HANAU, Germany – Germany is commemorating victims of a racist shooting in Hanau, near Frankfurt, on Friday, one year after 10 people were shot dead by an extremist in a city near Frankfurt.
The assailant, identified as Tobias R, went on a rampage on the night of 19 February 2020, targeting nine people of foreign descent before killing his mother and then shooting himself.
The attack left a grieving community as well as criticism from the authorities, who are accused of not doing enough to prevent the attacks or support the family afterwards.
“Clarification and reckoning of the past is … the responsibility of the state to the public and especially to relatives,” said German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in a speech to mark the event.
Steinmeier acknowledged that a mistake had been made by the authorities, saying he was “deeply depressed that our country could not fulfill its promises for protection, security and freedom.”
He challenged the public not to “let evil acts divide us.”
“Let us not ignore the evil forces in our midst – hatred, marginalization, indifference. But let us believe … in our strength to stand together,” he said.
The 43-year-old gunman published pamphlets online before the shooting accompanied by conspiracy theories and racist slander.
Armin Kurtovic, whose son Hamzah was killed, said he grapples daily with questions about how the crime happened and why it was not prevented.
“Since then, the world around us has not moved. Nothing is like it used to be,” he said.
He called for the crime to be investigated but said there was a lack of will to do so. “During this year, we have been trying to find answers to our own questions, because we were not listened to by the authorities and were rejected many times.”
Another victim’s relative sent a video message echoing his calls, saying questions urgently needed to be answered and further efforts were made to fight racism.
Church bells rung in Hanau and the surrounding city and district at night to mark the attack.
Former national football star Rudi Voeller opened a memorial and lit candles while reading the names of the victims: Ferhat Unvar, Hamza Kurtovic, Said Nesar Hashemi, Mercedes Kierpacz, Sedat Gurbuz, Gokhan Gultekin, Kaloyan Velkov, Vili Viorel Paun and Fatih Saracoglu.
Speaking on the eve of the memorial, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that no one could argue that they did not see the Hanau attacks coming given the statistics gathered by domestic intelligence in previous years.
He noted that more than 33,000 far-right extremists live in Germany, 13,000 of whom are willing to use violence, and the trend is increasing.
“Why don’t we hear the alarm bells?” the foreign minister asked.
Maas spoke of “everyday racism in government and city offices, in shops, in schools, buses and trains” that must be stopped.
On Friday, demonstrations took place across the country, including in big cities such as Berlin, Hamburg and Munich.
In Hamburg, 2,000 people attended several rallies under the banner “Solidarity from Hamburg to Hanau,” calling for an investigation into the incident.
In Hanau itself, demonstrations to commemorate this one year anniversary were organized by an alliance of local youth groups under the banner of “Don’t forgive, don’t forget. Together fight racism.”
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