Neo-nazi network behind German synagogue attack

This 10 October 2019 video says about itself:

Residents of the east German city of Halle lit candles and laid flowers at the market square as they held a vigil on Thursday to commemorate the victims of a shooting that took place near a synagogue and kebab shop the day before.

By Ulrich Rippert in Germany:

Right-wing extremist network behind fascist synagogue attack in Germany

12 October 2019

The day after the right-wing terrorist attack on a synagogue in Halle, Germany this week was dominated by hypocritical statements of shock and sympathy from government circles.

Chancellor Angela Merkel (Christian Democrats, CDU) told the IG Metall trade union congress in Nürnberg that she was “shocked” and “affected” by the attack. Merkel added that she is mourning with the families and friends of those murdered. In confronting hate and anti-Semitism, the state must make full use of all its resourcesm the Chancellor stated. “There is no tolerance for it.”

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (Social Democrats, SPD), declared it a “day of shame and disgrace” as he laid a wreath at the site of the attack that killed two people. Anyone displaying even a slight degree of acceptance of right-wing extremism bears a share of the guilt with the perpetrator, he said.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, of all people,

because of his anti-refugee policies

even repeated the words of a party colleague, describing some Alternative for Germany (AfD) officials as “ideological inciters” of the terrorist attack.

Similar statements were mouthed in June after Kassel District President Walter Lübcke (CDU) was murdered in cold blood by a fascist gunman. At the time, decisive action against the far-right was also announced, but what followed was the exact opposite. While the wide-ranging network of right-wing extremist terrorists in the police, army and intelligence agencies was left untouched, it was those who oppose them who were targeted for persecution.

The reality is that the “ideological inciters” of the right-wing terrorist attack hold top positions within the state and security apparatus, the intelligence agencies, the military and the federal government. They have not only embraced the AfD’s slogan of “foreigners out!” on refugee policy; Seehofer himself dismissed the rampage of fascist thugs targeting foreigners and Jewish institutions in Chemnitz in the summer of 2018, declaring that if he were not a government minister, he would have joined the right-wing demonstrations.

According to initial investigations, the fascist gunman in the Halle attack had close ties to a right-wing extremist network with intimate connections to the state apparatus. The initial claim that the attack was the work of a single gunman has been contradicted by a growing number of facts.

It is now clear that Stephane Balliet, a 27-year-old German citizen from Saxony-Anhalt, opened fire on the synagogue Wednesday, where over 50 people had gathered to celebrate Yom Kippur, intending to carry out a bloodbath.

He repeatedly sought to use explosives to secure entry to the building, and apparently planned to murder as many participants as possible. After failing to break through the door, he shot a passer-by and another man in a nearby kebab shop. Shortly afterwards, he injured two further people as he fled from the police. He was then arrested and handed over to the federal prosecutor’s office on Thursday.

Balliet wore military fatigues and was in possession of several high-powered firearms. Four kilograms of explosives were found in his car. He communicated with his supporters through a camera on his helmet. He livestreamed footage of the attack on the synagogue and kebab shop, and his killing of the passer-by, on the video platform Twitch.

A die-hard anti-Semite and neo-Nazi, Balliet began his video with a denial of the Holocaust, and continued, “The origin of all problems is the Jews.” Balliet referred to himself as part of an online SS group, declaring, “Nobody expects the internet SS.”

During the attack, Balliet played the music of right-wing extremist Alec Minassian, who carried out an attack in Toronto, Canada in April 2018 by driving his vehicle into pedestrians. He killed 10 people and injured an additional 16. Prior to the attack, Minassian served for two months in the Canadian Armed Forces, and completed his recruitment training a few months prior to the attack. His ideological mentor, in turn, was the mass murderer Elliot Rodger, who shot and killed six people in California in 2014 and injured 14 more.

Balliet published a number of documents online prior to his attack. He described an 11-page document as his “manifesto.” In it, he describes his weapons, including how he constructed them from building materials, and where he obtained the explosives. He also formulated goals, which he described as “achievements”. Among his potential achievements were using multiple weapons to kill several Jews, burning down a synagogue and a mosque, killing a communist, and beheading people with a sword or killing them with a nail bomb.

Although the gunman was visibly expounding his fascist views on right-wing extremist forums, and these forums are populated by covert state intelligence agents, investigators have claimed that Balliet was not known to the authorities.

The same arguments were employed following the terrorist attack on the Christmas market at Breitscheidplatz in Berlin. In December 2017, an attacker drove a lorry into the market, killing 12 people and injuring another 55. At the time, the authorities declared that Anis Amri had not been considered an “acute threat”. It later emerged that several intelligence agency offices were aware of his plans for an attack, and that Amri was even driven to Berlin by an informant.

A similar picture emerged with regard to the murder of Lübcke earlier this year. Initially, it was claimed that the right-wing terrorist Stephan Ernst acted independently and alone. It later became clear that he is part of a wide-ranging right-wing extremist terrorist network that also includes a number of intelligence agents.

Further troubling questions have also been raised by the synagogue attack in Halle, including why there was no on-site police protection at the time of the attack and why the police were so slow to act in response to the shooter. The chairman of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster, declared this to be “grave negligence”. The head of the Jewish community in Halle, Max Privorozki, accused the police of responding too slowly. “They arrived too late”. he said in a video. The police took at least 10 minutes to arrive after they were called and informed that an armed attack on the synagogue was in progress.

