Anger over a wave of sexual assaults that occurred across the EU on New Year’s Eve reached a boiling point in Germany on Saturday when some 1,700 people attended a rally organized by the anti-Muslim PEGIDA movement.
PEGIDA, which nearly fizzled early last year, gained in popularity as hundreds of thousands of Mid-East asylum seekers responded to Angela Merkel’s open-door refugee policy by flooding across Germany’s borders. Initially, many Germans met the the migrants with hugs and gifts, but as the months wore on, sentiment gradually soured and attendance at PEGIDA rallies once again spiked with as many as 20,000 people showing up for an October demonstration.
Seeking to capitalize off the assaults that were allegedly perpetrated by groups of marauding Arab refugees in Cologne, PEGIDA took to the streets this weekend and predictably, clashes with riot police ensued.
“Demonstrators, some of whom bore tattoos with far-right symbols such as a skull in a German soldier's helmet, had chanted ‘Merkel must go’ and ‘this is the march of the national resistance’”, Reuters writes. Another banner read: "Rapefugees not welcome."
Ultimately, police rolled out the water cannons to disperse the crowd, which authorities say was at least partially comprised of “known hooligans” - whatever that means.
Some protesters hurled firecrackers and bottles at officers and in a testament to just how divided the country has become, dozens of counter demonstrators massed to protest the PEGIDA protest. Here’s a short clip which depicts the chaos:
The rallies came as Merkel signaled the German government may soon move to deport offenders. "The right to asylum can be lost if someone is convicted, on probation or jailed," Merkel said following a meeting of the CDU's top brass. "Merkel's remarks on Saturday were in stark contrast to her earlier optimism about the influx to Germany, which has taken in far more migrants than any other European country," Reuters remarked.
As we wrote on Saturday, "how TIME's person of the year responds may ultimately determine how the world remembers one of the most indelible and revered politicians in European history."
Indeed, some among the crowd openly called for the Iron Chancellor's head (figuratively speaking). "Merkel has become a danger to our country. Merkel must go," a speaker told the crowd which, as Reuters goes on to note, "loudly echoed the call, expressing their anger at Germany's 1.1-million-strong migrant influx last year."
"These women who fell victim will have to live with it for a long time. I feel like my freedom has been robbed," one mother of four said.
The anger was just as palpable on the opposite side as many Germans see PEGIDA's growing support as a dangerous blast from the country's troubled past. Some 1,300 leftist demonstrators from the counter-protest shouted "Nazis raus!" (Nazis out!), while holding signs that read "There is nothing right about Nazi propaganda," and "Fascism is not an opinion, it is a crime".
"We are there to tell them to shut up. It is unacceptable for PEGIDA to exploit this horrible sexual violence perpetrated here on New Year's day and to spread their racist nonsense," one counter-protester said.
Meanwhile, in an eerie twist of fate, the seven decade ban on publication of Mein Kampf expired this month in Germany. Although anyone is now techinically free to publish Hitler's manifesto, the definitive edition will be a 2,000 page annotated volume published by the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich.
Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, says it "'would be best to leave 'Mein Kampf' where it belongs: the poison cabinet of history.'" "'Unlike other works that truly deserve to be republished as annotated editions, 'Mein Kampf' does not,'" he adds. ICH director Andreas Wirsching said the following of the new edition in an interview with Deutsche Welle:
Our edition is particularly aimed at historical researchers. It can't be denied that Hitler's "Mein Kampf" is certainly an important historical document. The book is a source for information on his life, his thinking and most importantly, the history of National Socialism as a whole, and therefore it's meant for research purposes.
But I'm certain that with this edition's styling, we will reach an even wider audience due to the great interest in this topic. The commentaries are in part brief academic annotations, and we have added a detailed index to easily access the content. Public interest in this topic is so vast, and so we hope that maybe a few non-experts will also take a look at our edition.
While we can't say for sure whether the buyers are "non-experts," some people are indeed "taking a look." As The Daily Mail reports, the new edition "was an instant sellout when it hit bookstores in Germany for the first time since the Second World War." Like a unicorn tech IPO, the launch was oversubscribed as there were nearly four times as many orders as available copies. "More than 15,000 advance orders were placed, despite the initial print of 4,000 copies," The Mail continues, adding that "one copy [was] even put up for resale on Amazon.de for €9,999.99.
And so, it would appear that PEGIDA leader Lutz Bachmann was indeed correct last year when he posted the following picture of himself on Facebook with the caption "He's back."