Friday, May 17, 2013

Living under a rock...

When I arrived in Germany my family asked me if I had heard of the NSU court case. What's that?

Now I do read the papers and watch the news in the US. Yet I had no clue what they were talking about. Looks like I have been living under a rock.

While people in the US live their lives worrying about terrorist attacks from the outside - radical muslims blowing up bombs at the Boston marathon - life in Germany is ruled by fears of rising neonazism - terrorist from within - these days.

Stolpersteine - Stumbling stones - located on the sidewalks in the town of Nieder-Olm, Rheinhessen. The golden signs bear the names of Jewish people deported by the Nazis

As I travel through beautiful blooming German landscapes, a not so pretty picture emerges from the newspapers. The story of a young woman, named Beate Zsch√§pe, who is accused of aiding two young German men murder immigrants. Makes you wonder what is going on behind the doors of those cute little houses - especially in the East of Germany? Are neo-Nazis living there?

At the same time I ask myself why such news don't make it into the press here? Maybe if they did there would be much more pressure on the German government to take care of the problem. If you are as clueless about the topic as I am, try googling NSU. What sounds like the abbreviation for an institute of higher education is a far-right terrorist group. Very Scary stuff!

Living under a rock is a dangerous thing. Looks like I am not the only one who does it since it took German authorities the longest time to figure it out.
German authorities had for years been unaware of the existence of a far-right terrorist cell calling itself the "National Socialist Underground" (NSU) that murdered 10 people, most of them Turkish immigrants, in a nationwide killing spree that went on from 2000 until 2007. When this group, based in Zwickau, Saxony, first came to light, politicians declared their intention to tackle and root out the far-right problem, but nothing has come of those declarations. "What's happening in Saxony is a scandal," says Hajo Funke, a political scientist in Berlin. There is no other German state where neo-Nazis have such a high profile, he says, adding that the regional government was refusing to take action against it.
Here I am visiting Weimar. Left and right you find this really weird mix of highlights and low points in German history. Many famous German writers, musicians, philosophers, and artists lived and breathed here.The Bauhaus was founded here. Next to the most beautiful abodes you find historical sites and grim markers of German history. Roadsigns to Buchenwald. The tourist guide tells me it is located 8 kilometers outside of town.

courtyard of the Marstall in Weimar

But one does not have to travel far to find other reminders of  Nazi crimes. Marstallhof. A fancy Neo-Renaissance building. Originally used by  nobles for stables and parading their horses. Turned into a place of horror by the Nazis - prison barracks, holding cells, Gestapo torture chamber - the last station for many before they went to their deaths at the concentration camp in Buchenwald. A work of art commemorates the demolished buildings and form a reminder of the crimes of history committed in them. The buildings were crushed in a crushing mill to wood chips and masonry granulates. The crushed pieces were put back in the courtyard and mark the former foundations of the Nazi-built barracks. Underneath are the government archives.

Photo showing the barracks that were used by the Nazis to hold prisoners in Weimar before they were put on the trains to concentrationcamps

Maybe they should have left those buildings standing instead of crushing them. How many reminders do we need? Did you know that each concentration camp had a motto above the entrance?
The wrought-iron Buchenwald gate to the camp bears the sign "Jedem das Seine,"-  "To each his own."

If you would like to read some more about current German issues here are links to a couple of articles:

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