Racism in Germany
Racism in German history inextricably is linked to the Herero and Namaqua genocide in colonial times, and to the Holocaust, a program of systematic state-sponsored murder during the Nazi regime. According to reports by the European Commission, milder forms of racism still are present in parts of the German society.
19th and early 20th century
When Germany struggled to become a belated colonial power in the 19th century, several atrocities were committed, most notably the Herero and Namaqua Genocide in what is now Namibia. The German authorities forced the survivors of the genocide into concentration camps.
Eugen Fischer, a German professor of medicine, anthropology and eugenics conducted "medical experiments on race” in these camps, including sterilization, injection of smallpox, typhus as well as tuberculosis. He advocated genocide of alleged "inferior races" stating that "whoever thinks thoroughly the notion of race, can not arrive at a different conclusion".
The Herero genocide has commanded the attention of historians who study complex issues of continuity between this event and the Nazi Holocaust. According to Clarence Lusane, an Associate Professor of Political Science at the American University School of International Service, Fischer's experiments can be seen as testing ground for later medical procedures used during Nazi Holocaust.
Against Polish population
The policies against the Polish population in Germany were largely concentrated in territories conquered from Poland during the Partitions of Poland, but also in Silesia, Pomerania and Masuria. They were motivated by racism.
With the installation of the Nazi government in 1933, racism became part of the German government's ideology. In the 1930s and 1940s, Nazi Germany's military conquest of Europe in the Second World War was followed by countless acts of racially motivated murder and genocide.
The expression Holocaust in broad definition refers to an industrially run programme of state-sponsored murder by Nazi Germany, a genocide of different groups and a murdering of individuals, who the german authorities in this time defined as belonging to an "inferior race" or as "life unworthy of life" or as disturbing their politics. The affected cultures use their own expressions also: The Shoah (Hebrew: השואה, HaShoah, "catastrophe"; Yiddish: חורבן, Churben or Hurban, in the Jewish context. The Porajmos, [ˌpɔʁmɔs] (also Porrajmos or Pharrajimos, literally, devouring or destruction in some dialects of the Romani language).
The holocaust had been one of the outbreaks of antisemitism, a term coined in the late 19th century in Germany as a more scientific-sounding term for Judenhass ("Jew-hatred"). Scientific theories on antisemitism are divided on to what degree it can be subsumed under racism or rather has other causes and mechanisms.
Incidents in reunified Germany
More than 130 people were killed in racist street violence in Germany, in the years between 1990 and 2010, according to the German newspaper Die Zeit. Only some of the most publicly noted cases are listed below. In particular, after German reunification in the 1990s a wave of racist street violence claimed numerous lives, with notable incidents including the arson attack of Mölln and the Riot of Rostock-Lichtenhagen in 1992, the Solingen arson attack of 1993, and the attack on Noël Martin in 1996.
Eighty Nazi skinheads went on the rampage, attacking Turkish and African immigrant workers in the German city of Magdeburg on May 12, 1994. Far from stopping the attack, at one point police joined in, holding down the victims while their attackers beat them.
In 2006, a black German citizen of Ethiopian descent named as Ermyas M., an engineer was beaten into a coma by two unknown assailants who called him "nigger" in an unprovoked attack that has reawakened concern about racist violence in eastern Germany. He was waiting for a tram in Potsdam, near Berlin, when two people approached him shouting "nigger". When he objected, they attacked him with a bottle and beat him to the ground.
Also in 2006, German-Turkish politician Giyasettin Sayan, a member of Berlin's regional assembly, was attacked by two men who called him a "dirty foreigner". Sayan, who represents the Left party, suffered head injuries and bruising after his attackers struck him with a bottle in a street in his Lichtenberg ward in the East of the city.
