Tag Archives: racism

Neo-Nazi trial sparks debate on Germany’s racist undercurrents

Irish Independent, May 13, 2013

Enver Simsek was their first victim. On September 9, 2000, the Turkish immigrant and businessman was gunned down at one of the flower stalls he owned in Nuremberg, shot in the head eight times.

It was the start of an alleged killing spree by the far-right National Socialist Underground (NSU) that saw 10 people murdered between 2000 and 2007: eight men of Turkish origin, one of Greek descent and a German policewoman.

The case has left Germany reeling and has revealed not only severe failings on the part of the authorities but also a blind spot when it came to the threat posed by the extreme right. Continue reading

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It Takes a Village: A Roma Community Fights Against the Odds

By Siobhán Dowling in Alsószentmárton, Hungary

The village of Alsószentmárton is at the very margins of Europe, one of the last places in Hungary before the Croation border. And all its people are Roma, among the most marginalized in the EU. But a church-run project there aims to break the cycle of social exclusion and educational disadvantage.

There are no shops, cafes or other small businesses in Alsószentmárton. One of the few things that stands out from the rows of one-story, shabby houses, is the imposing white church at the entrance to the village. Children play and cycle their bikes on the streets and young women, not much older, push strollers and call out greetings to one another.

Alsószentmárton is a small village in southwestern Hungary and all of its residents are Roma, Europe’s most marginalized people. Living here on the very edge of the European Union, right up against the border with Croatia, the villagers are fighting the affects of decades of social exclusion and disadvantage. A project run by the local Catholic priest is attempting to tackle that poverty and to address one of the Roma population’s biggest handicaps: the lack of access to a decent education.

Father József Lánko, a huge burly man with a white beard, wears a brown woolly jumper. The 55-year-old has been in the village for 30 years and has seen firsthand the ravages caused by the economic turmoil that followed the end of communism. “Earlier everyone had a job, the people in this village were in construction or road building,” he explains. “They had a minimum salary, but it was certain that every month they would have money, so they lived in security.” With the fall of the Iron Curtain, from one day to the next, they lost everything.

“The people live like beggars now,” Lánko says. “It is against human dignity, it would be much better if they could take care of their own families by working.”

Lánko says the unemployment here fluctuates. It is 90 percent most of the year, but drops to 60 percent during the wine harvest season — the village is located near Hungary’s famous Wine Road — when the people are employed in the local vineyards. “There is little here in winter, the families have nothing to eat, then we help for a few days, give them something so they don’t have to starve,” he says. Continue reading

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The Right Wing and the Roma: EU Presidency a Test for Tolerance in Hungary

By Siobhán Dowling in Budapest, Hungary

Hungary will assume the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union in January and the government is pledging to forge a policy for addressing the Roma in all of Europe. But the country has its own troubling history with the Roma, who have been deeply impoverished and pushed to the margins of society since the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Csaba Csorba is standing in scrubland beside the burned-out shell of a small house. He points to the spot amid the tall grass where he found his son Robert bleeding in the snow almost two years ago. Nearby lay the body of his four-year-old grandson Robi. The small boy had been shot through the head, his face was unrecognizable.

The murders of Feb. 23, 2009 saw the Hungarian village of Tatárszentgyörgy become synonymous with hate, hatred towards Europe’s Roma people. Robert Csorba, a 27-year-old father of three, had gathered up his young son in his arms and ran out to escape the flames that engulfed his house, the last one on the edge of the village. Unknown assailants had attacked under the cover of night, throwing Molotov cocktails at the door and then opening fire when those inside tried to flee. Robert was shot in the lungs and lived for another hour, dying on the way to the hospital. His six-year-old daughter Bianka was injured but survived, while his wife Renata and younger son escaped the blaze. Continue reading

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After Minarets, the Germans: The Swiss Populists’ New Enemy No. 1

Having succeeded in its referendum campaign against minarets in Switzerland, the populist SVP is now focusing on a different threat — this time from the north. The party is targeting Germans ahead of a local election in Zurich. Worringly it seems that its German-bashing is becoming respectable.

The far-right Swiss People’s Party (SVP) is not content to wrest on its laurels after its spectacularly successful campaign against minarets. Now the populist party has a new enemy in its sights: Germans.

Ahead of local elections in March, the party has been waging a campaign against the many Germans who have settled in the German-speaking city of Zurich. And the SVP has chosen to hone in on what it claims is a hogging of academic jobs in Switzerland by German professors. While the attacks on what it calls “German sleaze” in the Swiss ivory towers fits into the party’s populist rhetoric, the tendency towards German bashing — like the rejection of the minarets — looks like it may be going mainstream. Continue reading

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