The claim by the police that there was no need for special protection for the Yom Kippur celebration because there were no warnings of possible disturbances is not credible. Just a day prior to the attack, police raids were launched against right-wing extremists in Bavaria, Saxony, Baden-Württemberg, and even Saxony-Anhalt. They were targeted against the authors of 23 threatening letters warning of attacks on refugee centres, mosques, left-wing party offices, and media outlets.

The question must be posed, were the preparations for an attack on the synagogue in Halle known to the security agencies? Was the attack considered a price worth paying? The influence of far-right groups among police officers and intelligence agents is well known.

This has been on display on several occasions in Saxony-Anhalt, and in Halle in particular. There is much to suggest that the synagogue attack did not coincidentally take place in the city, and that it was aimed at encouraging the development of a fascist movement.

Halle was the location earlier this year of a trial against several members of the neo-Nazi group “Aryans”. This fascist gang of thugs launched an attack on the sidelines of the May Day demonstration in the city in 2017 with their cars, throwing stones at participants and attacking them violently. The attack also caused severe injuries among a group of hikers who were not part of the demonstration.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported at the time, “This trial shows how often and how extensively the judiciary trivialises and ignores right-wing violence, especially in the states in eastern Germany. The state prosecutor responsible for the case in Halle considers it to be ‘ordinary daily business’. She explained this in a statement: ‘The level of aggressiveness by the defendant does not go beyond what is unfortunately now common behaviour in connection with political events.’”

During the trial, investigators discovered a chat on the phone of one of the defendants in which she twice asked a police officer to obtain data from an internal police database. According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the police officer then sent information to the convicted right-wing extremist.

“Right-wing extremism in Halle has its own home,” reported Deutsche Welle, referring to a communal living project run by the Identitarian movement in the heart of the city. This is where right-wing ideologues, members of student leagues and neo-Nazis meet with young hipsters, wrote the magazine, adding, “Their goal: racism and Islamophobia should be brought into the heart of society.”


German white-tailed sea eagles and conservation

This 2014 video says about itself:

Saga of the White-tailed Eagle – The Secrets of Nature

The sea eagle was once widespread throughout almost all of Europe and graced the coats of arms of many different countries. During the 19th and 20th centuries, it was driven to the brink of extinction by hunting, the increased use of pesticides and the destruction of its habitat. This touching animal drama recounts the true-life story of one individual bird, observed over the course of a year. Beginning with its birth in a lowland forest in Central Europe the film team follows the eagle’s first outing with its brothers and sisters and subsequent distant migrations to places as far away as Scandinavia. Finally, it chronicles its dramatic lead poisoning, recovery and resettlement in a nature reserve.

From the Forschungsverbund Berlin in Germany:

Proximity to paths and roads is a burden for white-tailed sea eagles

October 7, 2019

The white-tailed sea eagle is known for reacting sensitively to disturbances. However, research into which factors have which effects on the animals and how these impacts influence breeding success has so far only just begun. A research team led by Dr. Oliver Krone from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) has now measured concentrations of the hormone corticosterone and its metabolic products in white-tailed sea eagles in northern Germany and correlated these values with potential causes of “stress”. They found that the levels of corticosterone in the birds’ urine are higher the closer a breeding pair’s nest is to paths or roads. From this, the scientists derive implications for the management and protection of white-tailed sea eagles, in particular for protection zones around the nests. The study was published in the journal General and Comparative Endocrinology.

Important areas of distribution of the sea eagle in Germany — such as the Mecklenburg Lake District or the Baltic Sea coast — are also attractive tourist regions. As a result, visitor numbers in core breeding areas are high and continue to rise. Since typical tourist activities — hiking, cycling, and water sports — focus on experiencing nature, researchers see a potential conflict between visitors and the sensitive animals. “In order to either confirm or refute this assumption, we measured the level of the hormone corticosterone in urine samples of 52 white-tailed sea eagles in the Usedom Island Nature Park in spring and early summer,” explains Dr. Oliver Krone of Leibniz-IZW, head of the study.

For this, they use excrement samples from 6 to 8 week old young sea eagles, which they collected from leafs in the direct vicinity of the nests. Long-term data of the Leibniz-IZW sea eagle project were also used to determine the population density of the white-tailed sea eagles in the respective area, the breeding success of the sites and the distance of the nests to the nearest road or path. “By means of statistical tests, we were able to check the relationship between these long-term data and hormone levels,” says Krone. “We were able to detect lower levels of corticosterone in samples collected at sites greater in distance from roads or paths.” The relationship is statistically highly significant, demonstrating the negative effect of the “stress factor” road or path. At the same time, Krone could not prove any negative influence of this factor on breeding success. “Whether breeding is successful at a given location does not seem to depend on the corticosterone level or the proximity to roads and paths,” says Krone. Rather, there is a correlation between sea eagle density and breeding success: In already densely populated regions (more than two pairs per 121 square kilometres), the chances of having offspring are significantly lower than in regions thinly populated by sea eagles.

To prevent negative effects on the breeding performance, the scientists regard adjustments of the protection zone regulations as necessary. These regulations in the German federal states of Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, for example, restrict forest and agricultural use within a radius of 300 metres of an eagle’s nest. “Hiking trails or riding paths have not been affected by this regulation so far,” Krone adds. Yet, intensive tourist use, as is the case on Usedom for example, is proving to be just as “stressful” for sea eagles. “We suggest to exclude tourist use and development within a radius of 100 metres around the nests and to prevent any leisure activities off the beaten track, paths or roads in breeding regions,” Krone adds: “Car traffic on the road is not disturbing sea eagles at all, the animals can get used to it well. However, pedestrians and cyclists who pass too close to the nest pose a potential danger to the eagles.”

