Blumen und Brandsätze

The question of how to respond to migrants in general and forced migrants in particular has loomed large in the new Germany. In the early 1990s, the arrival of hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers was perceived to be a more pressing issue than the upheavals caused by unification. Today, a majority of Germans consider issues of migration and forced migration to be more urgent problems than the wars in Ukraine and Palestine, climate change and the lacklustre performance of the German economy.

Blumen und Brandsätze (Flowers and Molotov cocktails) is an attempt to chart German responses to refugees from the fall of the Wall until the present day. It does so by focusing on local policies and politics in two areas of Germany that could not be more different: the Altona district in the West German city state of Hamburg, and the shire of Sächsische Schweiz-Osterzgebirge in regional and rural Saxony. While many of Altona’s residents have a migrant background, and most of them vote for the Greens or other left-of-centre parties, much of Saxony has an ethnically homogeneous population and is a stronghold of the far-right Alternative for Germany, or AfD.

Drawing on hundreds of interviews, archival and administrative records and ethnographic fieldwork, the book explores how neighbourhoods, local councils and local parliaments respond to camps and other facilities accommodating asylum seekers. It also investigates the impact of xeonophobic discourses and racist violence, analyses the role of East and West German identities, and discusses how conflicts over refugee hostels intersect with concerns over the lack of democratic participation.

Klaus Neumann worked at Deakin University as professor of history until 2018 and has held an appointment as honorary professor since then. He is the author of many books and articles about postcolonial histories, memory politics, historical justice, and immigration and refugee policies, including the award-winning Across the Seas: Australia’s Response to Refugees: A History. Blumen and Brandsätze is his first book in German.

Klaus Neumann

Hamburger Edition