The visit of Turkish head of state, Erdogan, caused various big news and public debates. His visit alone was controversial, but now a certain quote of Erdogan is heatedly discussed: Germany as a racist country? A college of Erdogan, another AKP deputy was even tweeting the following: „Since Adolf Hitler Germany hasn't changed much - Racism just adapted to modernity“. I personally don't want to promote the Turkish president Erdogan or his party, but still, these perspectives have to be considered. Especially since a huge share of the people with Turkish descendent is following him in his opinion, and are criticizing the German society. Pictures of Chemnitz, a city where huge right-wing demonstrations took place and people of different appearance were afraid to walk in the streets, seem like a bleak reminder of that what happened once.
Is this the face of modern Germany? What happed to that Germany, which was welcoming refugees and was taken as a progressive, democratic society? So let's a look at history in order to understand current racist resentments in Germany: During the 19th century, a time, where colonies were conquered and exploited, Germany was due to its late unification as a national state a little belayed it its development. What mean, in this time context, that Germany hadn't had much overseas colonies and was therefore very eager to keep the ones they had.
So when people of Herero and Namaqua in the territory of todays Namibia started to rebel, German forces oppressed them with immense violence which led to a genocide, where the survivors where kept in concentration camps.
Even worse, the German professor of medicine Eugen Fischer, conducted various experiments with the inmates, such as sterilization or injections of diseases, and furthermore sustained his theory of the „superiority“ of the white race with these results. As Clarence Lusane, a professor of political sciences, puts it, this was the testing ground for a lot of practices of the Nazis.
This really dark chapter of German history is not much talked about, in fact, it is not really officially recognized even by German politics or society. Even though Germany has a quite open culture about discussion critically history, the Genocide on the Herero and Namaqua is little talked about.
With the rule of the Nazis, racism was implemented as a part of the state ideology. With the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, any relation between of Germans and others ( such as people of different skin colors, religion or ethnicity) were prohibited: The logic was to „keep the blood clean“. According to the Nazi ideology, race defines a human and his capacities, and this was not only limited to the Others: Also within the „German race“, there were superior and inferior groups, so were the eastern Germans for example considered as dump, lazy famers but the northern Germans as very ambitious and noble.
Of course, the Shoah (the genocide of Jews) and the Porajmos (the genocide on Sinti and Roma) was the most extreme of racism. After the Nazi rule ended in 1945, the new emerging German society was very cautious about antisemitism or racism, but it was not completely overcome. Even after the reunification of Western and Eastern Germany, there have been severe racist outbreaks: Especially in the new member states, who previously belonged to the DDR, there were brutal attacks against the new arriving people of different origins. One of the most horrifying incidents were the attacks on a shelter for asylum seekers in Rostock; the movie „We are young, we are strong“ is a brutally honest portrait of that time.
Unfortunately, there are countless more examples of racism in Germany. And these are not just crazy individual, but it is often systematic and deriving from this long history of institutionalized racism. The German state needs to accept the fact, that they are an immigrant country, which was denied for a long time. They also need to realized, how much they benefit from migration and all the work force, new statistics show who little is spend on refugees for example, in comparison with all the extra tax revenues they receive from the growing population. Racist and discriminatory structures need to be revealed and discussed, and eliminated. Germany as one of the biggest economies and one of the most stable democracies has the potential and responsibility to end racist structures and narratives in their society.
On the Genocide of Herero and Namaqua: https://www.forbes.com/sites/ewelinaochab/2018/05/24/the-herero-nama-genocide-the-story-of-a-recognized-crime-apologies-issued-and-silence-ever-since/#567836706d8c
On the Nazi racist ideology: https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/nazi-racism-an-overview
Highly recommendable movie: „We are young. We are strong.“, Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVV5tujO4DA