Intensive protection efforts over the last 100 years have saved the sea eagle from extinction in Germany. They were placed under protection in the 1920s, after hunting in particular had reduced the population to a critical level. Meanwhile the population of white-tailed sea eagles has grown back to a stable level. However, the use of leaded ammunition in hunting still has a negative effect on the birds, which in winter feed on the carcasses of animals left behind by hunters. Currently there are about 800 breeding pairs of the white-tailed sea eagle in Germany, projections assume a potential of 1200 breeding pairs for Germany.

German theatres against neo-nazism

This German video shows the film, based on the play by Ödön von Horváth: Italienische Nacht (Italian night). 1965, Regie: Michael Kehlmann.

By Verena Nees in Germany:

Theatres in Germany take a stand against the far right

4 October 2019

A number of plays by the Austrian-Hungarian dramatist and novelist Ödön von Horváth (1901-1938) are currently being staged in leading German theatres. His down-to-earth and socially critical plays and novels, which took a clear stand against the rise of the Nazis and had success in the 1930s, assume new relevance today.

Horváth’s works (including Sladek, Italian Night, Tales from the Vienna Wood, Faith, Hope and Charity, Youth Without God) were banned in 1933 despite the author’s own efforts to adapt to the Nazis. He was expelled from Germany in 1936 and died aged just 37 following a tragic accident during his exile in Paris. Only later, during the period of student revolt in the 1960s, did his plays return to German stages.

In Berlin, two theatres, the Schaubühne and the Maxim Gorki Theatre, are currently staging pieces by Horváth. Italian Night, directed by Thomas Ostermeier at the Schaubühne, premiered last November. This summer, and in collaboration with the Salzburg Festival, Ostermeier also staged Horváth’s 1937 novel Youth Without God. It received its premiere at the Berlin Schaubühne on September 7.

Already last spring, director Nurkan Erpulat staged Youth Without God at the Maxim Gorki Theatre. Additional theatrical productions of the novel have been held in Münster, Dusseldorf and Bochum. On the occasion of the 80th anniversary of Horváth’s untimely death, the Theatre Museum in Vienna honoured the writer with an exhibition, “I’m not thinking, I’m only saying it, Ödön von Horváth and the Theatre,” which ended in February 2019 and is now on show (until November 17, 2019) at the Deutsches Theatermuseum in Munich.

The staging of these plays and exhibitions is clearly a reaction by leading directors and dramatists to the current political situation, characterised by the renewed rise to prominence of ultra-right organisations, wars and social inequality. Countless German cultural institutions, including many theatres, have declared their support for the “Declaration of the Many” and made clear they oppose the provocations launched by the far-right and racist Alternative for Germany (AfD). The Maxim Gorki Theatre and the Schaubühne are both signatories to the statement, which begins with the words: “As creators of arts and culture in Germany we do not stand above things. Rather we have both feet firmly on the ground—the very ground upon which one of the worst state crimes against humanity was committed.”

The years in which German theatre was dominated by subjective navel-gazing, the complete distortion of classical works and postmodern gimmickry may be over.

Italian night

Italian Night, which premiered in Berlin in 1931, deals with the failure and divisions in the parties of the working class when confronted with the rise of the Nazis. When fascists march in front of a tavern in a southern German town and the situation becomes more threatening, a complacent social-democratic city councillor (in the original Horváth version a republican) goes ahead with a long-planned celebration, the Italian Night. The local bureaucrat excludes a young worker who regards himself as a Marxist and wants to physically take on the fascists with his friends. The fascists then surround the tavern and force the social-democratic bureaucrat to sign a statement declaring that he is “just an ordinary bastard.”

The accompanying brochure to the play includes a section from “A Letter to a Social Democratic Worker” penned by Leon Trotsky, in which he advocates a united front for defence between the SPD and the German Communist Party (KPD) to oppose the impending Hitler dictatorship. …

Notwithstanding … objections, Ostermeier’s staging of Italian Night is a very relevant appeal for a struggle against the return of fascism and at the same time a biting satire about the political bankruptcy of the SPD.

Youth Without God

In Youth Without God, Horváth deals with the opportunism of middle-class intellectuals. In 1935, the Nazis had already been in power for two years and were striving to inoculate German youth with militarism and racism—Goebbels’s propaganda machine was up and running. A teacher (excellently played in the Schaubühne by Jörg Hartmann) tries to come to terms with the Nazis in order not to lose his job and thus his civil servant’s pension. His opposition to the Nazis initially takes place only in the form of internal dialogue.

He corrects school essays in which openly racist thinking is propagated, such as “All negroes are deceitful, cowardly and lazy.” In Ostermeier’s production, the text reads, “All Africans…” and immediately we are in the present, in today’s world of fascist propaganda directed against refugees from Africa and the Middle East.

The teacher leaves the statement of student N in the essay, although he would prefer to cross it out. After all, one cannot correct something that has been aired on radio as being correct. When returning the essay, however, he cannot prevent himself from stating that Africans are human, too. N’s father, a master baker and ardent Nazi, complains to the school director. She also does not want to openly oppose the Nazis, although she had signed a peace appeal prior to 1933.

