Forgotten Massacre: Schwandorf

On 17 December 1988, a Neonazi in the Southeastern German town of Schwandorf set the building on Spitalgarten 1, ablaze. The target was three Turkish families living in the building once called Haber-meier Hause. Two of the families managed to flee the inferno but three members of Can family and a German man were killed in the fire. It would be recorded as the first deadly racist attack in the post-war Germany. But in the ensuing decades, it would also be called the forgotten massacre.

54 years old Ayse Koc panicked when she realized a friend she was about to visit lived on the fourth floor of a multi-story building. She could not managed to go in and went back home after apologizing to her friend. The year when that happened was 1999, exactly 11 years after the Schwandorf arson. Ayse’s family was one of the three families who lived on Spitalgarten 1 when it was set on fire in 1988. After three decades, Ayse cant still live in higher floors fearing being trapped in a fire.

Ayse Koc

Fatma and Osman Can along with their 12 years old son Mehmet lost their lives on that night. Their daughter Leyla who was married at the time would always regret for not being at her parents’ that night. The 19 year-old Neonazi attacker was sentenced to 12 year in prison and freed in 2001. “My pain would never ease no matter how much time would pass,” said Leyla who has her own kids and grandkids now. Thanking everyone for participating at the 30th anniversary, Leyla says the attacker being sentenced for only 12 years for murdering four people and now freely living only doubles the pain.


After the attack took place in Schwandorf, the small Turkish community wanted to commemorate the hideous massacre. They applied to the municipality many times but had been rejected each time for 20 years by the Interior Minister Horst Seehofer’s party, Christian Social Union or CSU. By 2009, Social Democrat Party won the elections and took over Schwandorf municipality. And the new social democrat mayor quickly gave the permission to the Turkish community for commemoration events. Even a monument on which the names of the victims were inscribed was erected in front if the building. The whole Turkish community in the town has been voting for SPD ever since.

The house that was set ablaze

However, CSU won back the municipality after a single term. The 30th anniversary commemorations started at a church adjacent to the municipal building in the town. It has been three decades since the massacre so this year’s events were more symbolic than the previous ones. However, the new mayor of CSU was nowhere to be found.

The members of Turkish community in Schwandorf feel a bit upset for being forgotten. They say even Turkish people and the government do not know that such massacre took place. Turkey’s governing Ak Party deputy Mustafa Yeneroglu tweeted a few times prior to the anniversary to remind people about the forgotten massacre. And Turks in Schwandorf think Yeneroglu is the reason why Turkey’s state tv TRT showed up at this year’s commemorations.

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