Eastern German city Dresden declares 'Nazi emergency'

Dresden is the birthplace of the anti-Islam Pegida movement which holds weekly rallies there.

    The anti-immigration AfD party won 28 percent votes in the regional elections in September [File: Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters]
    The anti-immigration AfD party won 28 percent votes in the regional elections in September [File: Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters]

    The eastern German city of Dresden has declared a "Nazi emergency" as officials warned of a rise in far-right support and violence.

    The city is the birthplace of the Islamophobic Pegida movement, which holds weekly rallies here, while the anti-immigration Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD) party won 28 percent of the votes in the regional elections in September.

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    Dresden's city council backed a resolution against far-right ideas with the title "Nazinotstand?", or "Nazi emergency?".

    It was brought by Max Aschenbach, a local councillor for left-leaning satirical party Die Partei, who told DPA news agency that "this city has a Nazi problem".

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    The resolution said the city was "worried that anti-democratic, anti-pluralist, discriminatory and far-right positions which include violence" were on the rise in Dresden.

    It called for the "strengthening of a democratic culture", making a priority of "the protection of minorities, human rights and victims of extreme-right violence".

    The motion also stressed the importance to fight "anti-Semitism, racism and Islamophobia".

    The resolution was approved by 39 council member votes against 29.

    It was backed by the left and liberal parties, but rejected not only by the AfD members but also by centre-right Christian Democrats who said it should not have targeted right-wing extremism only.

    "The title is clearly pointed," said Thomas Loeser, a council member for the Green party.

    "But we, as the city community, clearly declare our support for those who oppose racism and anti-Semitism, and expect everybody else to do the same," he said.

    The AfD is especially strong in Germany's east which, almost 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, lags behind the west in jobs and prosperity and has been a hotspot for xenophobia, racist hate crimes and support for far-right groups.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision in 2015 to let in about one million refugees and migrants, many fleeing wars in the Middle East, has fuelled support for far-right groups such as Pegida and the AfD.

    Last month, the AfD surged to second place in local elections in the east German state of Thuringia, taking 24 percent of the vote, with Merkel's centre-right Christian Democratic Union party coming one percentage point behind.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies