May 30, 2024 | Zeit

A racist, viral video from the affluent island of Sylt causes uproar in Germany

On 23 May, a 14-second video filmed in the affluent German island of Sylt spread on social media, showing a group of young people chanting xenophobic, right-wing slogans and making Nazi-related gestures on a terrace. It caused outrage across the country and the restaurant owner and politicians were quick to condemn the video. Gilda Sahebi, an Educator in ISD Germany‘s Business Council for Democracy, discussed this and other less-publicised incidents in Germany during an interview with presenter Dilan Gropengiesser on Zeit Online.

When commenting on reactions to the Sylt incident, she said: “This elite (those filmed in the video) was a very easy target for everyone. Everyone distanced themselves from them with disgust and horror. […] It was easy, it was cheap, it was very easy to do,” referring to the public condemnation as “a distancing at a special price because nobody will contradict you.”

However, the legal consequences will have to be determined by the courts. “It was to be said: racism is not illegal, just like antisemitism isn’t illegal,” she said.

She criticised heated public debates following these incidents, where people online have been seen to use derogatory slogans and dehumanising language. She explained how such rhetoric “incites people” and “leads to hate campaigns” down the line. “Societies are very much characterised by what we see, hear, experience and witness” and currently they are strongly characterised by “misanthropy,” she said.

Gilda goes on to explain how polarising and hateful rhetoric has serious impacts in younger generations, as they are growing up in a society where this is “normalised.” They often “don’t have the tools to question such narratives,” and even when they do, they are still repeatedly exposed to such racist, misanthropic rhetoric on social media where it is “presented as normal,” she said.

The full interview with English subtitles is available on our YouTube channel.