The Scotsman

Get off the couch and fight fascism, Foreign Minister tells Germans


Germany’s foreign minister has told his fellow countrymen that they’re too lazy when it comes to battling racism and fighting for democracy.

In an interview with weekly Bild am Sonntag, Heiko Maas said: “We have to get off the couch and open the mouth. Our generation was given freedom, rule of law and democracy as a present. We didn’t have to fight for it; (now) we’re taking it too much for granted.”

Maas’ comments followed Saturday’s demonstrat­ions by about 4,500 far-right protesters in Chemnitz, who were rallying against migration a week after a German was killed in the eastern city, allegedly by two migrants from Iraq and Syria.

Around 4,000 leftist protesters also marched through the city in a counter-protest, and 1,800 police officers were deployed to keep the groups apart.

Eighteen people, including three police officers, were injured during the rallies, which at times were very tense, especially after police ended a march of the far right groups early.

Politician Soeren Bartol of the Social Democrats tweeted that after the end of the protests he and his group “were attacked by Nazis” who destroyed their party flags.

Far-right activists and leftist groups had already clashed in Chemnitz on Monday, a day after the 35-year-old German man’s death. Scenes of vigilantes chasing foreigners in the city’s streets have shocked people in others parts of Germany since then.

The tension that has built up over the past week in Chemnitz,reflectsth­egrowing polarisati­on over Germany’s ongoing effort to come to terms with an influx of more than a million refugees and migrants seeking jobs since 2015.

The far right has constantly criticised Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to allow in hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers from wartorn countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanista­n.

Some far-right supporters argued before the killing in Chemnitz that migrants are responsibl­e for an increase in serious crimes.

Thousands are expected to travel to Chemnitz again today, this time to visit a free open air concert that has been quickly organised by some of the country’s most popular bands, including the rock group Die Toten Hosen, as a stand against far-right nationalis­m and anti-migrant prejudice.

Chemnitz, a city known for its hardened neo-nazi scene, at first attracted a comparativ­ely weak response to the recent antimigran­t activity.

Around 70 left-leaning and pro-migrant groups organised the Heart not Hatred rally that got in the way of Saturday’s far-right march.

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