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Germany

Germans Donate Millions to Victims

As Berlin has raised aid for the tsunami-hit nations to €500 million ($661 million), Germany's sports celebrities, industry bigwigs and ordinary individuals too have generously loosened their purse strings to help.

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The pictures of the Asian tsunami tragedy have stirred people

The tsunami that lashed a string of countries in the Indian Ocean on Dec. 26 caused horrific devastation and loss of life. But, if there's some consolation to be found, the outpouring of funds and aid around the world to help the victims in the stricken regions has been equally tremendous.

Even as governments around the world rush to release millions to help the affected countries, individual charitable initiatives and private donations in their countries haven't been far behind.

Schumacher leads the way

In Germany, seven-time world Formula One champion Michael Schumacher led the pack of prominent sporting donors to victims of last week's Asian tsunamis, gifting a massive $10 million (€7.5 million).

Schumacher Saison 2003 Michael Schumacher Formel 1 Sieg in Indianapolis

Michael Schumacher

"The dawning of the New Year has not been as joyful for us this year because of the catastrophe in Asia," said Schumacher. "We sympathize with the victims in their grief."

Schumacher himself is said to be personally affected by the disaster: his Munich-based friend and bodyguard Burkhard Cramer and his two sons died in the disaster on the popular holiday island of Phuket on Thailand's southwestern coast.

Schumacher's manager Willi Weber, who spoke on a TV fundraiser program organized by German broadcaster ZDF and mass-selling daily Bild Zeitung, said Schumacher wanted the money to be used for schools and kindergartens in the crisis region.

"Michael and his wife Corinna are shocked and deeply moved by the pictures from Asia," Weber told the program called Wir wollen helfen (We want to help), which raised more than €40 million. It comes a day after another German channel, Sat.1, raised €10.25 million for the victims of the tidal wave disaster.

German, tennis star Nicolas Kiefer came up with a novel way of fund-raising, saying he would donate $100 per ace he served in three Australian tournaments.

"For every ace, starting now in Adelaide, then in Sydney, and finally in Melbourne, I will donate $100," he said. "Against Sjeng Schalken, I served five aces, or $500," for the victims of the tsunamis, Kiefer said on his Web site.

Bayern Munich for Sri Lanka

Germany's most successful football team, Bayern Munich, is to finance a rebuilding project in Sri Lanka, where the number of victims from last week's tsunamis has risen to over 30,000.

Zerstörte Häuser nach Erdebeben in Sri Lanka

People walk through debris of their houses destroyed in tidal waves on the coastal areas in Colombo, Sri Lanka

Bayern has decided "to make €300,000 available for a project in Sri Lanka," president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said on the club's Internet site on Tuesday.

"The number of victims, the images of devastation and the suffering of the people have deeply moved us," he said. "We want to try to extend a hand to children and people who have suffered and whose future appears so uncertain."

Bayern sporting director Uli Hoeness said the money would be used to build an orphanage or a school.

"We will finance this project for the next 15 or 20 years," he said. Hoeness said he had also decided to donate money he won in a bet with two Bayern players that he would not be able to lose 16 kilos (35 pounds) in eight weeks.

Sport/Fußball/Bundesliga VfL Wolfsburg - Hertha BSC Berlin = Fußball-Bundesliga: VfL Wolfsburg - Hertha BSC Berlin am Samstag (27.11.2004) in der Volkswagen-Arena in Wolfsburg.

The German football federation and league announced a donation of €1.5 million. In addition, the German national 11 will play a friendly match on Jan. 25 against a Bundesliga select side, with proceeds also going to victims of the catastrophe.

Personal tragedy

There remains little doubt that Germans are prepared to dig deep into their pockets to help the victims of the tsunami disaster.

An AFP survey showed on Tuesday that private donations amounted for nearly €110 million of the funds collected by big aid organizations in the country. The German Red Cross alone doubled its aid collection within four days to a total of €22.8 million.

The editor of German mass tabloid Bild, Kai Diekmann, said Wednesday that the overwhelming readiness of Germans to donate "shows what the people in our country stand for."

But, many believe that the drive to donate for the disaster, particularly in the West, is partly heightened because of the involvement in the disaster of so many resorts favored by tourists from rich countries in the West and the richer parts of north-east Asia.

Seebeben Thailand deutsche Touristen zurück in Frankfurt

German survivors arrive at Frankfurt airport

Germany alone has counted more than 60 dead nationals caught up in the tragedy while a 1,000 more are still missing in the region. The total death toll from the disaster edged up towards 146,000 on Wednesday.

German business: not just making money

But, whatever the reason for the generosity, the urge to give has also caught on in German industry circles.

German chemical giant BASF and pharmaceutical heavyweight Bayer have not just shelled out millions to ease the misery and help reconstruction work in south Asia, but also taken advantage of the fact that they have a business presence on the affected continent.

Seebeben Opfer kehren zurück Indien

A villager returns to a fishermen's colony in Tamil Nadu

Bayer press spokesman Günter Forneck said his company was able to provide on-the-spot assistance in India, Indonesia and Thailand.

“We decided to implement the aid campaigns directly in the countries affected through our subsidiaries there," Forneck said. "We can judge much better, faster and more effectively on the spot what needs to be done and when and how. We also provided technical assistance, medicines and relief workers.”

The director of the German Chambers of Industry and Commerce, Martin Wansleben, said that German firms are not only in places where there is money to be made, but can also show generosity in difficult times.

"We want to help"

Deutsche Bank CEO Josef Ackermann, who happened to be in India when the disaster struck, said he came back full of "impressions". Deutsche Bank has donated €10 million.

Other companies such as Deutsche Post and the German chapter of the Internet auction site, Ebay have called on customers to dig up things they have no use for anymore at home. These are to be packed, labeled with the words "We want to help" and can be sent free of cost to post offices throughout Germany. The articles will then be auctioned off on Ebay to the highest bidder. The proceeds will be channeled to a collective Deutsche Post bank account and then be given to German aid organizations working in the affected tsunami-hit regions.

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