German railway bomb attack raises spectre of resurgent anti-Semitism

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The Independent Online

Fears of a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Germany were heightened yesterday when it emerged that a racist motive may have been behind a bomb which exploded at a railway station in Düsseldorf on Thursday.

Fears of a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Germany were heightened yesterday when it emerged that a racist motive may have been behind a bomb which exploded at a railway station in Düsseldorf on Thursday.

Nine east European immigrants, six of them Jews, were among the injured. They were on their way home from their daily German language classes when the bomb exploded on a metal footbridge near the entrance to the station.

Johannes Mocken, spokesman for the state prosecutors office in Düsseldorf, said: "We cannot rule out that somebody purposefully intended to hurt or kill members of this group."

The Interior Minister, Otto Schilly, fuelled fears that the attack had a race motive. "Given the fact that most of the victims are foreigners, one can suspect that it could have such a background," he said.

If it is established as a race-driven attack, Thursday's bomb would not be the first such attack on immigrants. Five Turkish immigrant women died when a hostel in Solingen, a suburb of Düsseldorf, was firebombed in 1993. The victims of Thursday's bomb were on their way home to Solingen when the explosion occurred.

Paul Spiegel, the leader of Germany's 80,000 Jews, said he was shocked by the re-emergence of racism. Mr Spiegel last week started a public debate asking whether Germany really wanted its Jews.

The immigrants apparently targeted by Thursday's bomb were from Ukraine and Azerbaijan. The three non-Jews were related to the other six by marriage, local Jewish groups said.

Four of the nine were badly injured: a 26-year-old pregnant woman lost her unborn child and had her leg shattered in the explosion. The woman's husband was also injured. The young couple had moved from Ukraine to Düsseldorf last November. The city has a 6,000 strong Jewish community, most of them former citizens of the Soviet Union.

Germany's Jewish community is the fastest growing in the world. More than 60,000 Jews have migrated to Germany in recent years following the collapse of the Soviet Union and Russia's decision to make resettlement subsidies available.

Attacks on Jews are not common, but synagogues and Jewish cemetries are frequently daubed with racist and neo-Nazi slogans. The increasingly higher profile of far right and neo-Nazi groups is also a growing concern. Neo-Nazis are believed to be arming themselves, according to a warning last month from Germany's internal security agency.

Intolerance towards immigrants is highest in the former East Germany where unemployment remains persistently high and where exposure to immigrant cultures is a relatively new phenomenon.

Michael Szentei-Heife, director of the Jewish community in Düsseldorf, said it was too soon to say if Jews were in danger of a campaign of violence. "The fact that six of nine are Jewish puts that into your mind. But on the other hand they were not recognisable as Jews," he said.

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