Germany has witnessed a worrying surge in xenophobic attitudes leading to 202 attacks against refugees in 2015 alone.
A refugee shelter caught fire in Germany in what police suspect was an arson attack on Tuesday, following a weekend of Neo-Nazi riots against asylum-seekers in the country.
The suspected attack took place in the eastern town of Nauen against an emergency refugee shelter where 130 people were expected to move in a week later. No injuries were reported.
Police said the speed of the flames ripping through the site early Tuesday suggested arson was the cause, AFP reported.
The attack comes after a weekend of neo-Nazi riots against the arrival of refugees at a newly opened shelter in the eastern German town of Heidenau. Protesters reportedly chanted “Heil Hitler” and “Foreigners out” and clashed with the police, injuring at least 31 officers.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is expected to visit a refugee center on Wednesday, condemned the attack and blamed it on far-right extremists promoting a "disgusting" message of hatred.
Similarly, Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said Monday that "these are people that have nothing to do with Germany. This is not the Germany we want."
Xenophobia and Racism on the Rise in Germany
Opinion polls suggest xenophobia is on the rise in Germany. According to a German polling institute, 38 percent of Germans surveyed in June said the country should take in fewer refugees and tougher immigration laws should be put in place, a rise of 21 percentage points since January.
The attacks against refugees, which has almost doubled to 202 in the first half of 2015, is also seen to be intimately tied with Islamophobia, according to political analysts.
A majority of Germans (52 percent) believe “Islam doesn’t belong to Germany,” a 2014 survey conducted by the Forsa Institute for Social Research and Statistical Analysis found.
This commonly-held belief among Germans was recently expressed publicly when 25,000 people marched across the city of Dresden in protest against Muslim immigrants in January.
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The rise in racist and xenophobic sentiment has led some to conclude that Germany has not learned from its genocidal past that systematically targeted Roma and Jewish people, both ethnic minorities in Europe.
“I think we have not learnt anything from history. Sure, there will never be anything as horrible as the Holocaust again. But for huge parts of our society, the perception of others is still full of hatred,” Katrin Zoun, a German journalist, wrote for Al Jazeera.“Politicians and media are still quick to find groups that serve as scapegoats for social problems, but are not realising that institutional racism and xenophobic right-wing attitudes have reached the centre of society,” added Zoun.