In August 2007, a mob consisting of about 50 Germans attacked 8 Indian street vendors during a town festival in the town of Muegeln near Leipzig. The victims found shelter in a pizzeria owned by Kulvir Singh, one of those being chased, but the mob broke through the doors and destroyed Singh's car. All eight were injured and it took 70 police to quell the violence
In 2009, the murder of Marwa El-Sherbini caused considerable public reaction in Germany and other countries. Al-Sherbini, a 32-year-old Egyptian national, was stabbed to death in a Dresden courtroom on July 1, 2009 by Alex Wiens, an ethnic German immigrant from Russia. She had been in court to testify against Wiens who had before racially insulted her for wearing a headscarf. Her husband, Egyptian academic Elwy Ali Okaz, was critically wounded in the attack, being stabbed by Wiens and accidentally shot by court security.
The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) noted in 2001, in its second report on the situation of the approximately 9% non- citizen population after German reunification:
|“||(…) that, in spite of the considerable number of non-citizens who have been living in Germany for a long time or even from birth, there was a reluctance by Germany to consider itself as a country of immigration.” Persons of immigrant origin, including those who are second or third generation born in Germany, tended to remain “foreigners” in German statistics and public discourse.||”|
Critics say that a lingering xenophobia in parts of German society is being ignored. A representative from the country's Jewish Council argued that Germany is lacking a coordinated "nationwide action plan" when it comes to right-wing extremism. The German government was quick to condemn attacks, fearing that the developments could tarnish the country’s image.
A former government spokesman Uwe-Karsten Heye said that dark-skinned visitors to Germany should consider avoiding the eastern part of the country where racism runs high. "There are small and medium-sized towns in Brandenburg, as well as elsewhere, which I would advise a visitor of another skin color to avoid going to. It is also reported that German police 'routinely ignore racist attacks'. SPD politician Sebastian Edathy said "People with dark skin have a much higher risk of being a victim of an attack in eastern Germany than in western Germany." He also accused municipalities in the east of not investing enough in the prevention of right-wing extremism."
Undercover journalist Günter Wallraff traveled across Germany for more than a year wearing a dark-haired curly wig and his white skin painted black, in a documentary film titled Black on White. He said that "I hadn't known what we would discover, and had thought maybe the story will be, what a tolerant and accepting country we have become, unfortunately I was wrong."
Racist organizations in Germany
Despite widespread rejection of Nazi Germany in modern Germany there have been Neo-Nazi activities and organizations in post-war Germany. These groups at times face legal issues. Hence Volkssozialistische Bewegung Deutschlands/Partei der Arbeit, Action Front of National Socialists/National Activists, Free German Workers' Party, and the Nationalist Front were all banned. The National Democratic Party of Germany has been accused of Neo-Nazi or Neo-Fascist leanings  but historian Walter Laqueur writes that it cannot be classified that way.
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- A Historical Companion to Postcolonial Literatures - Continental Europe and its Empires, page 240 Edinburgh University Press 2009
- Christian Geulen: Geschichte des Rassismus, C.H. Beck, München 2007, 97f
- "Holocaust," Encyclopædia Britannica, 2009: "the systematic state-sponsored killing of six million Jewish men, women and children, and millions of others by Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II. The Nazis called this "the final solution to the Jewish question ..."
- Niewyk, Donald L. The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust, Columbia University Press, 2000, p.45: "The Holocaust is commonly defined as the murder of more than 5,000,000 Jews by the Germans in World War II."
-  Die Zeit: Rechte Gewalt
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- de Quetteville, Harry (December 5, 2007). "German police 'routinely ignore racist attacks'". The Daily Telegraph (London).
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- "Neo-Nazi NPD party takes hold in municipal vote in Saxony". The Local. 9 Jun 08. Retrieved June 10, 2009. "The neo-Nazi NPD party has representatives in every county council in the eastern German state of Saxony after it increased its share of the vote in municipal elections on Sunday."
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- Laqueur, Walter, Fascism: Past, Present, Future, p.110
- Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance on his visit to Germany, 2010
- European Commission against Racism and Intolerance — 4thj report on Germany
- CERD concluding observations on Germany, 2008
- Racism in Germany and its impact on the Turkish minority
- Germany: freedom to speak on racism under threat
- German racist attacks soar
- Germany Needs to Do More Against Racism, UN Body Says
- How racist is Germany?
- Racism in Germany: Double-Talk by Political Parties
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- "A deep-rooted racism in Germany" - International press review after the racist attack in Muegeln