As the dust settled over Belgium after the terrorist attacks that rocked Brussels on Tuesday, it didn't take long for a chorus of right-wing politicians to begin spouting anti-immigrant rhetoric and pointing fingers at Europe's new refugee population. But amid the furor, another story has emerged — one that took place a week ago but was particularly relevant as a counter to the xenophobia.
Stefan Jagsch, a right-wing neo-Nazi politician in Germany, was seriously hurt on March 16 when he crashed his Jeep near Büdingen, a small town in a swampy valley northeast of Frankfurt. Around 16 refugees — identified in media reports as Syrians — were passing by the crash site in two vans. Several of them pulled the 29-year-old Jagsch from his vehicle, delivered first aid, called an ambulance, and waited until it arrived, a spokesman for the local fire department said.
Jagsch belongs to the National Democratic Party (NPD), and is its lead candidate in local elections this month. A spokesperson for German Chancellor Angela Merkel has slammed the NPD as an "anti-democratic, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-constitutional party." After the incident, Jean Christoph Fiedler, the NPD's regional leader, offered rare praise for asylum seekers, saying they "likely performed a very good, humane deed."
The NPD was founded in 1964 as a successor to the openly Nazi-aligned Reich party. Udo Voigt, who holds the party's only seat in Germany's Parliament, once described Adolf Hitler in an interview as "a great statesman." Critics of the party, including five state premiers, are renewing efforts to place an outright ban on the NPD, and have accused it of threatening German democratic order. The Federal Constitutional Court is currently considering the matter.
Right-wing, anti-immigrant movements have gained traction in recent months, with leaders capitalizing on fears that swept Europe in the wake of the terror attacks in Paris on November 13, which left 130 dead, and now the most recent attacks in Brussels. Those groups have used the attacks as a platform to promote the idea that refugees entering Europe are a trojan horse for militants who trained with the Islamic State group in Syria or Iraq.
"It is absolutely naive to assume that [there] are not Islamist terrorists among these many people who were allowed to enter largely uncontrolled," a statement on the NPD's website claims. "The terrorist attacks by Islamists in Europe have highlighted the danger mass immigration brings for internal security."
But the NPD remains a fringe group, and hasn't seen enjoyed the same uptick in popularity that its more moderate cousin, the AfD saw in recent regional elections. They did, however, gain over 10 percent of the vote in the Hesse region where Jagsch crashed his vehicle.
Jagsch is reportedly still in hospital but "doing well, considering the circumstances," according to Fiedler. Jagsch wrote in German on Facebook that he couldn't confirm if his rescuers were refugees. "I cannot comment in this regard because I was not at the time of salvage conscious," he said. "So I cannot confirm that it was a Syrian refugee who pulled me out of the vehicle, nor refute. For this reason, I give no opinion on the matter."
The Guardian reported, however, that the Syrian refugees told the fire brigade that Jagsch was fully conscious during the rescue.
Watch the VICE News documentary Hate in Europe: Germany's Anti-Islamic Protests: