Mistakes admitted in effort to end Rostock riots: John Eisenhammer in Bonn describes the dilemma that east German police face in attempting to quell anti-immigrant unrest

ON THE fifth night of street rioting in Rostock, finally, the police got on top of the extreme-right thugs. Stung by nation-wide accusations of incompetence, and having promised a 'hard-as-nails approach', they moved in quickly, with massive reinforcements of special riot police, encircled the petrol bomb-throwing hordes, and restored a semblance of order.

In the minds of many, it was precisely what should have been done at the outset. Chancellor Helmut Kohl's right-hand man in the Christian Democrats, Wolfgang Schauble said: 'The police behaviour did little to underpin the citizen's confidence in the effectiveness of the state.'

On all sides, it is admitted 'mistakes were made'. If the police had acted speedily and decisively, there is a good chance that the rioting around the refugee hostel on the council estate of Rostock-Lichtenhagen would not have increased into the worst racist violence since unification.

There are several explanations for the insufficient security, none of them comforting for the authorities. The first is that they were unprepared for this sort of violence. Certainly, in Communist times, the East German police had little experience of this sort of street-fighting.

The first shocking assault on a foreigner hostel, when local inhabitants also stood around cheering on neo-Nazis, occurred nearly a year ago, in the eastern German town of Hoyerswerda. Then, stunned politicians said the warnings would be heeded and the unprepared eastern police would be properly trained and equipped; such events, which shamed Germany in the eyes of the world, would not happen again. We have heard exactly the same phrases over the past few days.

A second, and more telling explanation, is that the police feel constrained in their use of the big stick. For unlike Hoyerswerda, the police in Rostock had the necessary anti-riot equipment. But there is a strong aversion in eastern Germany among the authorities to adopt tough measures which are felt to be reminiscent of the strong-arm Communist state. This insecurity is not helped by the wariness now prevalent among western German forces, such as the riot-police reinforcements brought into Rostock from Berlin and Hamburg.

The western German police have been badly burnt by the strong public outcries, and in the case of Hamburg, condemnation by court, following the bitter confrontations of the Eighties against left-wing demonstrators.

But there is another, more serious, explanation for the police failures in Rostock. It is not just the local police who, in those early, crucial stages of the violence, were constrained by obvious sympathies with the antiforeigner sentiments of the crowd.

The conservative state and city politicians were even more fearful of upsetting the populace. The first reaction to the riots by the CDU Interior Minister of Mecklenburg, Lothar Kupfer, in which he expressed 'certain understanding' for the thugs and the crowds that cheered them on, was revealing.

The Christian Democrats have a shaky hold on power in Mecklenburg, and they were not about to shake it any more by contradicting the mood on the streets. By the time shock had stiffened the politicians' resolve, it was too late.

ERFURT - The east German state of Thuringia suffered its second political crisis this year as two ministers resigned after being accused of taking bribes, AFP reports.

The two were the Interior Minister, Willibald Boeck, and the Minister for Social Affairs, Hans- Henning Axthelm, both members of Chancellor Helmut Kohl's Christian Democratic Union, which governs the state in coalition with the Liberals. The state Prime Minister, Bernhard Vogel, said he was accepting their resignations as they bore 'political responsibility' for the scandal.

Sport
Mourinho lost his temper as well as the match
sportLiverpool handed title boost as Sunderland smash manager’s 77-game home league run
Voices
Sweet tweet: Victoria Beckham’s selfie, taken on her 40th birthday on Thursday
voices... and her career-long attack on the absurd criteria by which we define our 'betters', by Ellen E Jones
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
VIDEO
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Voices
Clock off: France has had a 35‑hour working week since 1999
voicesThere's no truth to a law banning work emails after 6pm, but that didn’t stop media hysteria
Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Life & Style
Lana Del Rey, Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne each carry their signature bag
fashionMulberry's decision to go for the super-rich backfired dramatically
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Life & Style
Sampling wine in Turin
food + drink...and abstaining may be worse than drinking too much, says scientist
Arts & Entertainment
Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin has been working on the novels since the mid-Nineties
books
News
Easter a dangerous time for dogs
these are the new ones. Old ones are below them... news
News
Brand said he
people
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Sport
Roger Federer celebrates his victory over Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters
sport
Arts & Entertainment
The monster rears its head as it roars into the sky
film
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit