German racists kill five in arson attack

'THE screams woke us up. Then we saw the flames. It was horrible, I will never forget it. They were such nice people, their children played with ours. They were ordinary neighbours. What is this? You feel ashamed to be German.'

Marion Heinemann, a market trader, tried to speak calmly. But her voice cracked as she described the hideous events that she and her husband Holger witnessed in the early hours of yesterday morning in their quiet street in Solingen, north-east of Cologne.

Five Turks - two women, and three children - died in an arson attack, almost certainly carried out by extreme right-wingers, that destroyed their home. It was the worst single act of violence Germany has seen since reunification and served as a bitter reminder that the racist violence plaguing the country is far from stemmed.

Holger Heinemann gazed at the burnt-out shell of his neighbours' house where just a few hours before he had watched a woman jump to her death: 'How many children must die before the politicians do something?'

Those who died were two women, aged 18 and 27, and three girls aged four, nine and 13. The 13- year-old had just arrived in Germany for a brief holiday, from Turkey.

Three others - a six-month-old baby, a three-year-old, and a 15-year-old - were all in a critical condition yesterday. The remaining 12 occupants of the building managed to escape injury, some helped by neighbours who put up ladders to let them climb through windows. The house - two storeys and an attic space - was occupied by a single extended Turkish family. Most of them had lived there for 12 years.

Youths described as wearing the clothing of the extreme right were alleged to have been seen near the scene of the attack. Neighbours said that the field immediately behind the house had become a meeting place for right-wing skinheads in recent months.

Two thousand people, Germans and Turks, demonstrated in what was described as a 'mourning protest' in Solingen. Bunches of flowers lay in the burnt windows of the house, while firemen continued to wander about the ruins. Visitors to the site included the Interior Minister, Rudolf Seiters, who was repeatedly interrupted during his speech by angry Turks. One 24-year-old, who has lived in Solingen since he was 14, said: 'I live and work here. But how can I go on living in a country like this?'

The murders seem certain to plunge Germany back into the debate that followed the arson murders of a Turkish woman and two Turkish children in the north German town of Molln in November. The nationwide reaction to those killings - it included huge, candle-lit demonstrations - forced the previously complacent government to take the issue of racist violence more seriously. For the first time, the government found it was under greater pressure from Germans shocked by the violence than from the far right, which Helmut Kohl, the German Chancellor, had been accused of being keen to appease. Mr Kohl yesterday told the Turkish President, Suleyman Demirel: 'Most Germans are aghast at such an abhorrent deed and condemn it decisively.'

The attacks in Solingen come at a sensitive time. On the opening day of the trial of two youths accused of the Molln killings, one of the prosecuting lawyers pointed out that the arson attacks on foreigners were continuing, and it was only by chance that there had been no further deaths.

Last week saw a change to the constitution, which seeks to limit the number of foreign asylum-seekers arriving in Germany. The aim was to prevent the build-up of tensions because of a flood of foreigners arriving in the country (Germany takes more refugees than any other European country). Critics of the change, agreed by the main parties, said it pandered to the far right.

A building in Munich where 20 foreigners lived was also set on fire yesterday, though nobody died.

Neal Ascherson, page 25

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
News
Danczuk has claimed he is a 'man of the world'
news
Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins wins the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Buyer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This award winning IT company are currently re...

Recruitment Genius: IT Account Manager

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineers

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineer...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineers

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineer...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor