After the assault of passersby by migrants in the Bavarian town, sympathizers of the National Democratic Party (NPD), a fringe party, organised themselves into self-defense patrols last weekend.
Michael Cerny, the mayor of Amberg, complained that vigilante groups had been seen patrolling the town. “I can understand the uncertainty that I see in the reactions of some local people, but this hatred and the threats of violence coming from all over the country are going too far,” he told the local newspaper Mittelbayerischen Zeitung, saying he was “shocked”.
The NPD also posted a video on Facebook of its members patrolling the streets of Amberg.
In an interview, the CSU politician, described how he experienced the days after the incident and what outcome he would like to see. “Groups of young people often commit violence, especially under the influence of alcohol, unfortunately,” Cerny said.
“The hatred and the xenophobia, which I learned from reactions on social networks, via e-mails and phone calls: I didn’t know that in Germany there was so much racism,” Cerny added.
“I continue to plead for a unified urban society. On a larger level, it’s supposed to work in the state. We can do this but only if all sides disarm rhetorically,” he said. Cerny suggested that the German fringe party, for its part, has used the aggression in Amberg to promote its anti-migrant and anti-Merkel message.
“Of course, it should not be generalized, but in its entirety these idiots [the attackers] have done a disservice to peaceful and committed asylum seekers,” Cerny said. He told dpa that too many reactions were “AfD-shaped”.
Such an incident is the absolute exception in Amberg, Cerny said, especially since the accused were from other places. “I have no idea why they met in the city, but that does not change the fact that this is an absolute no-go.”
The town has meanwhile denied that the NPD had deployed members in the city, the spokesman for the city, Thomas Graml said on Thursday. There were only four NPD supporters, who “were allegedly marching through Amberg on the first of January” judging from the photos and the video, published by the NPD section of Nürnberg on Facebook.
The fringe NPD, alleged to be close to the neo-Nazi movement – an accusation that the party rejects – has published on one of its Facebook accounts photos of several of its members, wearing red jackets with the acronym of the movement. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung called them “men in ill-fitting jeans”.
They were photographed on the scene where the most recent assaults took place shortly before New Year’s Eve, as well as in front of a centre for asylum seekers.
Four young migrants from Afghanistan and Iran were rounded up after randomly assaulting a dozen people in Amberg. The four migrants were arrested by police on the evening of the assaults and remain in custody. They must now answer for the “blows and wounds” they gave their victims.
The migrants went looking for a fight by falsely accusing their victims of “insulting” them, according to witnesses.
Twelve Germans aged between 16 and 42 were injured, and one 17-year-old had to be admitted to hospital with a serious head wound.
This case has revived the debate around asylum seekers in the country, an issue that has remained sensitive since the arrival of two million migrants in 2015 and 2016.
Many of the 40 000 residents are horrified, angry or shocked by the incident. The Bavarian AfD has demanded the immediate deportation of the accused.
The vice-chairman of the Bayern AfD and parliamentary faction leader Katrin Ebner-Steiner said the suspects had squandered every right to continue their asylum procedures. “The indigenous population must be urgently protected from such alleged asylum seekers themselves.”
According to the police, the accused are actually asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Syria and Iran. They attacked passers-by on Saturday night at the city’s train station and in the old town.