German Chancellor Angela Merkel took the opportunity of German Unity Day in Dresden to remind citizens of the importance of suppressing right-wing tendencies, especially in the east — the former DDR.
Many thanks to Ava Lon for translating this article from the Rheinische Post:
Bürgerfest for German unity
Merkel calls on citizens to rise against the right wing
Dresden. While on 26th anniversary of German unification Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for opposing right-wing populists, the celebrations have started in Dresden with a street festival. Three quarters of a million visitors are expected by Monday. It has prompted the highest level of security for the police.
Given the increasing polarization of society, Federal President Stanislaw Tillich (CDU) urged further efforts to realize internal unity. That people lived in the East and West for over forty years in two different systems is now strongly felt as hasn’t been during the period since 1990, said the Saxon Prime Minister to the German Press Agency.
“We are celebrating something that is not self-evident in the story: A peaceful revolution that ended in the reunification of the nation,” said Tillich. This is at the same time a reminder “to continue to work on our internal unity”.
Dresden Mayor Dirk Hilbert (FDP) stressed that his city with its historic center would not only provide a stage for a look at history. “Also the present and future of our region become clear in these days,” he said at the opening of the festival.
Merkel: All are the people
Meanwhile, at the 26th anniversary of German unification the Chancellor called for the defense of the central freedom of the East German civil rights movement against right-wing populists. One must intervene when people with a right-wing background proclaim “We are the people” [Wir sind das Volk], said Merkel on Saturday in a video message. This slogan was “very liberating” during the peaceful revolution in the GDR.
“Today we have a different situation: Today, we have an system, in which everyone has the right to freely speak his mind and to demonstrate. And that’s why we have to say: ‘All are the people’,” said Merkel. Today, the slogan is being used by the people who believe they have gotten a raw deal, but also by those with a right-wing background — “which of course I don’t find all right, and against which we must also intervene.”
Merkel expressly praised the handling by government and society of such tendencies in Saxony. She thinks they have responded very well when they said: “Anyone who believes that he has problems which aren’t noticed by society or by the politicians should raise his concerns and suggest constructive solutions,” said the Chancellor. “This is democracy in action.”
Thierse: Right-wing extremism in the East shouldn’t be justified
In the meantime, former Bundestag President Wolfgang Thierse (SPD) warned against a justification of far-right/right extremism in East Germany. Attempts at explanations could easily sound “like understanding” and “this shouldn’t happen under any circumstances,” Thierse said on Saturday on German radio. Federal Justice Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) warned of a general suspicion against the “whole of eastern Germany”. Meanwhile, the celebrations began without incident for German Unity Day in Dresden.
Thierse emphasized that “there is no case, and no indication of economic and social problems, that might somehow justify the violence, whether in the East or West.” Concerning the population, “right-wing extremist violence in East Germany” is allegedly “about four to five times as high as in the West”. Everybody “who wants to relativize it again” should take note.
Previously, the East Commissioner of the Federal Government, Iris Gleicke (SPD), worried about the surveys, said that increasing xenophobia in East Germany was a “serious threat” to the social and economic development in the new countries. Several East German Prime Ministers criticized the presentation and stressed xenophobia is not a problem in eastern Germany alone.
Federal Justice Minister Maas told Handelsblatt, according to a report on Saturday, that “the entirety of eastern Germany should not be put under the general suspicion of xenophobia.” Although there are, especially in the East, “clearer structures in right-wing extremist milieu”, which manifests itself by increasing violence and intimidation against dissidents. All that, however, allegedly exists also in the West.
Thuringian Minister-President Bodo Ramelow (left) made the same statement. In all of Germany refugee shelters have been burned, he said on the radio station NDR Info. “In East Germany it only becomes a very ugly side, when no foreign people are actually visible in the population.”
Dresden celebrates — 200 events in three days
Due to the Presidency of Saxony in the Federal Council, the festival on German Unity Day takes place this year in Dresden. Until Monday some 200 events are planned. The states present themselves at a country mile. The Federal Government, the Bundestag and Bundesrat offer large information tents. In addition, a colorful cultural program is designed to attract 250,000 visitors to the old town every day for three days. On Monday German President Joachim Gauck and Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) are expected at the central ceremony in Dresden.
After two bombings earlier this week and the discovery of a fake bomb on Thursday, the ceremonies are being held under tight security. 2,600 officers in uniform or in plain clothes are patrolling the town. “The Dresden police and their support staff will do everything possible so that we can enjoy a safe and peaceful festival,” said Dresden police chief Horst Kretzschmar. Whereas there is information that “unteachables” would try to disrupt the festivities. “We are prepared,” said Kretzschmar.