Legacy of denial: It’s time to stop pretending about the radical right in East Germany
Germany is shocked by a series of murders targeting Turkish citizens. Over the course of several years Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos from Zwickau randomly murdered flower sellers and grocery store owners as well as a policewoman. And for years they remained in hiding, while the investigations of local and national police came to nothing. The murderers originate from Saxony, a region of the former GDR, and they were part of a extreme radical rightwing scene. There are Neo-nazis in both western and eastern German states. What is less known, however, is that this ideology was surprisingly alive and well in the GDR. Freya Klier, a former East German dissident, describes how racism was actually promoted in the GDR. Today an atmosphere persists in the “new states” that continues to tolerate rightwing extremism.
In 1993 the National Chairman of the Republikaner, Franz Schönhuber, decided to fill the existing holes in his western party staff with former state loyalists from the East. One professor was deemed particularly worthy of promotion, previously a longstanding member of the SED and director of the sociology department within the Faculty for Communism Research at the Karl Marx University of Leipzig. This man became the State Chairman of the radical right-wing Republikaner for Saxony. A party convention was planned for June 1993 in Augsburg and on this occasion also an “act of national reconciliation.”
The party chief correspondingly gushed about the German Democratic Republic. In one statement he asserted: “East Germany was much more German than West Germany. It had a sense of family and was not the kind of elbow society we have now.” In others he praised the “proper goose-step” in the GDR and their “extensive hostility to foreigners.” Schöhuber shares this view with numerous citizens of the dismantled GDR and many socialist comrades.
But Schönhuber did not yet realise what these comrades had already managed to do in the East: a history of over 40 years of cultivated anti-Semitism and an iron grip on the extremely small minority of foreigners who had been allowed to stay temporarily in an encapsulated GDR. After the flight of millions of East German citizens, there was such a permanent lack of workforce, that in the late 1970s the socialist leaders reluctantly decided to let in certain quotas of Vietnamese and Africans from Mozambique - for three year periods, and then they were replaced by others.
However, the so-called “fijis” and “mozis” were placed in special housing units. They were not allowed to frequent official restaurants. They were not allowed to leave the city without a permit, had to perform the most menial tasks in factories, and they were not supposed to learn German at all. Above all, their wives were forced to have abortions - something still celebrated by all the right-wing radicals. Could there conceivably be a more right-wing policy? Today, the people who used to enforce are under now the guises of Die Linke party. And shortly after fall of the Wall they accused the West of their own rotten practices.