This week, Germany has been convulsed with rioting in the eastern city of Chemnitz, where right-wing protesters have clashed with police for days. The murder of a German man on Sunday, reportedly by two Middle Eastern migrants, birthed angry protests that have devolved into violence, with attacks on foreigners by right-wing mobs. The police have been unable to quash the street melee, leading to troubling questions for the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, whose open door to migrants three summers ago set the stage for political turmoil in the European Union’s predominant country.
Angry right wingers flashing the banned Hitler salute for the cameras rattled Germany’s chattering class, which seems mystified by anger at Merkel and her policies. However, it’s no surprise that this unpleasantness exploded in Saxony, the German state where the renascent far right has the deepest roots. Chemnitz, called Karl-Marx-Stadt when this was East Germany, like much of Saxony, has proved an ideal breeding ground for hardline nationalism and nativism, thanks to socio-economic stagnation. Chancellor Merkel’s harsh criticism of the rioters is unlikely to change many minds in Chemnitz, where dislike of the current government runs deep.
Right-wing hooligans from across Germany descended on Chemnitz to partake in the violent protests, and although the police have made progress in regaining the streets, the city remains in turmoil today. Tensions over migrants that have roiled German politics for the last three years, nearly causing the collapse of Merkel’s fragile coalition, have now exploded in open violence. Like the recent murder of a Jewish girl by a migrant, the Chemnitz fracas raises awkward questions about the true state of German politics and society.
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