Berlin Attacks

The Nazis of Neukölln

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The issue of immigration, and of refugee policy, has been much debated in Germany – and doubtless will be again at the upcoming elections. Some locals believe this has made certain extremist attitudes that have been taboo here for decades, acceptable again – and even encouraged violent acts.

  • Facts


    • There have been arson attacks by the far right in the south of Neukölln, a Berlin district known for working class neighborhoods, a big immigrant population and, more recently, hipsters and gentrification, for years now. But now they are spreading northward.
    • Since last summer, there have been more than 80 attacks, according to the Berliner Register, an organization formed to document right-wing criminal acts.
    • Among the incidents, have been arson attacks on cafes and cars, smashed windows at galleries and stores, threatening phone calls and online harassment. Far right groups have also posted details about left wing politicians online.
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Right-Wing Activists Protest Against Angela Merkel
Demonstrators in Berlin protest far right policies. The sign says: We are many. Berlin against Nazis. Source: Getty

Early one Thursday morning in late February, shortly after two, Claudia von Gélieu looked out of her first-floor bedroom window and wondered what that bright flickering was. It was her car, it turned out. And it was on fire.

A couple of days later, the only evidence left of the arson attack was a rust spot in the driveway and a pile of scrap parts, all that remained of the car’s air conditioning and bumpers.

The insurance assessor told the von Gélieus they had been lucky. The flames could have easily spread to the house. Indeed, the von Gélieus are upset that in a press release about the incident, the local police wrote that no people were in danger. “We feel abandoned by them,” Ms. von Gélieu’s husband, Christian, said.

The couple’s townhouse is in the south of Rudow, part of Berlin’s Neukölln district. The border to Brandenburg is just over 400 yards away. She is a political scientist, he a judge. The attack on their car was part of a series of incidents in the district suspected to have been perpetrated by right-wing extremists.

Since last summer, there have been more than 80 assaults, threats of assault and smashed windows in the area.

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