EXTREMISM

The Origins of Hate

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What's the matter with Saxony? Picture source: Reuters.

Saxony has long had a reputation for right-wing extremism. For years, it was one of the few states where the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party, or NPD, had representatives in the state parliament.

Voters kicked the NPD out in 2014, but that same year the far-right PEGIDA movement, or Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of West, formed in Dresden. At its height in January 2015, some 25,000 people joined PEGIDA to protest in the streets of Dresden. It was the largest rally against Muslim immigration in all of Germany.

Then, the migrant crisis came in full force when Chancellor Angela Merkel opened Germany’s borders to hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom were Muslims fleeing war in the Middle East. Saxony became the site of some of the worst incidents of right-wing extremism. In February 2016, crowds in the village of Bautzen cheered after a building planned for use as a refugee shelter was set in flames.

The right-wing terrorist group National Socialist Underground, alleged to be responsible for a series of migrant murders across Germany, had its safe house in the village of Zwickau. The group went on a decade-long, nationwide killing spree that took the lives of nine immigrants and a policewoman.

This had Germans elsewhere in the country asking, “what is wrong with Saxony?” Political scientist Franz Walter, under the auspices of the federal government, sought to find out what exactly is going on in the eastern state, which borders Poland and the Czech Republic. Mr. Walter studied two small villages, Heidenau and Freital, as well as the Herrenberg district in the city of Erfurt.

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