Hate Crimes Crop Up in Germany Before World Cup

A rash of attacks against foreigners has erupted in the east of the country, authorities said Friday, underlining concern over hate crimes as Germany prepares to host the soccer World Cup.

In the eastern city of Weimar, eight assailants insulted, kicked and punched, three men from Mozambique and Cuba on Thursday evening. The 46-year-old Mozambican was hospitalized with head injures, and his two companions were lightly injured.

The victims had been at a party on the outskirts of Weimar. Police spokeswoman Ilka Vollmar said the suspected assailants, aged 19 to 29, were arrested. Two of them injured themselves as they tried to flee and were under police guard at a hospital, authorities said.

In the port town of Wismar, a 36-year-old Indian man was kicked and punched Thursday by five men who sang the German national anthem and shouted "fascist slogans," said Christian Pick, a regional prosecutor. The suspected assailants, aged 20 to 24, were arrested.

A 29-year-old Turkish man was beaten Thursday afternoon in Berlin after a scuffle with four men who appeared to belong to the far-right. Ten suspects were arrested.

The surge of attacks comes some two weeks before the start of the World Cup, the world's largest sporting event. The first round begins June 9 and runs through the 23rd.

The anti-immigrant far right has no seats in the national parliament, but occasional successes for fringe parties in state elections and high-profile hate crimes have raised concern — especially in the formerly communist and economically struggling east.

"In the east, the younger generation is particularly unsettled in terms of its situation and future opportunities — that is an environment in which extremism arises easily," Bishop Wolfgang Huber, the head of Germany's Lutheran Evangelical Church told the Berliner Zeitung daily.

"In the eastern states, there is the phenomenon of hostility to foreigners without any foreigners," he added, alluding to the east's relative isolation under communism and relatively small number of immigrants.

"The few people with a different skin color in the east are then particularly in danger," he said.