When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Germany

Hanau Attack: Echos Of The Past In Germany's Far-Right Hatred

After the killing of nine in the western German town of Hanau, it is clear the state must do more to crack down. But the responsibility extends much farther.

A vigil in Munich for the victims of the Hanau attack
A vigil in Munich for the victims of the Hanau attack
Kurt Kister

-Analysis-

MUNICH — Watching the video in which mass murderer Tobias R. explains to the world that the US military is killing children and engaging in satanic rituals in underground bases, it's easy to dismiss him as crazy. But now he has killed ten people, all of whom – apart from his mother – he shot because he wanted to kill foreigners, immigrants, non-Germans. The attacks in Hanau were racially motivated terrorism – regardless of whether the perpetrator was suffering from mental illness or not.

For Germany, this brings back uncomfortable echoes of the first half of the 20th century, when racially motivated terrorism grew out of widespread xenophobia and racism among the population, mainly – although not solely – directed at Jews. It started with a few individual perpetrators, then groups that were protected by parts of society. They were not seriously investigated by police, and the justice system often treated them leniently as "politically motivated offenders."

The terrible events of the 1920s and 30s are not about to repeat themselves. Nowadays there is no danger of a coup, no revisionist foreign policy that aims to reunite Germany's "stolen" land. Most people live, think and love differently from how they did a hundred years ago. However, in Germany, there is plenty of reason to remind ourselves of what went before, as some of what is happening now is uncomfortably familiar.

At Munich's Odeonsplatz, a memorial for victims of the Hanau attack — Photo:Sachelle Babbar/ZUMA

The so-called "lone wolves' who carried out attacks in Munich in 2016, Halle in 2019 and now Hanau, as well as the neo-Nazi extremist who killed politician Walter Lübcke in 2019, acted in the knowledge that there are many others who think the same way they do – even if they wouldn't commit the same acts. The terrorists are targeting the same people who were targeted a hundred years ago: Jews, foreigners, representatives of "the system." Now, Muslims and refugees have been added to the list. You only have to look at the U.S. to see how quickly mass murders can change a society: there, the number of shootings has become so great that they seem to be accepted as part of everyday life. The President says his prayers are with the victims, society is outraged, and three months later another shooter kills twelve people.

Although it's terrible, there is still hope. It is a good thing that the supposedly homogenous Germany of the 20th century no longer exists. For it was this Germany that was responsible for one of the worst crimes in human history. Today Germany is a diverse country that is looking towards the future with a fierce determination. Despite the attacks in Hanau and Halle, Germany has never been as good, and as free.

The justice system often treated them leniently as "politically motivated offenders'

This Germany is what the murderers are attacking when they shoot migrants. But they are not the only ones we have to fight. We must also look at the people who prepare the ground for them. People who constantly speak about "foreign infiltration," who denigrate specific communities, who compare lifestyles to diseases, who try to build barriers between "us' and "them." People like polemical politician Thilo Sarrazin who disparage Muslims; people like reactionary Alexander Gauland who break taboos because they want to divide society; people like Alternative for Germany (AfD) party member Björn Höcke who use neo-Nazi rhetoric. Of course these people don't load the murderers' guns, but they create an atmosphere in which the murderers don't feel like "lone wolves' – because they're not.

Yes, the state has to take a stronger stance against right-wing extremism in all its forms. It needs to offer better protection to synagogues and mosques while the threat is so significant. Restricting individuals and shooting club members from keeping certain guns at home would also be an important step towards prevention.

However, none of this alone will be enough. Every individual also has a responsibility, whether they're making insensitive jokes or not speaking up against everyday racism. We have to call a spade a spade: anyone who votes for AfD is aligning themselves with the far-right, as they are also voting for the right-wing extremists within the party. This country, its society and its people – whether they originally come from Berlin, Ankara or Krakow – deserve protection, especially from those who, through their words or their actions, want to turn the clock back.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Society

How India’s Women Are Fighting Air Pollution — And The Patriarchy

India is one of the world's worst countries for air pollution, with women more likely to be affected by the problem than men. Now, experts and activists are fighting to reframe pollution as a gendered health crisis.

A woman walking through dense fog in New Delhi

*Saumya Kalia

MUMBAI In New Delhi, a city that has topped urban air-pollution charts in recent years, Shakuntala describes a discomfort that has become too familiar. Surrounded by bricks and austere buildings, she tells an interviewer: "The eyes burn and it becomes difficult to breathe". She is referring to the noxious fumes she routinely breathes as a construction worker.

Like Shakuntala, women’s experiences of polluted air fill every corner of their lives – inside homes, in parks and markets, on the way to work. Ambient air in most districts in India has never been worse than it is today. As many as 1.67 million people in the country die prematurely due to polluted air. It is India’s second largest health risk after malnutrition.

This risk of exposure to air pollution is compounded for women. Their experiences of toxic air are more frequent and often more hazardous. Yet “policies around air quality have not yet adequately taken into account gender or other factors that might influence people’s health,” Pallavi Pant, a senior scientist at the Health Effects Institute, a nonprofit in the U.S., told The Wire Science.

“It’s unacceptable that the biggest burden [rests on] those who can least bear it,” Sherebanu Frosh, an activist, added. People like her are building a unique resistance within India.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