In an internal dialogue, the teacher gives vent to his contempt for the Nazis: “They hate all types of thought. They have only contempt for humankind! They want to be machines, screws, wheels, pistons, belts—preferably as ammunition rather than machines: as bombs, shrapnel, grenades. How dearly they desire to die on some field! Their dream from puberty is their name on a war memorial.”

At a military education camp, the murder of a student takes place in which the teacher is indirectly involved. When another student is falsely accused, the teacher plucks up his courage and tells the truth in court—he admits his complicity, loses his job and encourages others to resist as well.

This character bears a significant resemblance to Horváth himself and his own, unsuccessful, efforts to appease the Nazi Reich Chamber of Culture. Horváth withdrew his signature from a protest telegram to the P.E.N. Congress and his commitment to participate in the exile journal Die Sammlung. He was subsequently the subject of much criticism from anti-fascist writers.

The staging of Youth Without God at the Schaubühne adheres to the historical text. In an interview, Ostermeier said that his aim was not to transfer events to the present “one to one”, but rather to see them as a “parable” for “how to pluck up the courage to tell the truth and how this can have an exemplary effect on the spirit of resistance of others.”

In this context, the question of religion is raised, as Horváth’s title suggests. “God is truth”, the teacher explains at the end. Previously, in a splendid conversation with a pastor, he asked why the church is always on the side of the rich. “Because the rich always win,” the pastor says. “The rich will always win because they are more brutal, more deceitful, more ruthless.”

The piece ends with the journey of the African (in Horváth’s text, the Negro, as the teacher was secretly called by his students) to “Africa”—a synonym for solidarity with the marginalised and oppressed, be it the poor, Jews, other minorities or refugees from Africa.

Postmodern falsification

The version of Youth Without God shown at the Maxim Gorki Theatre takes an opposite direction. The postmodernist playwright Nurkan Erpulat and the screenwriter Tina Müller, who are highly praised in theatre circles, leave almost nothing left of Horváth’s analysis of petty-bourgeois cowardice faced with fascism.

Horváth’s text has been mutilated, cut down and rewritten. The protagonist is no longer a teacher, and the focus is no longer his inner dialogues, his turmoil and vacillation. Instead, the protagonists are his students who turn the tables on their peers and accuse the older generation of their parents and teachers of being hypocritical representatives of political correctness.

Horváth’s anti-capitalist and socially critical passages have been excised. The alleged language of the young people, alternating between insults and rage, in part seemingly naive but repeatedly just outright cynical, has less to do with reality and reflects much more the ideas of an upper middle class …

The ensemble of seven young actors play the school class, committed and full of verve. But one is left with the impression that the director seeks to counter Horváth’s own approach and presume that for young people today the question of left and right is no longer relevant and that everything can be reduced to man’s innate tendency towards egoism and violence.

In fact, we are experiencing a situation in which young people in particular protest against the far-right AfD and are increasingly expressing support for anti-capitalist, socialist policies.

In the version by Nurkan Erpulat, however, the adolescents shout slogans such as everyone has a “shitty part”, they all just think of themselves, and we must learn “that humans are also animals,” or in the spirit of Nietzsche, “In this system, will counts for nothing, against this system will is everything.”

The blame for racist opinions lies with opportunist adults who believe they have to teach young people social behaviour. The worst example, according to the student N, is a lecture by the teacher about the AfD in which the teacher claims that the AfD is “very, very dangerous. But nobody understands why.” Pupil Z responds that the teacher just wants to liberate himself from the “collective guilt” of all Germans in a “pseudo-left, I know everything better” tone.

This reflects the cynical attitude which is so admired in some media circles. For example, RBB24 radio editor Fabian Wall Meier described the Maxim Gorki staging as “powerful”, while denouncing the Schaubühne version as “boring, predictable and staid.” In the taz newspaper, Jürgen Berger accused Ostermeier of “conventional historicisation”.

Such claims are completely unfounded. On the contrary, Ostermeier’s production is much more authentic and penetrating, because it raises the historical parallels.

However, it also points to another weakness. Ostermeier’s version tends to explain the rise to prominence of the AfD on the basis of the alleged reactionary thinking of workers. Why does Ostermeier, as opposed to Horváth, cite at the beginning of the play a letter from a Nazi party supporter from Braunschweig in 1935, who thanks Hitler for eliminating unemployment? Jörg Hartmann appears in front of the audience in modern clothing and reads this letter as if it were his own opinion. He then changes his clothes and puts on the brown uniform of the Nazi era for his role as a teacher.

It is also no coincidence that Ostermeier and his writer Florian Borchmeyer have also cut the excellent point in the dialogue between the teacher and school director, which shows the relationship between capitalism and fascism. Commenting on the remark by the director, “We live in a plebeian world”, the young teacher says: “As far as I know, we are not ruled by poor plebeians, only money rules.” The director corrects him by declaring that in ancient Rome there were also rich plebeians.

The teacher ponders: “Of course! The rich plebeians left the people and together with the already somewhat decadent patricians formed the new official nobility, the so-called optimates.” And later he states: “When the rich plebeians in ancient Rome feared that the people could push through their demand to lower taxes, they retreated into the tower of dictatorship.”

Here, Horváth is clearly a step ahead of the Schaubühne production, making clear that dictatorships develop in response to the radicalisation of the population.

