German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday condemned the neo-Nazi riots outside a refugee shelter in eastern Germany over the weekend, calling the attacks and those Germans who stood by watching them “shameful.”
Dozens of police were injured when a far-right mob hurled bottles and fireworks at officers trying to ensure asylum seekers could move into a shelter in Heidenau, south of Dresden.
Merkel, who had been criticized by commentators in Germany for failing to speak out swiftly against the attacks, which began Friday night, said the broadcast images were “shocking.”
“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the violent outbursts,” she told reporters in Berlin. “There was an aggressive mood against foreigners there that isn’t acceptable in any way.”
Hundreds of people took part in a peaceful march organized by the far-right National Democratic Party, or NPD, on Friday evening, but hours later some of the protesters began attacking police, who seemed unprepared for the violence.
“It’s repulsive how far-right extremists and neo-Nazis are spreading their hollow message, but it’s equally shameful how citizens — even families with children — support this by marching along,” said Merkel.
Dresden police spokesman Thomas Geithner told The Associated Press that 35 officers were injured trying to protect the site from neo-Nazi rioters. Merkel’s deputy visited Heidenau on Monday to meet with refugees, town residents and local officials.
Despite the strong words, police said about 150 demonstrators in Leipzig blocked a bus on Monday night from picking up refugees temporarily housed in a sports hall to take them to Heidenau, the dpa news agency reported.
Attacks against asylum seekers in Germany have increased sharply over the past year as the country faces a growing stream of people seeking refuge from war and persecution. Officials say there were some 202 such attacks in the first six months of 2015, as many as during the whole previous year. The government says it expects 800,000 people to seek asylum in Germany by the end of 2015.
Merkel said Germany would stand up for people’s right to apply for asylum, irrespective of whether their requests eventually succeed.
Germany has received more than 40 percent of all asylum applications in the 28-nation European Union this year, and Merkel called upon other countries to “live up to their commitments.”
Visiting French President Francois Hollande underlined that “one country cannot manage this responsibility alone” and that it was up to Europe to find common solutions.