On 23 February, a day of remembrance for the victims of right-wing extremist violence, Foreign Minister Westerwelle expressed his sympathy with those whose loved-ones were murdered. At the same time, he said that everything possible must be done to prevent extreme right-wing terror from striking again.
Published in the Turkish-language newspaper Hürriyet on 23 February 2012
Germany has been deeply shaken by the series of xenophobic murders committed by terrorists from the extreme right. In our mourning, our shock, and our anger over these terrorist acts, we are connected to the Turkish people who live here with us and our friends in Turkey itself. Since the discovery of the nature of these crimes, innumerable people have expressed their solidarity and sympathy. This commitment proves that xenophobia, racism, and extremism have no place in Germany. In Germany, there is zero tolerance for intolerance.
I know that these heinous crimes have caused great concern in Turkey, in Germany’s Turkish community, and also among migrants from other countries. It has given rise to feelings of insecurity and bitterness in some people. We take this very seriously, because the victims of these crimes were living here with us as our neighbours.
It is extremely urgent that this cowardly series of murders be resolutely and exhaustively investigated. We owe this to the victims and their loved-ones. At the same time, we must do everything in our power to prevent right-wing terror from striking again in our country. The Federal Government implemented decisive measures immediately: the Federal Public Prosecutor General has taken over the criminal investigation. A staff of more than 400 is working hard to shed full light on the murders. So far, six suspects have been arrested. At the parliamentary level, committees of inquiry in the regional parliament of Thuringia and the German Bundestag are analysing the events.
I know well that we cannot make up for the suffering caused to the families of the victims. I understand the bitterness of the families of those murdered, who for years lived with uncertainty concerning the background of the crimes. To support the families of the victims, the Federal Government has named Barbara John as ombudswoman. She is highly-regarded, independent, and extremely competent. She is the central point of contact for families of the victims and thus has the task of providing information about offers of assistance. As a sign of special remembrance of the murdered victims, there will be a national memorial ceremony today, to which the families of the victims are invited.
I also want to thank the Government of Turkey for the sensitivity it has shown in dealing with this very difficult issue. That is evidence of the depth and stability of our bilateral relations. There can be no doubt that we will continue to provide comprehensive information about the ongoing investigation.
The human factor is what makes German-Turkish relations so special. More people with a Turkish background live in Germany than in any other EU country. We have all heard the often moving and impressive stories of the first “guest workers”, who came to Germany 50 years ago. They, their children, and their children’s children have long stopped being “guests” and are an essential part of German society. They make an important contribution to the success of our country. I hope that the terrible crimes of a small group of right-wing extremists will not drive us apart, but rather help us jointly meet the threats to our peaceful life together here in Germany. We want to cultivate German-Turkish friendship diligently and help it grow even stronger.