Evidence is emerging to suggest that the fire in which nine Turkish Germans died might have been started deliberately.
Over the last week, dramatic pictures have appeared in the British media of the German city of Ludwigshafen, with a tiny child being thrown out of a burning house occupied mostly by Turkish-German families and caught by a waiting policeman. But it has only really been in the last couple of days that the full picture has emerged of the horror of the fire in which nine people (including five children), all of them Turkish Germans, died and a further sixty were injured.
Although it is too early to say how the blaze started, and there is no absolute proof of neo-Nazi involvement, some German politicians have been far too quick to dismiss the possibility that it could have been a racially inspired arson. It was precisely for this reason that the Turkish government expressed an interest in the case, sending a group of experts to contribute to the investigation. The police, which have set up a Special Investigatory Commission, is under pressure to reveal the cause of the fire quickly and to follow up on information provided by two girls, aged 8 and 9, who reported seeing a man setting fire to something and throwing it into a pram in the hallway of the building. According to Deutsche Welle racist graffiti was found by police on the building which also houses a Turkish cultural association. The word Hass (hate) was written twice, with the final two letters in the Nazi ‘SS’ rune script. Given that the building had been sealed off since the fire on 3 February, it was more than likely that this had been daubed before the fire.
According to the Antifa-Mannheim, neo-Nazi groups have a strong base in Ludwigshafen and there have been several racist attacks on migrants. The same building was set on fire in 2006 but the culprits were never found.
Germany has a long tradition of down playing racially motivated violence, amidst fears of being labelled as a racist country. If confidence in the police is to be restored, the questions raised by the Turkish government and anti-fascist organisations need to be answered soon.