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Hoyerswerda 1991: First came the racists, then the gawkers

2021-09-17T17:42:58.504Z

In 1991, Hoyerswerda became synonymous with racism in reunified Germany. Pictures from back then show how hundreds of residents reacted to the riots that lasted for days: not at all. Or with applause.



1/20

Racism and pack gazing: In September 1991, images like this from Hoyerswerda in Saxony went around the world.

Right-wing extremists rioted for days in what was then the district town, attacking contract workers and refugees.

The support for the migrants is manageable, as this photo shows: Quite a few people stand in front of the so-called foreigners' dormitory on Albert-Schweitzer-Straße - and watch.

Photo:

Uwe Schulz

2/20

First windows break, then illusions - for example that there was no racism in the former GDR, that people from "brother states" were actually treated like brothers and sisters, that there could be simple solutions to the diverse problems in places like Hoyerswerda.

Photo:

Uwe Schulz

3/20

ARD live broadcast on September 25, 1991 on the market square in Hoyerswerda: There, too, there was great interest from many people.

The riots lasted for a week that autumn, and the debates about causes and consequences will not end even after 30 years.

Photo:

Uwe Schulz

4/20

A few days after the end of the riots, there is another large-scale operation: Left-wing demonstrators, who have also traveled from other parts of the country, take to the streets against neo-Nazis.

“Was that Hoyerswerda's last big appearance in the German media?” Wrote the “Hoyerswerdaer Wochenblatt” a little later about the day.

"You really want to hope so after the past two weeks."

Photo:

Uwe Schulz

5/20

Spectators on walls and in the windows of their apartments on Thomas-Müntzer-Straße: This picture from September 22, 1991 shows how much the racist riots are perceived as an event by many.

Photo:

Uwe Schulz

6/20

There are similar gatherings in Albert-Schweitzer-Strasse, where Mozambican contract workers lived at the time.

In Hoyerswerda these days it is showing for the first time what will happen later in a similar form in Rostock, Mölln and Solingen: right-wing extremist violence - applauded by some, accepted by many, prevented by anyone.

Photo:

Uwe Schulz

7/20

Finally, the rule of law surrenders: "There is a unanimous view that a final solution to the problem can only be created by the departure of foreigners," it said on September 20 in a so-called assessment of the situation by the district office.

A little later, hundreds of people are brought out of the city in buses.

Photo:

Uwe Schulz

Enlarge image

8/20

However, even the evacuation of those affected is sometimes chaotic.

The riots finally end, but the real problem remains: even years later, right-wing extremists celebrate that Hoyerswerda was "free of foreigners" at the time.

Photo:

imago images / Detlev Konnerth

9/20

They captured the images that many people still associate with Hoyerswerda: after the riots began, numerous journalists streamed into the city, and camera teams and reporters were out and about for days.

SPIEGEL, for example, published a long report on September 29, entitled "Hunting Season in Saxony", the first words of the text are: "Murderous mood in the Saxon town of Hoyerswerda".

Photo:

Uwe Schulz

10/20

Tatort Neustadt: East of the sleepy little town of Hoyerswerda, the GDR government let the Neustadt grow into the sky on the drawing board in order to create living space for the tens of thousands of employees of the black coal combine.

The population increased tenfold by 1980 to over 70,000 - and has shrunk by half since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The apartment blocks in front of which racists marched in 1991 are no longer there.

Photo:

Uwe Schulz

Enlarge image

11/20

It doesn't stop with ugly slogans and pictures: When the victims are to be brought out of the city in buses after days of rioting, a stone flies out of the crowd through the window behind which Tam Le Thanh is sitting.

The 21-year-old is hit and injured.

Photo:

imago images / Detlev Konnerth

12/20

At the same time, everyday life in the city just goes on - almost as if nothing had happened: just a few days after the riots, people are celebrating Thanksgiving in the old town.

These children march across the town hall square in traditional Sorbian clothes.

Photo:

Uwe Schulz

Enlarge image

13/20

Uwe Schulz, then 20 years old, experienced the riots as a photographer for the »Hoyerswerdaer Wochenblatt«.

The now 50-year-old, meanwhile editor-in-chief of the newspaper, shot some of the pictures shown here.

This picture shows him on Lausitzer Platz - the place where the right-wing riots began on September 17, 1991.

Photo:

Peter Maxwill / DER SPIEGEL

Enlarge image

14/20

There was great hope that such photos from reunified Germany would no longer exist: young people applaud in Hoyerswerda, while immigrants are brought out of the city in buses.

Photo:

imago images / Detlev Konnerth

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15/20

Hoyerswerda is the first place where such racist riots occur after reunification.

The authorities seem taken by surprise, the police finally request reinforcements from other cities.

Here you can see how officials cordon off a street in Neustadt on September 23, 1991.

Photo:

picture alliance / dpa

Enlarge image

16/20

Some of the immigrants appear in public despite shouting and violence - and stunned: "Why do they hate us?" Is written on this banner that some men put up in front of their house on September 25, 1991.

Photo:

Thomas Lehmann / picture alliance / dpa

Enlarge image

17/20

Hoyerswerda-Neustadt, in GDR times a modern model city based on the socialist ideal, is changing in these September 1991 days into a symbol for so much that went wrong in East Germany in the 1990s.

In this picture, emergency services can be seen in front of one of the prefabricated buildings.

Photo:

imago images / Detlev Konnerth

Enlarge image

18/20

Broken glass, broken dreams: The people who became the target of racist agitation in the fall of 1991 are turning their backs on Hoyerswerda forever.

Photo:

picture alliance / dpa

Enlarge image

19/20

Today, Hoyerswerda is a different city: While many old apartment blocks in the Neustadt were demolished, the lovingly renovated old town shines in new splendor.

Photo:

Peter Maxwill / DER SPIEGEL

Enlarge image

20/20

Little in the city is reminiscent of the riots that made Hoyerswerda a synonym for right-wing radicalism in post-reunification Germany.

Among other things, there is this monument in the Neustadt: "Hoyerswerda does not forget" it says.

Photo:

Peter Maxwill / DER SPIEGEL

Source: spiegel

All life articles on 2021-09-17

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