The World From Berlin: ‘The Shame Must Continue to Burn in Our Hearts’
On Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel paid tribute to the families of immigrants murdered by a neo-Nazi terror cell. Newspaper editorialists across the political spectrum agree that the event was a wake-up call for Germans and that it’s time to become tolerant and accepting of the country’s large immigrant population.
It was an event unlike any Germany has seen in recent years. And for many people, the gesture of solidarity with the victims of far-right violence was long overdue.
On Thursday, the country paid tribute to the victims of the neo-Nazi terror cell with an official state ceremony at the Konzerthaus concert hall in Berlin. Chancellor Angela Merkel gave the keynote speech, where she described the murder series as a “disgrace for our country” and asked the victims’ relatives, many of whom were present, for forgiveness for investigators’ wrongful suspicions.
But for many the most moving part of the event was when the relatives themselves got the chance to speak. The daughter of Enver Simsek, who was murdered in Nuremberg in broad daylight in 2000, paid moving tribute to her late father. Semiya Simsek also talked of the burden of having to live with the false suspicion that family-related or criminal motives must have been behind the murder. “For 11 years, we weren’t even allowed to be victims with a clear conscience,” she said.
Ismail Yozgat, the father of one of the victims, delivered a short speech in Turkish in tribute to his murdered son, and asked that the street in the city of Kassel where his son was born and also died be renamed in his honor. Gamze Kubasik, whose father was murdered in Dortmund in 2006, spoke of her hope “for a future that is characterized by more solidarity.”
The Zwickau-based neo-Nazi terror cell is believed to have murdered nine small business owners of Turkish and Greek origin and one policewoman between 2000 and 2007. The revelations about the murder series shocked Germany when the terror cell was discovered in November 2011 and sparked a heated debate about the threat of right-wing extremism.
Police had earlier failed to solve the murder series despite extensive efforts. The victims’ families have complained that investigators initially assumed that the murders must have been motivated by family tensions or criminal ties, and argued that such suppositions were racist.
Investigators came one step closer to clearing up the crimes on Thursday when it was revealed that a former associate of the neo-Nazi trio, identified only as Carsten S., had admitted that he provided the group in 1999 with the Ceska pistol they would later use in the murder spree. S., a former official with the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) who has been in custody since the beginning of February, insisted he had not known what the neo-Nazi cell planned to do with the gun.
On Friday, German commentators discuss the significance of Thursday’s memorial ceremony, with some arguing that it made a welcome contrast to the indifference shown by the German government in the early 1990s, following a wave of attacks on immigrants.