In reality, the political ascent of the AfD does not flow from any turn to the right on the part of the working class, but is rather a reaction by the ruling elite to a shift to the left and increasing social resistance.

German president in Poland silent on Holocaust

This British Channel 4 TV video says about itself:

Holocaust survivor interview, 2017

Holocaust survivor interviews won’t be possible forever, with many Auschwitz survivors now in their late 80s. This is the Lydia’s incredible story.

By Peter Schwarz in Germany:

German president silent on the Holocaust at WWII memorial

4 September 2019

On December 7, 1970, German Chancellor Willy Brandt fell to his knees before the memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto, in penance for the extermination of the Jews by the German Nazi regime. Although this “Warsaw genuflection” was not without self-interest—Brandt’s so-called “Ostpolitik” secured German big business access to the markets and raw materials of Eastern Europe—it signified a political turning point. After years in which the German state had systematically covered up and trivialized its historic crimes, Germany was finally confronting its responsibility.

Almost fifty years later, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (like Brandt, a Social Democrat) spoke in Warsaw at a ceremony to mark the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II. He failed to utter a single word about the Jews or the Holocaust. This silence is no less symbolic than Brandt’s genuflection. It is an unmistakable signal that the Nazis’ crimes are being downplayed for very definite political purposes.

First, Steinmeier’s silence on the Holocaust was a concession to the ultra-nationalist Polish Law and Justice Party (PiS) government and party leader Jaroslav Kaczynski, who are deeply rooted in the anti-Semitic traditions of the Catholic church and glorify Polish dictator Josef Pilsudski. The PiS has systematically sought to rewrite history over recent years and passed laws which threaten to criminalize any scholar or publicist who researches or writes on anti-Semitism in Poland.

But above all, Steinmeier’s silence about the Holocaust was a concession to the right-wing extremist Alternative for Germany (AfD) in his own country. Within the framework of Germany’s return to an aggressive imperialist foreign policy, the ruling class is systematically building up and promoting this fascistic party. On the same day Steinmeier delivered his speech in Warsaw, the AfD emerged from two state elections—in Saxony and Brandenburg—as the second-largest party. Steinmeier’s address was not a mistake. He is an experienced politician who knows what he is doing. The Federal Presidential Office has a staff of some 180 people, who carefully prepare every one of his speeches and discuss them within the government apparatus.

On the morning of September 1, Steinmeier visited the small town of Vieluń with Polish President Andrzej Duda. The residents of this town were the first to be bombarded from the air when Germany invaded Poland eighty years ago. Here, too, he merely mentioned the Jews and the Holocaust in passing, in a single clause, and he only explicitly apologized “to the Polish victims of the German reign of terror.” And this despite the fact that around a third of Vielun’s population of 16,000 was Jewish, and that tens of thousands of Jews would later be deported from the city’s ghetto to the Kulmhof concentration camp.

Then, when Steinmeier spoke to over 250 state guests from 40 countries in the afternoon, he failed to mention the Holocaust at all. Yet the Nazis murdered some 1.6 million ethnic Poles and around 3 million Jews, which equated to 90 percent of Poland’s Jewish population. The only victims of German war crimes mentioned by Steinmeier were “Polish men and women”, as well as “Poland, its culture, its cities and its people.”

Monika Krawczyk, the head of the League of the Jewish Community in Poland, was outraged, saying, “How could he not bring himself to utter the word Jew? What was stopping him from talking about the Holocaust and the Jewish resistance? A professional, who ought to know the history of the occupation of Poland, only apologizes to one victim and forgets the others. I’m speechless.”

The Tageszeitung, which was the only German newspaper to report on Steinmeier’s silence, expressed disbelief. The paper described it as “totally incomprehensible” as to why he had not asked the Polish Jews for forgiveness.

In reality, it is not incomprehensible. With his Warsaw speech, Steinmeier was demonstrating to the AfD that he is in fundamental agreement with it when its leaders describe the Holocaust as “bird poop” and the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin as a “monument of shame”. While he never tires of hypocritically expressing his horror over the Nazis, Steinmeier’s silence on the Holocaust, and his attempt to curry favor with the far-right PiS, shows where he really stands politically.

The rise of the far right is an international phenomenon. These forces are needed by the ruling elite, under conditions of mounting great-power conflict and social tensions, to strengthen the apparatus of state repression, press ahead with militarist policies and suppress all forms of social opposition.

Steinmeier has played a leading role in the promotion of the extreme right in Germany. As head of the Chancellor’s Office under Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD), Steinmeier was responsible for the German intelligence agencies for seven years, which systematically built up and covered for right-wing extremist networks.

As Foreign Minister, Steinmeier supported the 2014 fascist-led coup in Ukraine, collaborating in the process with right-wing extremist forces, such as the Svoboda Party of Oleh Tyahnybok, with whom he personally met. During the same year, he appealed at the Munich Security Conference for Germany to rearm as a military power. Germany is “too big just to comment on world politics from the sidelines,” he stated.

Following the 2017 federal election, Steinmeier played a key role in the SPD’s decision to continue the grand coalition government. This made the AfD the official opposition party in parliament. In November 2017, he even invited AfD leaders Alexander Gauland and Alice Weidel to a personal consultation in Bellevue Castle, the President’s official residence.

