BERLIN — The destitute east German town of Hoyerswerda waited 23 years for a second chance to prove they were a welcoming place, after a mob chased foreign refugees and migrants in 1991. When that chance arrived this week, it took them about 36 hours to blow it.
They got their chance Wednesday afternoon when 36 refugees, including 10 kids, from places including Syria, Pakistan and Morocco arrived at their brand new center. A Moroccan man was attacked Friday morning.
A primary difference, of course, between the attacks in 1991 and Friday was that this was an isolated attack. In 1991, an estimated 500 neo-Nazis and anti-immigrant protesters attacked a refugee center and apartment house for international contract workers. The attackers rained Molotov cocktails, rocks and even tracer bullets, injuring 32 and prompting police to admit defeat, close the center and usher the immigrants out of town.
Friday's attack took place while one of the newest residents of the city of 35,000 was standing on the ancient and very quaint city square. A resident riding by on a bicycle slapped him, then turned around and came back and hit him again, at least a couple times.
Which leads to another difference between the 1991 attack and the attack this week. After the attacker left, several other newly arrived refugees came to help the victim, and when the attacker circled back yet again, one used his camera phone to snap a photo.
Police immediately recognized the attacker. Perhaps disturbingly, while known to police he had no known connections to neo-Nazi groups, who have sworn to again run the refugees out of Hoyerswerda.
The attacker, instead, had a record as a petty thief. He was questioned later Friday, the Hoyerswerda police announced.