Grief, anger and calls for action after shooting in Germany

Full Screen
1 / 14

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Thousands listen to German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier during a vigil on the market place for the victims of the shooting in Hanau, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. A 43-year-old German man shot and killed several people at several locations in a Frankfurt suburb overnight in attacks that appear to have been motivated by far-right beliefs, officials said Thursday. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

BERLIN – Gokhan Gultekin’s juggling act was in many ways typical of Hanau’s Turkish community: taking care of frail parents, hustling to work at a late-night cafe, making some cash on the side at a second job and attending Friday prayers at the mosque across town.

On Friday, Gultekin’s friends mourned him at his house of worship, two days after “Gogo” was killed in a racially motivated shooting rampage that shook Germany and prompted fresh calls for a crackdown on far-right extremism and anti-immigrant scapegoating.

“We grew up in here in these streets, ran through the playgrounds, laughed together,” said Omer Demir, who described his recently engaged, 37-year-old friend as hard-working. “He had to be. He had to take care of his parents. If he had 50 euros, he would give 30 to his mother.”

On Wednesday, a 43-year-old German, Tobias Rathjen, shot to death nine people with immigrant backgrounds in this Frankfurt suburb before apparently killing his mother and himself. Five of the victims were reported to be Turkish citizens. Rathjen left rambling texts and videos in which he espoused racist views, called for genocide and claimed to have been under surveillance since birth.

Germany's top security official, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, said protection would be stepped up across the country at mosques and other “sensitive sites” in the wake of the attack.

“The threat posed by far-right extremism, anti-Semitism and racism is very high in Germany,” Seehofer said in Berlin.

In Hanau, German and Turkish flags flew at half-staff outside the Turkish-speaking DITIB mosque, where more than 300 people attended the regular Friday prayers.

“The mood is subdued," said Adam Arslan. “I cannot accept this crime.”