Xenophobia in a United Germany : a unique post-reunification phenomenon?
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In the years immediately following the 1990 reunification of Germany, an increase in anti-foreigner violence threatened the stability of reunification efforts and exacerbated tensions between the East and the West. This paper is concerned with analyzing the underlying causes of the increase in anti-foreigner violence in Germany in the 1990s by evaluating first the period of reunification and the corresponding rise in support for extreme right groups in the former-East Germany. In addition, the history of violence and anti-foreigner sentiment in both East and West Germany are analyzed in conjunction with tensions caused by reunification to ascertain the origins of the post-reunification rise in xenophobic violence. Through this analysis, I show that violence in Germany in the early-1990s cannot be connected to the National Socialist past but rather, that both increases in anti-foreigner sentiment and corresponding violence result from a history in East and West Germany of ethnocentrism and social-exclusion policies directed at foreigners. Finally, this paper focuses on evaluating whether the post-reunification rise of violence in Germany is a unique event or whether it can be better understood as a wider European phenomenon.