Although the city of Dortmund has long been a notorious hotbed of far-right activity, extremist groups have seen a marked decline of influence in recent years. To counter this trend, Neonazi activists stepped up their rhetoric in the past months, mocking victims of far-right murders and threatening politicians, police chiefs and critical journalists.
This Monday, five local journalists received death threats in the form of fake death certificates posted to a Facebook page. One of the journalists, Felix Huesmann, is a VICE DE contributor. Here's what he had to say in response:
This article originally appeared on VICE Germany
Journalists are the enemies. Carry a camera to a Pegida demonstration – or any classic bigot march for that matter – and you'll get that message loud and clear. You'll be mercilessly berated for belonging to the "lying press" and will probably end up being chased through the city's streets by a mob. Hey, if you're as lucky as me, you might even get a covert death threat.
I've been reporting on the racist hordes roaming Germany's streets for a while now. Unfortunately, since I live in Dortmund, there's enough of them around. This place has been West Germany's neo-Nazi stronghold since the 1980s. Five people have been killed by neo-Nazis in Dortmund since 2000. It's the city of right-wing hooligans, skinheads as well as the Autonomous Nationalists party who have elected officials in the city council.
This past November, when the 'Hooligans against Salifists' group rampaged through Cologne, Dortmund's right wing radicals did everything in their power to show their support. Protected by the masses chanting "lying press", those who showed up at the riot branded the journalists as "antifascist cunts" and kicked colleagues of mine to the ground.
In December, they announced they would be holding a demonstration outside the home of the editor of a local newspaper – Ruhrnachrichten.The police moved the event to another part of town and blocked the antifascists' counter-demonstration, but paint bombs were still lobbed onto the guy's house a few days later.
It was around that time that the first fake obituary of a colleague surfaced online – he also reported on the escapades of Dortmund's neo-Nazis regularly. Shortly before that, was the first time I was directly addressed at a Nazi rally: "Hey Felix, I've heard your street is painted brown," some asshole whispered to me.
This aggression towards the press in Dortmund escalated to a new level this week. All of a sudden, on Monday night, a Facebook page called "The Hunt Is Now On" posted a bunch of fake obituaries. Aside from me, four more Dortmund-based journalists were targeted.
"Journalist Felix Huesmann – you will definitely not live on in our hearts. It will soon be time to go," mine read. Compared to the others' obituaries mine was sweet – someone else's just read: "Burn Jew Burn".
Of course, the first thing I did when I read those threats was worry. But my second thought was: "You fuckers! Do you really think I'm going to write less now? Do you really think these anonymous threats will intimidate me?" Since then, I've been receiving a lot of support from complete strangers and have also been thinking a little about my reporting.
All these years, I've been playing nice but the Nazis just went far below the belt. Maybe it's about time to redirect the public's attention to the alcoholism of one of Dortmund's far-right figureheads. Or to the heroin addiction of those same thugs who walk around Dortmund protesting against drugs. Trust me, the list goes on.
But I actually won't to go there. It wouldn't be fair to the normal people who are battling addiction to be grouped together with these morons. To vilify the type of people who laugh off Anne Frank's murder, all you need to do is call them what they are: Nazis. Which is what I'll keep on doing.
Follow (or threaten) Felix on Twitter: @felixhuesmann