Deadly Solingen house fire that killed 4 Bulgarian Turks evokes painful memories of 1993 far-right attack

A fatal fire in the West German city of Solingen that killed a Bulgarian Turkish family of four last week and injured many others has evoked painful memories of when a far-right group deliberately set fire to the Solingen home of Turks in 1993, killing five people.

A preliminary investigation into the fatal fire that broke out at the four-storey building in the early hours of Monday, 25 March, found evidence of the use of an accelerant, indicating “deliberate arson”, Heribert Kaune-Gebhard, the public prosecutor from nearby Wuppertal, told reporters. The prosecutor also stated that investigators had currently not found anything to indicate the attack was motived by racism or anti-immigration.

Monday’s fire is believed to have broken out at around 2.50am. Investigators found accelerant in the wooden stairwell on the ground floor causing the fire to spread rapidly upwards. A young Bulgarian Turkish couple and their two children, one of them a baby, were killed. A further 21 people sustained injuries of varying severity, with at least nine hospitalised and two critically injured.

The multi-storey property is typical of others in its neighbourhood in the old town of Solingen, which is divided into apartments.

Eyewitnesses said the fire had reached the roof in minutes and was so intense it was impossible for people to leave the building from downstairs. Some of the residents jumped from upper floors in a bid to escape.

Around 100 firefighters tackled the blaze overnight, bringing the fire under control after six hours. The full extent of the damage to the building, made uninhabitable by the fire, was visible the following day.

The city already has a painful legacy from an arson attack by neo-Nazis in May 1993, which killed two women and three girls, while injuring 14 others, some of them severely.

The arson attack was among the worst of a series of violent xenophobic attacks that took place across Germany at the time.  Four suspects were apprehended and brought to trial, three of them teenagers. All four were convicted of murder, attempted murder and arson, receiving sentences of between 10 and 15 years reflecting their relatively young ages.

Germany has seen a rise in racism and xenophobia in recent years, prompting the Turkish authorities to raise concerns about the possible motive for the arson attack.

Ali Ihsan Izbul, Türkiye’s consul general in Dusseldorf, and other Turkish officials are said to be monitoring the matter closely, while the Turkish ambassador to Berlin, Ahmet Başar Şen, was due to visit those injured in the fire.