Right-wing extremism in the emergency services: Nazi calendar and racist chats

Rescue workers stand out as enemies of refugees or citizens of the Reich. As taz research shows, patients are treated worse because of this.

Illustration of a fire truck

There is a serious problem of racism in the ranks of German rescue workers Illustration: Oliver Sperl

BERLIN taz | Aid organizations that carry out the rescue service in Germany have a problem with right-wing extremism and racism in their own ranks. This is shown by research by the taz at the weekend. At the Johanniter in Cologne, for example, the birthdays of Adolf Hitler and other Nazi greats were entered in a wall calendar and a racist game was played. Rescue workers there also attracted attention as Reich citizens and as close to the right-wing extremist Identitarian movement.

At a Malteser rescue station in North Rhine-Westphalia, an employee is said to have said before an operation that he would rather set the refugee home on fire than help the refugees. At this station, employees exchange racist and sexist memes in a large WhatsApp chat group. The contents of the chat group are available to the taz.

Rescue workers from both rescue stations report to the taz about cases in which patients were treated worse for racist reasons. Painful complaints from people with non-white skin or a supposedly foreign name are sometimes not taken seriously.

Using terms such as "Morbus Bosporus" and "Morbus Mediterraneus", rescue workers therefore make pseudo-diagnoses in people with a migration background. More than two dozen rescue workers from all relevant aid organizations in different locations in Germany confirm that these terms are used in everyday rescue work. They also describe how employees with a migration background are racially abused by colleagues.

The rescue workers who were noticed in Cologne in connection with the right-wing extremist and racist incidents still work, at least in part, for the Johanniter Unfallhilfe. The employee who had largely unsuccessfully addressed the incidents internally in 2020 was fired. A spokeswoman admits problems when asked by the taz. "From today's perspective, we have to state that there were noticeable undesirable developments and misconduct in the rescue station in the summer of 2020," she said. She announces a "committed investigation" that will also be "intensively devoted to preventive measures". The state association of Malteser in North Rhine-Westphalia reports that the allegations are being investigated “of course immediately”. "We condemn such inhuman behavior, in general and especially in our own ranks," said a spokesman.

According to research by the taz, the aid organizations and municipalities responsible for the rescue service have so far not been made aware of the problem at all or not sufficiently.

The Catholic Malteser Hilfsdienst apparently only dealt with the topic after the taz query about the racist pseudo-diagnoses. "We are shocked to see that these terms, which are probably more common in the medical field, have also increasingly found their way into the Malteser rescue service," said a spokesman. "The terms mentioned were not known to us before," says the evangelical Johanniter Unfallhilfe. The use of such terms represents a "disparagement of the patients concerned, which cannot be reconciled with the values ​​and the mission statement of our organization and against which we would take consistent action should we become aware of it from among our employees".

You can read the complete research “Rechte Rescuer” in the taz at the weekend (17/18 September issue).

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