The Neo-Nazi Scandal is how much of a scandal?
DENİZ AKKUŞ“In matters of truth and justice, there is no difference between large and small problems, for issues concerning the treatment of people are all the same.”
- Albert Einstein
The Neo-Nazi scandal that broke out in November last year, brought up a resignation on Tuesday morning. Heinz Fromm, the head of Germany’s Domestic Intelligence Agency, resigned from his office after many years of service for the Federal State. Having been criticized for the mysterious destruction of a number of documents related to the Neo-Nazi group that is suspected of being related to the killings of mostly Turkish-origin victims, the resignation seemed to catch the attention of both the German and the Turkish media. Taking responsibility for the misbehavior of staff of the office, Fromm’s stepping down is perhaps a way of personalizing the unacceptable scandal to induce criticism received at the state level. The Turkish media’s highlighting of this resignation as a most “surprising” one made me wonder whether it really was such a scandal for German society that such a group exists, that the relevant files were destroyed by officials, and that the whole incident resulted in a resignation.
Germans are generally obsessed with being accused of racism. Carrying one of the darkest crimes committed in the history of humankind, the possibility of being labeled “nazis” runs in their minds whenever any topic related to minorities is brought up. A German friend of mine told me once that waving a German flag in his house outside of a special national occasion like soccer matches or national days can bring a strong reaction from society. So, they choose to be careful with the usage of their national flag and with their sense of nationality, mostly when in public. Even when he was telling this to a Turkish girl who had come to Germany as an outsider, he couldn’t hide the complaining tone in his voice.
I get it, it would also be pretty tough on me as well if I were a German, living in my own country, 70 years after the Holocaust, still having to worry about not sounding too much like a “Nazi.” Take a moment and spare a thought on how much we would be held responsible for some of the dark decades of racism that took place even before we were born? If the answer is “not really,” then can we say that being a German should make a difference?
Having visited a Germany couple of times before and having lived there for a year now, I can hardly say that it should make a difference for Germans when it comes to enjoying their sense of nationality. For sure, they are a great nation with many outstanding achievements. However, although I agree that they should be not only legally free to enjoy nationalistic feelings, but also to live up to it in their society, I tend to think that they bare the sole burden of suppressing their Nazi impulses - if they exist. It is almost a fact that they pose an economical oasis in the minds not only of Europeans, but also of others like Turks and Greeks and North African refugees. Even when fighting against illegal immigrants and trying to integrate the already existing immigrant communities into society, Germans should bare in mind that big power comes with the big responsibility, and that a country cannot simply exclude itself from that equation.
That is not because of the Holocaust itself, but also because of the current immigration patterns toward today’s Germany and how it conflicts with the very nature of German society. As they expand more of their GDP in a union that is struggling in a financial crisis, they tend to advocate accommodating less extra citizens or immigrants into German society. But when it comes to hiding or destroying information that could reveal a linkage between an extreme group and the killings of minorities in an obviously racist manner, the state must react to it carefully and sensitively. Here, I think we have to see the connection. The famous fairy tale Sleeping Beauty teaches us that if you prick your finger on the spinning wheel, you make a sound and you die. Not revealing facts on a case such as this, Germany would hazard not only its legal credibility, but also damage the long battle of Germans not to be called “Nazis.”
The Neo-Nazi scandal is for sure an unexpected scandal, jeopardizing the institutional prestige of the German federal state, but is it much of a surprise that some Turkish people were killed, or that there is a possible link to a Neo-Nazi group, or that a resignation followed when there were indications of such an intolerable destruction of files?
I fear not. What remains is to observe how German society acts on the scandal, and whether any further investigation is going to be done properly. Justice should be served at an equal distance to every citizen of a country. I can only hope that the society itself considers it a scandal. After all, we wish to consider Germany as the country from which Einstein came, and not any kind of Nazis.
Deniz Akkuş is a Turkish student who currently lives in Bonn, Germany, pursuing a master’s degree in European Studies at the University of Bonn.