German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer called migration the “mother of all problems,” saying he understood the anger that fueled far-right demonstrations in Chemnitz.
Seehofer, who has waged public battles with Angela Merkel on the hot-button issue and called for Germany to tighten control of its borders, claimed those who took to the streets in Chemnitz last week were not necessarily Nazis, according to Die Welt.
The CSU politician, who has not made a public statement regarding the far-right protests, reportedly made the comments during a closed-door party meeting in Neuhardenberg.
Thousands of people took part in violent protests organized by far-right groups in the eastern German town of Chemnitz last week, following the fatal stabbing of a German man, allegedly at the hands of two refugees. Several people were arrested for performing Nazi salutes. Protestors also reportedly targeted foreigners and chanted “You’re not welcome here.”
The violence prompted a national debate about migration and integration, and drew strong criticism from leading politicians, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, who condemned the protests as a “witchhunt against foreigners.” Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called on Germans to stand up to neo-Nazis and labeled reports of Hitler salutes as a “disgrace to our country.”
Seehofer criticized officials who spoke too soon after the demonstrations, saying he favored “getting involved as a politician in such matters only when you have authentic information.” Seehofer said he had asked police and officials in Saxony for details on the incidents.
The minister-president of Saxony, Michael Kretschmer, hit back against Merkel’s version of events, saying Wednesday: “One thing is clear: There was no mob, no witchhunt and no pogrom.”