We're working on a new version of PRX. Want a sneak peek?

Transcript for the Piece Audio version of In the Spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. in Europe



In 1963, when Martin Luther King Jr. was describing his dream to thousands gathered on the mall in Washington, millions of Europeans tuned in. Anetta Kahane was one of them.


ACT---KAHANE START: I knew that as a child a little child---nine years there was one voice in my ear. 9 sec.


[AMBI-----CAF AMBI ---UP FULL and MAINTAIN until ***]
On some days the voice of Dr. King STILL rings in her ears, says Anetta Kahane. Kahane heads up the Amadeu Antonio Foundation in the Eastern part of Germany. She's also a major a leader in Germany's Jewish community.

We meet at an outdoor cafe in Berlin's center-- not far from where she was born. On a sidewalk about a block away someone had painted over a crudely drawn swastika. Kahane is not surprised. Her organization is just one of thousands that have sprung up across Europe over the past two decades in response to a wave of racism and anti-Semitism that has swept over the continent since the end of communism.

But Kahane says the seeds of bigotry were planted LONG before the Berlin Wall came down.

ACT: KAHANE BEFORE UNIFICATION: We had neo-Nazis before re-unification and you saw them everywhere. And you saw always the Hokenckrass.

REPORTER: The Swastika

KAHANE: Yes, and the violence against foreigners, and we had all those problems before. 15 sec.

But Kahane, the daughter of a Jewish resistance fighter and a concentration camp survivor, says the problem grew worse after the two Germany's reunited in 1990.

She cites among other reasons-- white youth unemployment, increased housing costs and the closing of East German state owned factories---for what happened next.

[AMBI---NAZI Chanting]

[UP in the clear for 3 seconds and fade out under the following track.]

Foreigners who moved to East Germany long ago when solidarity with the Third World was official doctrine, suddenly became targets of a resurgent Neo-Nazi movement. One of the first victims was an African immigrant whose name would soon become associated with East Germany?s largest anti-racism organization, Amadeu Antonio. He was beaten to death in the town of Eberswalde near Berlin.

Skinhead violence was rising across Europe, but no place worse than Germany. In 1992 Neo-Nazis carried out more than 2,000 attacks on foreigners, including fire-bombings. The assaults resulted in 17 deaths. If the objective was to drive out foreigners, often they succeeded. Before fleeing to Denmark fourteen years ago Tina Iwenofu, a Nigerian, was studying linguistics in Potsdam. One blistering summer night in 92 she and a friend were set upon by skinheads at a train station.

ACT---TINA 2---and they have base ball bats and they were smoking heavily and then suddenly one of them said Heil Hitler. I was very, very afraid. One of them suddenly spat on my friend and called him a black nigger. And so they see every foreigner as a threat.

Though her friend survived the subsequent beating the experience left Iwenofu angry and inconsolable.

ACT: It is true that Hitler is dead but I say that his spirit still lingers on in the Germans because every German has these racist tendencies in them.

What public opinion polls found was that a large percentage of Germans in both the East and the West opposed foreign settlement in Germany. The beneficiaries of this sentiment were the country?s far right wing political parties, particularly the NDP or National Democratic Party, which recently captured two seats in regional elections. But the attacks on foreigners and the seeming inability of the government to stop the violence also sparked a MASSIVE ANTI-racist backlash.

[AMBI---ANTI-Racist demonstration ---drums and other sounds ]
The pivotal year was 1992. An estimated two million people joined non-violent marches and candlelight vigils across Germany.
400,000 took to the streets in Munich, 500,000 in Hamburg, and 200,000 in Berlin.


Similar mass protests would take place over and over again across Europe staged by groups like SOS Racisme in France, Rock Against Racism in England and Ante-Fa in Sweden. In the winter of 2001, forty-thousand Norwegians led by that country's king marched through Oslo. They were protesting the unprovoked murder of Benjamin Hermansen. The 15 year old son of a Norwegian mother and an African father was knifed to death by skinheads.

ACT: This is probably the first very clear time where we've had a killing that can be linked directly to a race motivated act of violence: 8 sec

Some Norwegians compared Hermansen murder to the lynching of Emmett Till in Mississippi in 1955. At the very least it forced many to confront the issue of racism head-on, said Jonas Storer, former chief of staff to that country''s prime minister.

ACT: It actually brought out into the streets of Oslo the largest crowd since the liberation of Norway in 1945, so it had this kind of intense triggering of a mood in the population. Not only in Oslo, all around the country actually. 12 sec.

AND around Europe. Neo-Nazi violence remains an urgent matter on a continent just 60 years removed from the Holocaust. But there's also the issue of structural racism.

ACT: You never get jobs, you never get education , you never get nothing. That?s the problem our problem. REPORTER: So the problem is bigger than Neo-Nazis Yeah. 8 sec.

Gee Gerima is a refugee from Ethiopia living in Helsingborg Sweden. Like many immigrants he arrived in Europe after the formation of the European Union in 1992, which ended national borders as we knew them. Integrating Africans, Arabs and Asians into largely ethnically homogenous societies continues to be a challenge---BUT it?s easier in some capitals than other, says Clarence Lusane, an expert on race in Europe and a professor at American University in Washington:

ACT: LUSANE-01 --- In Western and Central Europe there are very strong policies that aren't always enforced, but the policies are in place and the ethos is one of equality, inclusion, and non-discrimination. 13 sec.

But that ethos is being tested with the rise of far right political parties like Velaams Belang in Belgium and the Danish Folk Party in Denmark. ... AND, most famously

ACT: La Pen clip--- UP FOR A few seconds and under Track. 7 secs

Jean Marie La Pen.. of the far right National Front in France, who was convicted in 1999 of minimizing the Holocaust. This month (November 16) he scored third in a voter preference poll of presidential candidates.

Still says Clarence Lusane, the GREATEST challenges to anti-racists are in Eastern Europe where officials often turn a blind eye to discrimination and where hate crimes are rising at a rapid rate.

ACT: LUSANE-02 ---Certainly there hasn't been any strong leadership that said that its completely unacceptable and that the skinhead organizations would be outlawed, there should be strong anti-racism legislation and immigrants which are needed in all those societies should be embraced and should be protected. 18 sec.

That's the mission taken on by Anetta Kahane and other activists engaged in anti-racism work across Europe.

[CAFE AMBI: up and under track until the very end ..Fade out after soc]

Sitting forward in her chair at the cafe in east Berlin, Kahane unfolds a map of East Germany. She points to a town where skinhead violence has declined. The lessons are clear, she says:

ACT: KAHANE: What we can do is to change the climate in the community. To find people who are the opinion leaders to step by step change the public discussion, that not the refugees are guilty when they are beaten or attacked and that racism is not okay. You have to find more and more people who are standing for that. 24 sec


I'm Phillip Martin