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President Joachim Gauck criticizes 'dark Germany'

August 26, 2015

German head of state Joachim Gauck has praised volunteers for showing the positive face of Germany while on a visit to a refugee home in Berlin. It follows two xenophobic-related incidents the previous night.

German President Joachim Gauck visited a refugee home in Berlin Wednesday morning.
Image: Getty Images/AFP/O. Andersen

German President Joachim Gauck commended volunteers working at a refugee home in Berlin Wednesday, as he visited the shelter in the face of rising number of attacks on asylum seeker accommodation from right-wing extremists.

He praised the "many volunteers who want to show that there is a bright Germany shining in the face of the dark Germany that we see when we hear about attacks on asylum seeker accommodation or xenophobic actions against people."

Gauck, speaking at the shelter that formerly housed Wilmersdorf town hall, stressed that Germany has shown itself to be "open and helpful" in its dealings with refugees and that this would not be allowed to be ruined by "agitators and arsonists."

The shelter in Berlin was adapted for the new arrivals around two weeks ago and accommodates more than 500 refugees, with the set up carried out by Workers’ Samaritan Organization (ASB).

Meanwhile Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to visit a refugee home in Heidenau in Saxony on Wednesday. Heidenau has suffered several nights of riots from anti-asylum seekers when a shelter opened on the weekend. At least 31 police officers were injured on the first night of protests on Friday night and into the early hours of Saturday, police said.

Men with knife entered refugee home in Parchim

In one of two attacks that took place Tuesday evening, two men aged 29 and 31 entered a refugee shelter in Parchim, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

Several of the residents who were in the refugee shelter's outdoor area at the time noticed in time that one of the intruders had a knife with a 20.5cm-long (8.1 inches) blade.

The shelter residents got to safety and informed the security guard, and the two men fled.

The pair were caught a short time later by the police and taken into custody.

Both the men, described as living locally, had an alcohol level of more than 2 grams of alcohol per kilogram of blood (2 Promille) - the drink-drive limit in Germany is 0.5 grams per kilo. The men made xenophobic comments as the blood was taken.

Police are investigating offences of arms violations and trespass, and said that although the two men don't belong to the right-wing scene, a xenophobic background to their transgression hasn't been excluded.

Refugee shelter in Leipzig damaged in alleged arson attack

The intrusion took place on the same evening that a masked offender threw an incendiary device through an open window of new refugee accommodation in Stötteritz, a district in the city of Leipzig, on Tuesday night. It came hours before it was due to receive 56 refugees on Wednesday.

The damage was minimal, with one mattress burnt in the attack, according to police, who said that an eyewitness had seen the flames and quickly alerted the fire service.

Burkhard Jung, mayor of Leipzig, sharply criticized the attack, saying on Wednesday: "We are dealing with a cowardly attack by people who have no humanity. Of course the refugees will move into the house as soon as the damage is repaired."

In a separate incident, a suspected arson took place in the early hours of Tuesday morning at a sports hall that was due to be used as a refugee shelter in the coming days in Nauen in Brandenburg, and another suspicious fire at a planned refugee home in the southwest of the country on Monday.

By the time firefighters in 16 fire trucks arrived at the scene, they decided that the blaze was so far gone that the best option was to contain it and let the place burn down. Some 130 asylum seekers had been due to be moved there.

mh/msh (AFP, dpa)

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