Germans told ‘get off sofa’ to stop far-right

People hold a banner reading: 'We are all Germany' as they attend a manifestation following the killing of a German man in Chemnitz, Germany. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke
People hold a banner reading: ‘We are all Germany’ as they attend a manifestation following the killing of a German man in Chemnitz, Germany. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

The German foreign minister yesterday called on the country’s “silent majority” to “get up off the sofa” and take a stand against the far-right in the wake of neo-Nazi riots.

“The vast majority of Germans are cosmopolitan and tolerant,” Heiko Maas told ‘Bild am Sonntag’ newspaper.

“If decent people remain silent, the racists are much louder. We have to show the world that we democrats are the majority and the racists are a minority. The silent majority must finally get louder.”

Mr Maas’s comments come after violent protests over the fatal stabbing of a man by migrants in the east German city of Chemnitz last week that saw neo-Nazis openly making Hitler salutes and hunting foreigners through the streets.

“When it comes to xenophobia, the far-right and racism, Germany is quite rightly viewed through especially critical eyes,” the foreign minister said. “If the Hitler salute is displayed on our streets today, it is shameful for our country.

“Politicians must do our part, but it is a challenge for the whole of society: we have to take a stand against the far-right.”

Mr Maas said Germans had to speak up for basic rights.

“My generation has been given freedom, the rule of law and democracy. We didn’t have to fight for it, and sometimes we take it for granted,” he said.

“We have to get up off the sofa and open our mouths.”

Chemnitz has seen several days of protests following the death of a German-Cuban man in a suspected stabbing by two migrants from Iraq and Syria.

Fresh protests passed off largely peacefully on Saturday amid a heavy police presence.

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Eighteen people suffered injuries in scuffles, but none were seriously hurt.

An Afghan man was attacked and beaten in another part of the city, away from the main protests, but also escaped serious injury.

There were fears of clashes as far-right and far-left protesters held rival demonstrations in the city. But police numbers have been massively increased with reinforcements from around the country following Monday’s riots, and they were able to keep control. More than 11,000 people took part in the rival rallies, police said, as protesters poured into Chemnitz from across Germany.

The nationalist Alternative for Germany party (AfD), which has seen its support rise in the opinion polls since the protests began, held a silent march through the city led by Björn Höcke, one of its most controversial politicians, who has previously called for a “180-degree turn” in German attitudes to World War II.

The AfD march joined with a separate demonstration by the anti-Muslim Pegida movement.

Meanwhile, left-wing ‘Antifa’ protesters held a rival rally across the city, and water cannons and riot police were deployed to keep them apart. (© Daily Telegraph London)

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