'Words won’t save lives': Will Germany wake up after terror attack?

Members of Kurdish minority worry after attack by far-right terrorist, link attack tor rising hate crimes and antisemitic attacks.

Supporters of the Anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AfD) hold German flags during a protest in Berlin, Germany May 27, 2018 (photo credit: REUTERS/HANNIBAL HANSCHKE)
Supporters of the Anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AfD) hold German flags during a protest in Berlin, Germany May 27, 2018
A far-right racist targeted sheesha (hookah) bars and murdered at least nine people last Wednesday in Hanau, Germany, in an attack that has garnered remarkably little attention.
In contrast to the mass murder of Muslims in New Zealand, where the prime minister donned a hijab and the whole country appeared to come together, there was little outpouring of mass support in Germany or across Europe, where similar anti-immigrant, racist and antisemitic views are on the rise. Locals are concerned about the rising number of attacks and say words alone from authorities will not stop the tide of hate.
The murderer attacked two smoking lounges where people gather to enjoy hookah, or nargileh, pipes. Like the mass murderers in Norway and New Zealand, he reportedly left behind a “manifesto” in which he said he wanted to kill people from Asia, North Africa and Israel.
A witness at one of the sites of the attack, which authorities have described at terrorism, said the man they saw do the shooting was not the same person who was later shown as the accused on television. The accused was found dead later in the day. Hanau has tens of thousands of people who are descendants of immigrants from Turkey. They include many Kurds.
According to locals, the perpetrator had spread racist views on social media, but nothing was done to stop him. In addition, he had access to firearms. This is despite the widespread perception that Europe is safer than the US due to gun laws.
Germany has had two mass shootings this year. A man killed six members of his family. Like the shooting in Hanau, the mass killing went by without much real response from the authorities.
Racist attacks have been happening for years, a man told Turkey’s Anadolu news agency, and the lip service from authorities about condemning terrorism “is largely meaningless.” There will definitely be another attack at some other place,” Ozkan Rutbil said. In 2017, a BBC report noted there were on average 10 attacks a day on migrants or centers for asylum seekers.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, in power since 2005, has presided over an unprecedented rise in racist hate crimes, antisemitic assaults and terrorist attacks. For instance, there was an attack on a synagogue in Halle in October 2019 in which two people were killed. Far-right terrorism is now the No. 1 threat in Germany. Other disturbing incidents have occurred, including a neo-Nazi cell that was busted, in which police took years to connect the pattern, and an attack in 2016.
The victims of the attack on February 19 included several Kurds, a Bulgarian and a Bosnian, according to reports. But authorities have been vague about motives and the manifesto. This is typical of recent attacks, where authorities believe that if they don’t mention the name of the perpetrator or his views, then somehow that will prevent the views from spreading or stop copycats.
Yet the pattern of these attacks – on a synagogue in the US, ISIS bombing churches in Sri Lanka, or the mass murder of Muslims in New Zealand – continues despite authorities pretending that nothing has happened or that publicizing details somehow will lead to more incidents. The terrorist in Germany had a firearms license. He was able to drive from one sheesha bar to another and then to his house during the attack.
Hanau’s mayor has said this was the “hardest day in history,” and Merkel has said far-right hate is a poison. But many of the condemnations across Europe appear like they come from the same script that is read after other, often Islamist, terrorist attacks.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, a former German government minister, said she was “deeply shock by the tragedy.” The word tragedy could be used for a train accident. It does not seem to confront the reality of a man gunning down people for reasons of hate.
The murderer was 43 years old. Most people who have far-right or religious extremist views that lead to terrorism do not keep them to themselves their whole lives. Where were the warning signs? Who knew the perpetrator? Reports say he wrote a “rambling manifesto” saying he was angered by seeing different “ethnic groups, races and cultures in our midst that are destructive.” He wanted a “cleaning” of them. He listed people he wanted exterminated, including those from Morocco, Algeria, Israel and numerous Middle Eastern countries, as well as Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
Questions remain about the killing, and people are fearful. One member of Germany’s Kurdish minority, hit hard by the attack, said while authorities make the attack appear small, many people have been murdered in recent decades.
“We Kurds have nowhere else do go if we leave Germany,” he said. “A lot of us care deeply for the German constitution and the country in general. We have no second home.” Many Kurds fled the Middle East due to discrimination and now are concentrated in Germany, he said, adding: “We also need to openly criticize authorities and the media in this country – the media’s choice of words when it comes to Germans with a migration background and the poor responses of the authorities.”
Words won’t save lives, the man said, adding: “We need decisive action now. We need raids all over Europe [against the far Right]. Politicians have to call out their racist colleagues and official institutions or fire fascists in their ranks.”
On February 23, police in Stuttgart found bullet holes in another sheesha bar that was unoccupied at the time of the shooting. Authorities do not know if it is linked to the far Right or other reasons.