hoyerswerda ’91


In September 1991, seemingly out of nowhere, a pogrom occurs in Hoyerswerda. A steadily growing crowd of “ordinary citizens” and neo-Nazis besieged the dormitory of GDR contract workers from Mozambique and Vietnam and the central accommodation for asylum seekers from Eastern Europe for an entire week. The mob broke windows and exploded incendiary devices. In full view of the public, the attacked people hide in fear of their lives, the police forces were overwhelmed, the pictures of the applauding crowd went around the world. The authorities saw no other way out than to evacuate the foreigners from the city. 32 people were injured, 82 arrested, only four convicted. In right-wing circles, Hoyerswerda was called the first “foreigner-free” city in the wake of the riots. The term “foreigner-free” was subsequently chosen as the first “Unword of the Year” in 1991. It was a turning point for Germany – the prelude to a wave of right-wing violence in the early 1990s.

The film “Hoyerswerda ’91” reconstructed the chronicle of the events of those seven days in September and their causes. On the other hand, it will take a look from today – 30 years later – at how the Fanal has been dealt with up to the present day. Hoyerswerda had a hard time recovering from the stigma of 1991, and since reunification it has been a shaken city whose population has shrunk from 70,000 to just under 30,000 today.

The film takes a look to three generations of “Hoyerswerd people” and looks at what traces the events of September 1991 left in their lives and what they themselves did with this legacy. In addition, the film will also increasingly tell from the perspective of the victims at the time, which has remained mostly underexposed in the last 30 years. The film also reconstructs the disastrous crisis management of the Saxon authorities at the time against the background of the asylum debate at the time. Already in the spring of 1991, the harbingers of the wave of violence that would break out in the fall were unmistakable. In the month of May alone, Saxony recorded one third of all right-wing extremist acts of violence recorded in Germany, without reacting adequately to them.

For the film, various people involved at the time and contemporary witnesses recalling once again the time of reunification, the riots in 1991 and how they were dealt with in the following decades:

There is David Macou, who lived in the GDR for twelve years as a contract worker and had to return to his native Mozambique overnight. There are the police officers Jörg Schwirtznik and Rainer Schölzel, who were completely overwhelmed on the ground as patrolman and hundred-man leader of the riot police, respectively, and felt largely abandoned by superiors and politics. There is Grit Lemke, director and author, who grew up in Hoyerswerda, experienced the riots first hand and eventually left Hoyerswerda because of the dominance of the right-wing. Today, she laments the prolonged silence and the lack of confrontation within the city. Among others, Gerhard Gundermann, the “singing digger driver” who commented on the events in numerous television appearances at the time, also has his comments in archive footage.