Germans Grapple With Hatred
Aggression against immigrants provokes liberals to take up asylum-law reform
AGAINST a background of anti-foreigner rioting in many cities and towns of former East Germany, pressure is building for a change in the federal republic's policy of giving asylum to virtually unlimited numbers of refugees.
Senior figures in the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) appear to be edging toward conditional acceptance of Chancellor Helmut Kohl's call for a change in the liberal asylum law enshrined in the Constitution.
"We disagree with Mr. Kohl's motives for wanting to tighten up the asylum law," the official said, "but something must be done to curb the anti-foreigner sentiment now sweeping Germany."
He acknowledged, however, that many rank-and-file SPD members were opposed to a change in Germany's asylum law. "There is going to be a lot of argument before we can hope to get solid support for an amendment to the Constitution," he said.
The official was speaking after a weekend of spreading violence in more than a dozen cities in eastern Germany as extreme right-wing protesters, shouting "Germany for the Germans" and "Foreigners out" attacked refugee hostels with fire-bombs. Steel tensions
The worst incident was at Eisenhuttenstadt, a drab steel town of 50,000 east of Berlin, where right-wing gangs attacking a refugee center had to be beaten back by police equipped with a water canon and truncheons.
The center is the main reception facility for asylum applicants crossing into Germany from Poland. It was built to house about 1,000 people, but at the time of last weekend's attack it contained more than double that number.
In the Weissensee district of Berlin last weekend, vandals knocked down gravestones at the Adass Jisroel Jewish cemetery. A week earlier right-wing gangs desecrated a memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust.