May 2006


Foreigners Attacked in Weimar

Notice: Please keep discussion on this post focused and on subject. I will have a low tolerance for flippant remarks on this subject.

Weimar has officially joined the list of places I’ve lived where hate crimes have taken place in the last decade. Laramie and Matthew Shepard, Bloomington and Won-Joon Yoon. Denver has probably had countless crimes—just because it’s a major city.

It seems that here in Weimar two men from Mozambique and a Cuban were attacked in Weimar and subsequently eight people were arrested.

Now I haven’t had time to track down a German version of the news so I don’t know all the details, however I’m not really that worried about my personal safety, for although I am a foreigner, as long as I keep my mouth shut, I blend in fairly well.

Any thoughts?

10 comments to Foreigners Attacked in Weimar

  • As an immigrant (albeit one who ‘blends in’, so to speak), how would you rate Germany’s tolerance/acceptance of immigrants ?

    One of my colleagues hails from Turkey and had a very positive living experience in Belgium prior to his immigration to Canada (he speaks Turkish, French, Japanese, and English). We recently discussed anti-Turkish sentiment in Germany, and he blames unbalanced German immigration policy in the 1960s for these attitudes. At the time, German immigration schemes were aimed at attracting unskilled labourers who would work for fairly low wages; as a result, the overwhelming majority of Turkish immigrants to Germany came from poor rural areas and maintained conservative cultural values (by contrast, contemporary Istanbul is probably one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the Near East). My coworker feels that this group of immigrants to Germany was not representative of Turkish society as a whole and engendered stereotypes and attitudes that linger to this day.

  • Jerry- I cannot speak as an immigrant, I can only speak as an expat, but I will say that Germany has some serious immigrant issues that may, in fact, be rooted in the immigration of the 1960s.

    These same issues exist in France and The Netherlands as well, and its not just targetted at Turkish immigrants.

    However, the intolerance of immigrants in Germany is exaserbated by historical factors–the NSD (e.g. Nazis) still exist and in some parts of Germany the Nazis can get a significant (double digit) percentage of the vote. These are usually areas where unemployment is at levels unimaginable in the States or Canada (it reaches at least 18% in some areas).

    That said, Turkish immigration has led to some fantastic innovative culinary experiences: The Döner is a food dish that has its roots in Turkish immigrants living in Germany.

  • I just hope that overall, the tolerance level for gays & lesbians remains relatively high. I am afraid with the influx of other cultures into Europe from other parts of the world, the tolerance for homosexuality seems to be diminishing. I have to say as a very liberal gay man having just moved to Germany six months ago from San Francisco, I feel that those people from other, less-tolerant cultures coming to Europe should just go back home rather than try to change their newly-adopted communities. This is usually due to religious-based differences….Deduce what you may, I am just saying that European cultures overall should remain a safe place for gays and lesbians and that’s my two cents…

  • James,

    Canada receives a fair number of immigrants from countries that could never be mistaken as gay bastions (China, India, and Iran are in the ‘top 10’ of source countries for Canadian immigrants). But support for gay and lesbian rights remains strong nationwide, and many politicians from immigrant communities are strongly pro-gay (my member of parliament, Dr. Hedy Fry, is known nationwide for her consistent support of GLBT equality, yet she grew up in Trinidad). When a Muslim family complained of the gay-supportive curriculum in one Ontario school, the national Muslim rights organization refused to support the parents, reminding the public that the school’s elementary curriculum also encouraged tolerance for ethnic and religious minorities. One of Canada’s leading lesbian intellectuals, Irshad Manjii, is a practicing Muslim and the child of Indian parents (though she is quite critical of fundamentalist Islam).

    The overwhelming majority of immigrants to Canada have earned undergraduate degrees prior to their arrival in our country, and I’m sure that (in many cases) education breeds tolerance.

  • Jerry,
    I am not referring to Canada in any way. I am referring to recent events in Europe, especially Amsterdam. I am afraid Muslims in Europe may feel it is ok to discriminate against gays and this has led to some violent attacks.



    From Wikipedia:
    Mohammed Bouyeri murdered van Gogh in the early morning of Tuesday November 2, 2004, in Amsterdam in front of the Amsterdam East borough office (stadsdeelkantoor) on the corner of the Linnaeusstraat and Tweede Oosterparkstraat streets. He shot him with eight bullets from a HS2000 (a handgun produced in 2000 in Croatia), and Van Gogh died on the spot. Bouyeri slit van Gogh’s throat and then stabbed him in the chest. Two knives were left implanted in his torso, one pinning a five-page note to his body. The note (Text) threatened Western governments, Jews and Hirsi Ali (who went into hiding). The note also contains references to the ideologies of the Egyptian organization Takfir wal-Hijra.

    The murderer Mohammed Bouyeri, a 26-year-old Dutch citizen, was apprehended by the police after being shot in the leg. Although born in Amsterdam, well-educated and apparently well-integrated, Bouyeri has alleged terrorist ties with the Dutch Hofstad Network. He was also charged with attempted murder of a police officer and bystander, illegal possession of a firearm, and conspiring to murder others, including Hirsi Ali. He was convicted on July 26, 2005 and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole.

    Until his murder Van Gogh was working on a movie about the assassination of Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn. The film was officially released on the internet on December 15, 2004 and had its cinema premiere on January 30, 2005.

    A few days after the murder, one of Van Gogh’s intimate friends stated an open letter to Mohammed B. and his friends on Dutch television.

    Van Gogh was cremated on November 9, 2004 in Amsterdam. During the memorial service Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’ was played; a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of booze were placed on the coffin.


  • ChrisC

    I find the immigration debate in the US fascinating these days, but still think it will accomplish nothing. It seems the solutions I’m hearing are a copy of what has been used in Europe to what I consider little success.

    What I find troubling about what happened in Weimar is that you have a nation that touts how friendly it is to other cultures but some people then turn around and attack these people of other culture for no reason other than they are different.

    I think what I find most upsetting in the US is that the majority of immigrants are making no effort to fit in to the society in which they find themselves. I know learning another language and learning to navigate the legal/political system is tough, but if the same amount of energy these folks seem to expend on getting our government to do what they want were instead spent on learning to fit into this society, they and society would ultimately be better off.

    My example of this is when Americans go to other nations we are often called, “Ugly Americans.” What about “ugly (insert nationality here)” when they come to the US?

  • The problem is that the nation is friendly, but there are elements that are not. Even in the heart of gay-friendly San Francisco, you can find shocking examples of anti-gay behaviors and beliefs (see the Catholic Church).

  • ChrisC

    I suppose you can find examples to prove any point anywhere and that exposure of such does not implicate overall societal acceptance of such behavior.

  • J

    I’ve always said that I’d never live in Germany if I wasn’t white. The police openly discriminate against non-white people in my town and the funny thing is that all the Germans I’ve brought this to the attention of have said things like, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that we have problems like that in Germany.’ They’ve become blind to it.

  • J, you raise and interesting point.

    I haven’t seen many police-civilian interactions since moving to Weimar — the only times have involved large numbers of police at football matches where they were more concerned about keeping the Jena and Erfurt fans separate.

    I do think that people in Europe tend to be less aware of subtle discrimination in their daily lives–sometimes goign so far as to say they don’t discriminate in one breath and in the next making a discriminatory statement in the next. The Dutch are especially likely to do this: distinguishing between “authentic” or “real” Dutch and fake Dutch. In the US we would say “Italian-American” or “German-American,” there many refuse to admit that one who is non-Christian, not of Dutch Descent, but with Dutch citizenship is Dutch.