Sippenhaft is an old Nazi policy under which family members of criminals were held equally responsible and punished. Now a Swiss political party is using a racist and xenophobic poster to revive the practice.
The poster shows three white sheep booting out a black sheep, with a caption that translates to "for more security." It's part of an effort to drum up support for a deportation policy in which entire immigrant families would be kicked out of Switzerland if their children committed a violent crime, a drug offense, or benefits fraud.
It's not some fringe, extremist, right-wing political party that's trying to collect 100,000 signatures for a referendum on the policy. Rather, it's the country's largest party—the Swiss People's Party. Back in 2004, this party used the image of black hands reaching into a pot of Swiss passports to successfully campaign for stricter immigration laws. More recently, it proposed banning the construction of minarets.
It all seems part of a larger general trend of racism and anti-Semitism brewing in the region. Uniformed Austrian soldiers recently put a Nazi video on YouTube. Last month, eight men from India were chased down and beaten up by a mob of 50 Germans yelling "Foreigners out!" In eastern Germany, where far-right heckling is a "fact of life" at soccer matches, neo-Nazis took things to a new low in May by targeting a youth match and calling a 14-year-old goalkeeper a "Jewish pig." And last year when Germany hosted the World Cup, a former government spokesman warned dark-skinned visitors to avoid "no-go" areas where racism is a problem. The examples go on …
Obviously, not all Germans, Swiss, and Austrians are cold-hearted extremists, but history is replete with examples of populations that have been radicalized quite fast. This German-speaking part of the world should be kept on our radar screens.