On the Monday following the massacres at Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket in Paris, tens of thousands marched in German cities against Germany’s new right-wing anti-Muslim movement, Pegida (“Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West”, or, more precisely, “of the Occident”).
In Pegida’s stronghold, Dresden, 35,000 turned out against them. In Munich, 20,000. In Hanover, 17,000. In Leipzig, 30,000.
In most places, Pegida demonstrations (which are always on Mondays) were much smaller. Pegida’s turnout in Dresden was big — 25,000 — but still smaller than the counter-demonstration.
The counter-demonstrations were conservative in tone, sponsored by state governments, city councils, and mainstream politicians, and the threat still remains that Pegida will gain ground among people disillusioned for good reasons with the status quo.
On Monday 13 January Eritrean asylum seeker Khaled Idris Bahray was murdered in Dresden. Just three days before, a swastika was painted on his flat door along with “we’ll get you all”.
On Saturday 17 several thousand people demonstrated in Dresden in memory of Khalid, carrying signs that read “Ich bin Khaled”.
A reader in Berlin writes: “Die Linke parliamentary leader (ex-PDS, ex-SED/East German CP) Gregor Gysi said this week Pegida’s ‘success’ was caused by East Germans only ‘knowing the world through what they saw on a television screen’.”
The reader comments that “Pegida is really only big in Dresden”, and suggests this may be “because this is the portion of East Germany that couldn’t get West German television (for geographical reasons) so they were very badly informed about lots of things for decades. And when the wall came down they immediately got rubbish from RTL, Bertelsmann, Springer etc. and preferred that to public-service broadcasting from the west...
“Interesting also is the relationship between Pegida and the AfD (the ‘German Ukip’). This could be make or break for the AfD as a serious political force. If the AfD does lash-up with Pegida more closely, then it will define itself as a hard-right party, probably only regionally successful, and probably lose a lot of its ‘protest vote’ potential, and many votes in the west.
“Another theory is that Pegida has failed to kick off in the west because in the west, non-Germans, ‘Islamic’ or otherwise, are more integrated, are people’s workmates, have broadly speaking the same kind of lives as everyone else.
“In the east, non-Germans are often refugees and are cut off from the population as a whole, banned from working, seen as ‘benefit scroungers’, and housed in the middle of nowhere”.