Neo-Nazi graffiti found in Ludwigshafen fire scene

Suspected neo-Nazi graffiti has been found at a building housing a Turkish cultural centre and residential apartments in Ludwigshafen in which nine people died in a fire last night. The graffiti has fuelled speculation that the fire was a result of xenophobic arson. The German word for hate –hass – was written twice on the wall in SS-rune style writing. Police claim that the graffiti must have been put there before the fire.

“We cannot exclude any cause of fire,” Lothar Liebig, the director of the public prosecutor’s office, told Tagesspiegel.

Two Turkish girls have reported seeing a man in the building’s corridor setting a baby carriage alight shortly before the fire broke out. There were attacks against the building in 2006. Turkish media has been widely speculating that the fire was the result of an attack by neo-Nazis.

“Respect for the victims demands that we wait for the results of the police investigation and avoid making any prejudgements,” chairman of the foreign committee of Germany and CDU member Ruprecht Polenz told Bild-Zeitung. “But it doesn’t help anybody to fuel the fire now,” he added.

On Monday, Kurt Beck, the premier of Rhineland-Palatinate and the leader of the SPD Party, ruled out the possibility of a xenophobic attack. The Turkish ambassador to Germany Ali Irtemçelik criticized German officials for ruling out xenophobic arson as a cause for the fire before starting an official investigation. Irtemçelik, in turn, was also criticized.

“Sometimes ambassadors, too, have to be taught manners,” German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

The media is speculating that if the investigation does uncover a xenophobic motive, Germany might be subject to international criticism for both its rightwing movement and the swiftness with which politicians ruled out xenophobic causes.