Steinmeier’s speech in Poland fits perfectly into this political tradition. While shedding crocodile tears over Germany’s crimes in World War II, he called for German hegemony in Europe and a major program of military rearmament. “I’m well aware that my country has a special responsibility for this Europe,” he said. “The fact that Germany, despite its history, was allowed to grow to new strength in Europe means that we Germans must do more for Europe. We must contribute more to European security.”

Poland is strategically important for Berlin, both economically and militarily. With annual total trade of €120 billion (2018), Poland has surpassed Britain as Germany’s sixth-largest trading partner. And it is an important region for massing troops and a military ally against Russia.

While US Vice President Mike Pence, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Ukrainian President Vlodomyr Zelensky took part in the ceremony, the Polish government made a point of not inviting Russian President Vladimir Putin. And this in spite of the fact that the Soviet Union bore the brunt of the war against Nazi Germany.

Steinmeier also shamefully falsified this history in the interests of building an alliance with Polish nationalists. He only indirectly referred to the Red Army and denied its decisive role in the victory over the Nazis. “On this anniversary, all of us look gratefully to the United States,” he said to flatter US Vice President Mike Pence, who was representing Trump. “The strength of its armies, combined with its western and eastern allies, defeated National Socialism.”

Steinmeier’s speech in Warsaw underscores that the SPD and all the other established parties agree with the fascistic AfD on all essential questions. Only an independent movement of the international working class, uniting the struggle against militarism, the strengthening of the repressive state apparatus and social inequality, with the fight against their source, the capitalist profit system, can confront the danger posed by the far right.

Lake Constance birds, sad, some good, news

This 3 April 2019 video from Austria says about itself:

Birdwatching with Johanna Kronberger in the Lake Constance Rhine delta – Vorarlberg Magazine

As a biologist specialising in birds, Johanna Kronberger regularly travels around Lake Constance and spends lots of time in the Rhine delta even during the winter. She takes people out on bird-watching tours.

Read the whole story in the „Worlds of winter“ Vorarlberg Magazine by Vorarlberg state tourist board.

From the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft in Germany:

Birds in serious decline at Lake Constance

Over the last 30 years, the region has lost 120,000 breeding pairs

September 3, 2019

Summary: In the past 30 years, the number of breeding pairs in the region has dropped by 25 percent from 465,000 in the eighties to 345,000 by 2012.

At first glance, the numbers recorded between 1980 and 2012 appear to be quite balanced. 68 of the 158 bird species that inhabit the area around Lake Constance became more populous, while 67 species declined; each of these figures approximates to 43 percent of all the bird species in the region. The total number of species has even increased slightly: although eight species have died out, 17 have either returned to the region or settled there for the first time. These include the white stork, the peregrine falcon and the eagle owl, all of which have benefitted particularly from the protective measures put in place.

This seeming contradiction is due to the fact that the most common species are disappearing particularly rapidly. Six of the ten most common bird species around Lake Constance have declined dramatically in number, while two have remained the same and only two have increased. The population of house sparrows, for example, has declined by 50 percent since 1980, at which time it was still the most common species. “These are really shocking figures — particularly when you consider that the bird population started declining decades before the first count in 1980,” explains Hans-Günther Bauer from the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior. Viewed over a lengthier period, the fall in numbers may therefore be even greater.

Agricultural landscape hostile to birds

It is particularly noticeable how differently the various habitats have been affected. The study indicates that bird populations around Lake Constance are dwindling particularly rapidly in countryside which is intensively used by humans. This applies above all to modern farmland: 71 percent of the species that inhabit fields and meadows have declined in numbers, in some cases drastically. The partridge, for example, which was once a common inhabitant of the region’s farmland, has completely died out around Lake Constance. The great grey shrike, the meadow pipit and the little owl have also disappeared from the area.

One of the main reasons for this decline is the scarcity of food. According to the ornithologists, 75 percent of the bird species that eat flying insects and 57 percent of those that eat terrestrial invertebrates have decreased in number around Lake Constance. “This confirms what we have long suspected: the human extermination of insects is having a massive impact on our birds,” says Bauer. In addition, today’s efficient harvesting methods leave hardly any seeds behind for granivorous species. Moreover, the early, frequent mowing of large areas of grassland, the agricultural practice of monoculture, the early ripening of winter grains, the implementation of drainage measures and the shortage of fallow land are destroying the habitats of many species that live in the open countryside.

However, the birds are disappearing not only from the fields and meadows but also from the towns and villages around Lake Constance. “The increasing need for order and decreasing tolerance of dirt and noise are making life more and more difficult for local birds. It appears that successful breeding is becoming increasingly rare since the birds are being forced to nest amid tower blocks, ornamental trees and immaculate kitchen gardens,” says Bauer. Even species that can survive virtually anywhere, such as blackbirds (down 28 percent), chaffinches and robins (each down 24 percent) are suffering greatly due to the deteriorating conditions in settled areas.

Winners and losers in the woods and on the water

In contrast, the woodland birds around Lake Constance appear to be doing comparatively well. 48 percent of the forest-dwelling species are increasing in number, while only 35 percent are dwindling. One example is the spotted woodpecker, whose numbers have grown by 84 percent. Like other woodpeckers, it seems to have benefited from the larger quantities of timber in the forest. Furthermore, more of the species that inhabit the wetlands around Lake Constance have increased than decreased. The winners here include the mute swan.

