Fire bomb deaths raise spectre of German past

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YESTERDAY'S headlines spoke of 'cowardly murder'. But they spoke, too, of Germany's angry hopelessness after the arson deaths of two Turkish women and three children on Saturday.

About 5,000 Turks and Germans marched through the town of Solingen, near Cologne, to protest against the killings. Sobbing mourners and neighbours laid flowers and lit candles outside the victims' burnt-out house.

Never since German unity in 1990 - not since 1945, perhaps - have Germans been at such a loss over the horror of events in their country. The killings were the worst single act of violence that post-unification Germany has seen. One editorial asked yesterday: 'What comes after Solingen?'

A swastika was scrawled in the sand of a playground near where the Turks died. Germany stands mesmerised by the evil ghosts of its history, which it does not know how to exorcise. In November, the arson murder of a Turkish woman and two girls in the northern town of Molln caused anguish nationwide. The popular reaction - including huge candle-lit demonstrations - forced the government to take the problem seriously.

But the violence of a resentful and alienated minority continues. Usually, the arson attacks against foreigners cause no deaths; sometimes, inevitably, they 'succeed'.

In Solingen, neighbours described how they were woken by the screams of the burning children. One man told me: 'If we had seen the people who did this, I think we would probably have killed them.' Such anger is widespread.

But government leaders, keen to distance Germany from the outrages, sometimes show a remarkable lack of contrition. In his message of sympathy, Klaus Kinkel, the Foreign Minister, told Turkey that 'Germany's image' should not be allowed to suffer because of 'a few ill- advised hooligans'. There could hardly have been a less appropriate context for such a self-serving bleat.

Turkish revulsion, page 10