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The BBC's Rob Broomby
"The message was clear: Germany won't repeat the past"
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Sunday, 3 September, 2000, 07:49 GMT 08:49 UK
Race hate in Germany
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
Mr Schroeder marked his respects at the murder scene
By Rob Broomby

I met her in the middle of the city park in Dessau. Gaunt and looking stressed, she was scurrying home from a shopping trip to the flat she shares with her three children.

In normal circumstances it would have been a pleasant stroll for Angelika Adriano, between the flower beds and below the overhanging trees.

Memorial to Alberto Adriano
Murdered: Alberto Adriano
But the summer shade was menacing. Below the same leaves just weeks before, her husband - a Mozambican - had been brutally murdered by three drunken neo-Nazis.

They told the police they did it because they hated foreigners.

They kicked and punched him to the ground and continued to stamp on his head with heavy boots long after he lost consciousness. He died of severe head injuries three days later.

You could hardly recognise his face, said his wife. They stamped on his head so hard they knocked out an eye.

The hardest thing now, she said, was that the children had to grow up without a father.

Symbolic act

On the night of his murder, Alberto Adriano - who had lived and worked in Germany for more than 20 years - had been celebrating a forthcoming trip to Mozambique.

It looked like a multi-cultural paradise - young people sharing a drink amongst the greenery - until she opened her mouth

He would have basked in the admiration of his village: the local boy made good returning home, no doubt bearing lavish gifts and undreamed of wealth.

Instead, his family received a simple wooden coffin from Germany containing the disfigured remains of their son, aged 39.

That the Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, chose to pay his respects at the simple shrine which now marks the murder scene, was symbolic in itself.

He approached slowly and, with a sober expression, bent low to the photograph of the round-faced African-born family man and placed the wreath.

Christian Richter
Christian Richter: One of three men found guilty of the murder
He rearranged the red, black and gold ribbons before standing in respectful silence.

We have seen German leaders do this before; but usually marking the victims of the more distant past, at concentration camps, or massacre sites.

Yet, in an age when symbolic acts say it all, the message was clear: Germany will not repeat the past.

The previous chancellor, Helmut Kohl, provoked fury in Germany's Turkish community in 1992 when he refused to attend the funeral of five of Turks burned to death in firebomb attack by racists in Sollingen. Times have changed.

Politicians have repeatedly stressed that the problem lies at the very centre of society.

One example bore out that perception. Below the same trees where Alberto Adriano had lain dying, I met a young German woman, relaxing with local African youths.

It looked like a multi-cultural paradise - young people sharing a drink amongst the greenery - until she opened her mouth.

"The murder was terrible," she said, "But I'm also unhappy.

"It's not so bad here, but when I see all the Turkish people in Berlin, well, they take our women and make marriages just to live here. Turks, Albanians, Kosovans..."

But what was the difference, I asked, between them and her African friends.

"It's just a different life," she said. "The Africans will work for 8DM an hour - no German would do that.

"But the Turks, they take our jobs."

In Dessau, only just over one in 100 people are classed as foreigners, but preconceptions are hard to shift.

"I'm only speaking to you because you are not a German journalist," said one of the Africans. "I don't trust any of them, and I don't trust the police.

"If we are attacked, we wouldn't call them because we are more likely to end up in trouble."

German tour

Unemployment is stubbornly high in eastern Germany - still around twice the western rate. But unemployment and neglect only goes part way to explaining racism.

Chancellor Schroeder has combed the eastern states like no leader since the fall of the Berlin Wall - a gruelling schedule of photo opportunities and visits.

At every stop, he has made the fight against racism and intolerance his theme. But there is one startling flaw in the itinerary. With all the photo-calls and earnest exchanges, he has heard and seen nothing of Germany's ethnic minorities.

Questioned about the omission, a senior government party aide told me the Chancellor was visiting several schools and would certainly meet some foreigners there. It was hardly convincing.

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See also:

30 Aug 00 | Europe
German racist killers jailed
07 Aug 00 | Europe
Germany agonises over neo-Nazis
31 Aug 00 | Europe
Europe fears spread of racism
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