Nevertheless, the numbers of many forest-dwelling species are also declining. The wood warbler population, for example, has fallen by 98 percent, firecrest numbers by 61 percent. This is how the intensive use of timber around Lake Constance and the shorter felling intervals are making themselves felt. Trees containing nests are being felled even in protected areas, and breeding seasons are largely being ignored. Older trees are often felled for traffic safety reasons; new paths are laid in the forests and wet areas are drained.

All in all, the last population count in 2010-2012 documents the same developments and causes as those that preceded it. However, the situation has clearly worsened in some cases. There is hardly any indication that things have changed for the better since then. “The living conditions for birds around Lake Constance have in fact deteriorated further over the last seven years. This means that their numbers have presumably fallen still further in this time,” says Bauer.

More food and living space for birds

With its diverse structure and location in the foothills of the Alps, the Lake Constance region actually provides excellent living conditions for birds. However, the changes it has undergone over the last few decades are typical of densely populated regions with intensive farming and forestry. “This means that the rapid decline in the populations of many species that we have observed around Lake Constance is sure to be happening in other regions as well,” says Bauer.

The study is one of only a few long-term investigations of breeding bird populations ever conducted in Germany. In order to collect the most recent data, which dates from between 2010 and 2012, 90 volunteers joined the scientists and counted all the birds in an area of approximately 1,100 square kilometres surrounding Lake Constance. The ornithologists first recorded the bird population between 1980 and 1981 and have repeated the count every ten years ever since. The next count will take place between 2020 and 2022.

Measures that would benefit the bird populations include:

– The scientists are calling for agricultural and forestry policy to be reconsidered in order to counteract the rapid loss of biodiversity.

– Drastically restricting the use of insecticides and herbicides in forestry and agriculture, in public spaces and in private gardens

– Significantly reducing the use of fertilisers

– Converting at least ten percent of agricultural land to ecological conservation areas

– Leaving some areas of arable land and grassland uncultivated in winter and during the breeding season

– Late mowing outside the grassland birds’ breeding season, maintenance of flower strips and fallow areas for seed production

– At least five percent of woodland should be left completely unused

– Creating natural gardens using indigenous plants

More xenophobic, anti-Semitic crimes in Germany

This 14 September 2018 video says about itself:

Germany: Chemnitz restaurateur recounts horrifying anti-Semitic attack

The owner of Chemnitz’s Schalom restaurant Uwe Dziuballa recounted how a recent anti-Semitic attack on his establishment unfolded during an interview on Friday.

Dziuballa recalled how a group of right-wing protesters, wearing black, attacked the restaurant on the evening of August 27 while the city was experiencing a series of violent anti-immigrant demonstrations.

By Isabel Roy in Germany:

Germany: Xenophobic and anti-Semitic offences are rising sharply

2 September 2019

In Germany, the number of right-wing extremist crimes has not diminished. The number of right-wing, politically motivated crimes has risen steadily since 2001, reaching a maximum of 23,555 in 2016. Since then, the numbers have declined only slightly and were significantly above 20,000 both in 2017 and 2018.

There was a dramatic year-on-year increase in anti-Semitic and xenophobic offences in 2018. Both rose by one-fifth—anti-Semitic crimes from 1,504 to 1,799 and xenophobic offences from 6,434 to 7,701. On average, there were 26 offences against immigrants or Jews each day. Well over 1,000 of the right-wing offences were violent crimes; over 500 were directed against politicians.

In addition, it has recently become known that in the first half of 2019, 8,605 criminal offences (including 363 violent crimes involving at least 179 injured) have already been committed, an increase of more than 900 compared to the same period in 2018.

Following the murder of Kassel district president Walter Lübcke on June 2, there was a bomb threat on June 23 to the headquarters of the Left Party in Berlin-Mitte and a day later, an attack on Left Party local politician Ramona Gehring in Zittau. The bomb threat in Berlin-Mitte was claimed by “Combat 18”, a right-wing terrorist network that is linked with the alleged Lübcke murderer Stephan Ernst.

The figures above are from the federal Ministry of the Interior (as of May 14, 2019) in answer to a parliamentary question tabled by the Left Party. Comparing the figures with data from independent victim counselling centres reveals a major discrepancy. In 2018, these organisations registered an increase in extreme right-wing violence from 1,394 in 2017 to 1,495 cases in 2018 in seven federal states alone (Berlin, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Pomerania, North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein and Thuringia).

Berlin in particular is a hotspot of right-wing extremist crime. ReachOut, the Berlin counselling centre for victims of right-wing, racist and anti-Semitic violence, documents a total of 309 attacks in 2018. Those injured, threatened and stalked numbered at least 423 people, including 19 children and 47 adolescents. Most attacks resulted in personal injury (157) and grievous bodily harm (115). According to the organization, this is a “worrying increase” compared to the 267 attacks in 2017.

The Research and Information Centre Anti-Semitism Berlin (RIAS Berlin) registered a total of 1,083 anti-Semitic incidents in Berlin, an increase of 14 percent over the previous year. These included 46 attacks, 43 targeted property damage, 46 threats, 831 cases of injurious behaviour (including at 48 meetings) and 117 anti-Semitic letters.

It is particularly striking that the number of anti-Semitic attacks in the home area of those affected has more than doubled, which means that right-wing extremists are targeting the victims in their neighbourhoods.

The report also highlights the case of far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) member Andreas Wild, who was wearing a blue cornflower on November 9 at the commemoration ceremony of the Nazi attacks on Reichspogromnacht. This flower is a historical symbol of the anti-Semitic and extreme German nationalist “Schönerer movement”.

