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    Default Germany Addressing Racism

    Germany: Confronting the colonial roots of racism

    'The Nazis didn't fall out of the sky, there is a deeper racist, xenophobic mindset in German history.'

    17 August 2017

    Berlin, Germany - Mnyaka Sururu Mboro walks through Wedding, a district in the northwest of Berlin, with an expression of disdain. "It makes my stomach turn every time I go down these streets," he says.

    He is in the African Quarter, so-called because the streets have been named in commemoration of Germany's imperial leaders and conquests from the end of the 19th century.

    One street, Peters Allee, has a particularly negative effect on Tanzanian-born Mboro. It was first named so after Carl Peters, the founder of Germany's colony in East Africa, and a man glorified by the Nazis. For Mboro, who has been living in Germany since the 1970s after arriving on a scholarship, it represents a period of violence and oppression for his family and motherland.

    "As a child growing up in Kilimanjaro, I would often sit outside with my grandmother at night and listen to her tell fairy tales," Mboro recalls. "One night she told me to look at the moon, which was full that night. After some minutes she asked if I could see the shadow on it. Doesn't it look like a person, she said. I looked again.

    "That, she said, is a German man called Carl Peters. He was the governor of the Kilimanjaro area and we used to call him Mkono Wa Damu - bloody hands."
    Germany's colonial history

    Little is known in mainstream German society about figures such as Carl Peters, or the nation's role as a coloniser between the 1880s and the early 20th century. Sociologist Serpil Polat says the topic has remained on the margins of analysis.

    "Colonisation has not been the focus of the nation's narrative," Polat, who works at a migration academy linked to Berlin's Jewish Museum, explains. "On the one side, there is a lack of knowledge and if it is talked about, we have a sense of nostalgia mixed with the thinking that what Germany did wasn't as bad as other European colonisers. So a critical approach hasn't really happened so far."

    However, recent developments in mainstream and civil society suggest that Germany's understanding of its colonial history may be evolving.

    Much of the pressure is coming from a strong anticolonial grassroots movement, including people like Mboro, who have been raising awareness around the issue and campaigning to have the streets in the African Quarter renamed.

    Berlin has addressed some of the issues around the renaming of the streets. In the 1980s, Berlin declared that Peters Allee would be named after Hans Peters, an anti-Nazi hero. But activists and campaigners say the city hasn't gone far enough. As the street is still called Peters, the association with Carl Peters remains strong, they say.

    Alongside this, the prominent Deutsche Historische Museum in Berlin recently hosted its first large-scale exhibition on German colonisation and is planning a permanent exhibition in the next few years. Outside the capital, Hamburg University set up a research centre two years ago to examine the port city's colonial legacy, mapping the cityscape and the buildings from that era.

    Internationally, descendants of Namibians killed during the colonial period are seeking reparations from Germany after it admitted to a genocide that took place in 1904. Germany is refusing to pay reparations and didn't attend the first hearing in the US in March. Namibian activists are now working towards a second hearing date in October.


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    German Supermarket Clears Out Foreign Products To Make A Point About Racism

    Germany is an incredibly multicultural country, due in part to its membership of the European Union and its border policy which saw hundreds of thousands of refugees come through. But subsequently, a staggering number of hate crimes have been committed against immigrants.

    However a German supermarket has taken the extraordinary step of removing all foreign objects for a day, to highlight to its citizens how much the country depends on outside sources.

    The shelves at the Edeka supermarket in Hamburg were virtually empty, with signs posted around the store saying, 'this shelf is quite boring without variety' and 'our selection knows borders today'.

    The Spanish tomatoes were gone, so too were the olives from Greece Cheese, meanwhile, was virtually non-existent. The campaign appears to have gone down well with people on social media.

    A spokesman for the company says: "Edeka stands for diversity, and we produce a wide range of food in our assortment, which is produced in the different regions of Germany.

    "But it is together with products from other countries that we create the unique diversity that our customers value.

    "We are delighted to have received a lot of positive feedback regarding Saturday's action."

    At the start of the year, there were still more than 400,000 refugee applicants waiting for approval after arriving in 2015. Syrians made up the bulk of the group who arrived during the refugee crisis two years ago, followed by Afghanis, Iraqis, Iranians, Eritreans and Albanians.

    Figures obtained by the BBC show that there were 10 attacks on migrants every day last year. Five hundred and sixty people were injured in targeted violence, with nearly 1,000 attacks on housing. Refugee organisations and volunteers also suffered the wrath of locals, with more than 200 being attacked.

    Migrant figures have certainly dropped from their peak two years ago, after Germany closed the Balkan migrant route as well as sealing an EU deal with Turkey.



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