brexit and Americans elect Donald Trump as president.

Word Watch

Anti-pluralist
Being opposed to the idea that minority groups in society should maintain their unique cultural identities, and that their values and practices should be accepted by the wider, dominant culture.
Misanthropic
Showing a dislike of other people
Allied Occupation Force
After the war, Allied Occupation Force divided Germany into occupation zones for administrative purposes, under the United States, United Kingdom, France and the Soviet Union.
Alternative for Germany
A far-right political party in Germany founded in April 2013.
Pegida
Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident, abbreviated Pegida, is a German nationalist, anti-Islam, far-right political movement founded in Dresden in October 2014.
Siren call
The appeal of something that is alluring but also potentially harmful. The reference comes from Greek mythology. The Sirens were dangerous creatures, who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and singing voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island.
Fourth Reich
An imagined future German regime that is the successor to what Hitler called the Third Reich (1933–1945).

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