In Berlin-Neukölln there has been a sustained series of right-wing-extremist attacks since summer 2016. The Mobile Advice Centre Against Right-Wing Extremism Berlin (MBR) has recorded 55 attacks. Those affected include residents who engage and express themselves against the right-wing. These include threatening graffiti on and in residential buildings, throwing stones and paint bottles through windows, other property damage and arson attacks. In addition, the theft of 16 cobblestones has been attributed to the same circle of offenders but were not counted as attacks. Counselling staff also became a victim of threats in March of this year.

The most prominent victims of the series of attacks in Neukölln include:

* The Social Democratic Party (SPD) faction leader of the Neukölln district council, Mirjam Blumenthal, whose car was set alight on January 13, 2017.

* Left Party politician Ferat Kocak, whose car went up in flames on February 1, 2018.

* The bookseller Heinz Ostermann, whose car was also set on fire on February 1, 2018. This was already the third attack against the owner of the Leporello bookstore, where events against … racism take place. In December 2016, the windows of the bookstore were smashed and in January 2017 a car set on fire.

No one has been charged with any crime in this series of attacks in Neukölln. In some cases, including the attack on Mirjam Blumenthal, the investigation was even stopped.

According to documents seen by the ARD magazine programme “Kontraste” and the editors of rbb24 research, Kocak was spied on by two right-wing extremists for months before the attack. Both the secret service and the Berlin State Criminal Police Office (LKA) knew about it. They had bugged the alleged perpetrators, Tilo P. and Sebastian T., when they had talked about Kocak on the phone but did not warn him.

Tilo P., a former AfD candidate, is known in the district for his violent assaults. Sebastian T. is former district chairman of the Neukölln neo-Nazi German National Party (NPD) and was already suspected in 2011 by district residents because of a 2016 series of attacks. These earlier attacks began after Sebastian T. was released from custody.

Following the attacks on Kocak and Ostermann, search warrants were issued against P. and T., but arrest warrants were rejected because “the defendants’ participation in the arson” had not been sufficiently substantiated. Searches provided extensive evidence, yet P. and T. remained at large. A question tabled by Left Party parliamentary deputies Anne Helm and Niklas Schrader, who asked for information on the house searches in October 2018, was rejected “for reasons of data and personal protection.”

In its 2018 annual report, MBR raised the question of how the perpetrators had come into possession of the victims’ personal data. Some feared “that there could be similar extreme right-wing networks within the police in Berlin as in Frankfurt am Main.”

According to the research by “Kontraste” and rbb24, a Berlin LKA official had had contact with Sebastian T. Two officers from a security agency who observed Sebastian T. saw how on March 16, 2018, he had met in a Neukölln restaurant with three neo-Nazis and an LKA official named W. This individual worked in a department that is also responsible for police surveillance measures. Afterwards, T. drove away together with the official in his car.

According to the rbb report, neither the public prosecutor nor the police initially wanted to comment. This was followed by a communication from the Berlin attorney general that proceedings against official W. had been discontinued. This was supposedly “in connection with a further investigation, in which information disclosure precludes a risk of investigation.” According to the information provided by the research team, W. was not on official business.

The ReachOut victim counselling centre, which is part of MBR, had filed a complaint against employees of the Berlin LKA after the rbb report was broadcast in April this year. In a statement, it says, “From the point of view of ReachOut, it is suspected that the LKA employee, at least at this and probably at other meetings, passed on secret information that actively aided crimes. These crimes have for many years been targeted against individuals and projects known for their commitment to anti-racism and opposition to right-wing extremism.”

On August 17, state Interior Minister Andreas Geisel (SPD) commented in an interview on the series of attacks in Neukölln. When asked how he could explain that so far not a single case has been cleared up, Geisel admitted that the police knew the perpetrators, but had done nothing against them.

“I do not get the impression that police officials are not addressing the issue, as they are accused of,” he said. “There are definitely results. We have suspicions, there were searches. But the evidence was insufficient judicially. We know the characters involved. The question is, whether there are more and who committed the crimes.”

The dealings of the police and the secret service with the series of extreme-right attacks in Neukölln are not the exception, but the rule. According to information from the federal Ministry of the Interior, police investigated 2,625 right-wing suspects nationwide from January to June 2019. Twenty-three were detained and only two were issued with an arrest warrant.

The dealings of the police and the secret service with the series of extreme-right attacks in Neukölln are not the exception, but the rule. According to information from the federal Ministry of the Interior, police investigated 2,625 right-wing suspects nationwide from January to June 2019. Twenty-three were detained and only two were issued with an arrest warrant.

As in the case of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Underground (NSU) murders and in the case of murdered Kassel district president Lübcke, right-wing extremists in Neukölln, who have repeatedly attracted attention and are under surveillance, can carry out their actions unhindered. In retrospect, facts appear that have been hushed up, or facts are concealed from the public and those at risk, “so as not to jeopardise the investigations.”

The involvement of the secret services, the police and the far-right scene is now widely known. According to the MBR report, this also has an impact on those seeking help from aid organizations, who “wonder if it makes any sense to file a complaint. After everything that has become known, could it even pose an additional danger to give information to the police?”

The right-wing violent criminals are protected by governments at federal and state level, the authorities and political parties, who fear growing opposition to their unpopular war policies and growing social inequality.