Thousands protest deaths of 5 Turks in arson attributed to neo-Nazis


May 31, 1993|By Carl Schoettler | Carl Schoettler,Berlin Bureau

BERLIN -- Stunned by the second murderous neo-Nazi arson attack on foreigners in six months, Germany once again writhes with guilt, national self-doubt and fury.

Thousands took to the streets in cities and towns yesterday to vent their wrath, sorrow and frustration at the firebombing deaths Saturday of two Turkish women and three children in Solingen, a city in western Germany best-known till now for its knives, scissors and fine metalwork.

Mourners bearing flowers and glowing candles and protesting young Turks demanding revenge maintained an all-night vigil Saturday in front of the arsonists' target -- an apartment house now bearing blackened rafters.

Yesterday, about 10,000 people, many angry youths waving the flag of Turkey, gathered in front of the charred house and refused to disperse when asked by police.

But the cautious and protective police did manage to turn back Rita Sussmith, president of the lower house of parliament, and Norbert Blum, labor minister, yesterday when they arrived to join the mourners.

The fire-bombing came only days after the German parliament revoked the nation's constitutional guarantee of asylum, dramatically limiting the number of foreigners who may seek refuge.

In many churches yesterday, clergymen included in their Pentecost sermons prayers for the dead, condemnation of racist violence and pleas for respect and tolerance.

The arson in Solingen was the nation's worst anti-foreigner attack since German reunification in 1990. Fourteen members of the extended family also were injured, including a 3-year-old girl and a 7-month-old baby, who were taken off the critical list yesterday.

"The cries of the children were the worst," said a neighbor from Croatia who helped rescue some of the 20 people in the house.

Two "right-radical" youths, 15 and 16 years old, were taken into custody yesterday, but the younger one was later released.

Rolf Hannich, spokesman for the federal prosecutor, said they were among several rightists who have been questioned since the pre-dawn arson attack early Saturday.

No prime suspect has been identified, Mr. Hannich said. Witnesses said youths with shaved heads, wearing bomber jackets and jackboots, were seen around the house before and after the fire erupted. The government offered a $60,000 reward for information leading to arrests.

With the number of deaths Solingen displaced Moelln, where two Turkish women and a young girl were killed in a firebomb attack in November.

Two "skinheads" are now on trial for the Moelln deaths. At the end of the week, both had recanted their confessions.

Widespread outrage among Germans at the deaths in Moelln had sparked the first real crackdown on right-wing violence that has taken 21 lives in fourteen months.

More than 2,000 attacks on foreigners were recorded last year, when neo-Nazi rhetoric flared into a wave of violence.

So far this year, 675 incidents have been recorded, up from 425 in 1992.

BTC About 1.8 million Turks live in Germany, few of them citizens, although many have been here 10 or 20 years. Most were invited as "guest workers."

German citizenship is extremely hard to get, and many Turks don't want to give up their Turkish citizenship. Dual citizenship is forbidden in Germany.

Chancellor Helmut Kohl visited Turkey earlier this month. When he returned, he hinted that he might support a law that would allow dual citizenship for a limited period.

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