What Germans really think about the country’s racism problem

Most Germans recognise that racism is widespread and are willing to face up to the problem, a new study suggests.

Demonstrators at a rally against racism in Domplatz, Erfurt on March 21st 2022
Demonstrators at a rally against racism in Domplatz, Erfurt on March 21st 2022 - . the International Day against Racism. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Bodo Schackow

Around 90 percent of Germans believe that racism exists in the country, according to the study from the new National Discrimination and Racism Monitor (NaDiRa).

Researchers in the survey, carried out by the German Centre for Integration and Migration Research (DeZIM), found that nearly half of respondents – 45 percent – said they had observed racist incidents. And more than a fifth of the population – about 22 percent – said they had been affected by racism themselves.

READ ALSO: Black people in Germany face ‘widespread’ racism, study finds

Co-director of the DeZIM Institute Naika Foroutan said that racism is a part of “everyday life in Germany”.

“It affects not only minorities, but the whole of society, directly or indirectly,” he said.

Foroutan said structural and institutional racism “is also seen as a problem by many people”.

“Racist disadvantages are particularly often recognised in the areas of school, work and housing. The issue should therefore be tackled pro-actively and in the long term by policymakers. Our study shows that a large part of the German population would support this.”

READ ALSO: High costs, long queues and discrimination – what it’s like to rent in Germany

Family Minister Lisa Paus (Greens) said the fact that people recognise the problem means the country is “on a good path”.

“The vast majority of people in Germany recognise that racism exists in Germany,” said Paus while presenting the results of the study in Berlin on Thursday. 

“People are also willing to get involved (to act) against it.”

A sign reads 'racism kills' at a memorial event in February 2022 for the victims of the Hanau racist attacks in 2020.

A sign reads ‘racism kills’ at a memorial event in February 2022 for the victims of the Hanau racially motivated attacks in 2020. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

OPINION: When will Germany deal with its casual racism problem?

Paus said that the commitment to tackle racism would be further strengthened by new laws, such as the Democracy Promotion Act.

“In this way, we will strengthen the fight for democracy and diversity, and against extremism and racism,” she said.

“Germany is aware of its racism problem,” added Reem Alabali-Radovan, the Federal Government Commissioner for Racism. The fact that 90 percent of people recognise racism exists is “good news, because it is an important step for change”, he added.

What else do Germans say about racism?

According to the study, half of respondents agree with the statement: “We live in a racist society.”

A majority – 65 percent – think that racial discrimination exists in public authorities. Around 70 percent of respondents said they are prepared to oppose racism – for example, by organising a demonstration, petition or by standing up against it it if they come across racism in their everyday life.

Meanwhile, 81 percent agree with the statement that people can behave in a racist way without intending to.

However, 45 percent of respondents said that criticism of racism is exaggerated, and represents a restriction of freedom of expression in the sense of “political correctness”.

Some people who complained about racism were “oversensitive”, 33 percent of respondents said. Meanwhile, 52 percent even took the view that those affected were too “fearful”.

Researchers interviewed around 5,000 people from April to August 2021 for the study. The review is set to be carried out every two years.

Last year, The Local reported on the the Afrocensus project, which found black people in Germany face widespread racism.

“There is no area of life in which discrimination and racism are not extensive problems,” said the report authors, underlining the deep racial problems in Germany. 

READ ALSO: ‘Black lives need to matter in Germany’ New project to uncover racism in everyday life

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German president warns of radical threat on riot anniversary

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Thursday warned of new extremist threats to German society as he marked 30 years since the country's worst post-war racist violence.

German president warns of radical threat on riot anniversary

Steinmeier travelled to the northern city of Rostock to commemorate the 1992 rampage when thousands of bystanders applauded as a marauding mob flung stones and petrol bombs at a housing block for asylum seekers.

He said Germany had failed to snuff out hatred and radicalism in the intervening years, as political leaders warn of potential militancy this winter linked to high energy prices, inflation and resumed pandemic measures.

“The risk that the trail of violence hasn’t ended is high,” Steinmeier told the ceremony.

“Particularly now at a time that puts us to the test like nothing in the last decades — a time that demands a lot of us, in which what’s normal is thrown into doubt and restrictions loom.”

READ ALSO: ‘Racism the problem’ – 20 years after Rostock

He said Germany had seen successive “waves” of right-wing extremism, some of it deadly, in the last three decades, noting that opposition to the 2015 refugee influx and coronavirus measures had been harnessed by radical groups.

As the country faces a winter of soaring energy bills due to the Ukraine war along with an anticipated sixth wave of the pandemic, far-right as well as extreme-left activists have announced anti-government protests.


In Rostock in 1992, the targetted building was occupied by Vietnamese migrant workers who had to be evacuated from the burning edifice amid shocking scenes in a country still in the throes of reunifying.

Days of violence in the Lichtenhagen district saw several thousand people chanting “Germany for Germans, Foreigners Out!” in ugly images not seen in Germany since the Nazi era.

Steinmeier called the riot a national “disgrace”, saying it was a “miracle” no one was killed in the five-day siege.

Surrounded by survivors of the riot and community leaders, Steinmeier said the scenes were “seared” on the national memory.

“But we can only guess your mortal fear, your sense of abandonment in those hours,” he said.

Steinmeier acknowledged multiple failings including ill-equipped police and a complacent political class that refused to see mounting radicalism in the depressed ex-communist east.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is greeted by residents after his visit to a Buddhist-Vietnamese temple in the Lichtenhagen district of Rostock.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is greeted by local residents after his visit to a Buddhist-Vietnamese temple in the Lichtenhagen district of Rostock. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jens Büttner

“The violence from back then, that trail of far-right terror, is unfortunately still with us,” he said.

The commemorations were marred earlier when a 13-year-old boy allegedly flashed the outlawed straight-armed Hitler salute behind a reporter while he was on camera. Police said they had identified the juvenile suspect.

There were some 33,900 people in the right-wing extremist spectrum in Germany in 2021, according to a report presented by the BfV federal domestic intelligence agency in June — up from 33,300 in 2020.

Interior Minister Nancy Fäser has said her top security priority is tackling the country’s “biggest threat: right-wing extremism”.