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'We are all Germany' - celebrities support refugees

Sabine Kinkartz, BerlinAugust 31, 2015

How can you promote tolerance and diversity in Germany? DW talked to celebrities at the German government's annual open house weekend.

Gerald Asamoah, Katarina Witt, Enissa Amani, Abdelkarim und DW-Redakteur und Moderator Jaafar Abdul-Karim bei der DW-Aktion Wir sind Deutschland
Retired footballer Gerald Asamoah, retired Olympic figure skater Katarina Witt, comedians Enissa Amani and Abdelkarim, and DW presenter Jaafar Abdul-Karim at DW's "We are all Germany" conferenceImage: DW/Müller

Sitting in the cockpit of a fighter jet, having a look at the Chancellery or asking a government minister a question - many people don't want to pass up the opportunity to do these things. Around 150,000 visitors took advantage of the German government's open house on this warm, sunny weekend to look behind the scenes in the government district.

Evoking bad feelings

What can Germans do or what should they do to give refugees a new home? Comedian and TV presenter Enissa Amani recalls her first years in Germany. In 1985, her family fled political persecution in Iran and she recalls the wave of violence towards asylum seekers in the early 1990s.

"Back then, I got wind of the fact that a house in which Turks lived in Solingen was set on fire and that scared me back then when I was a little girl," she said. For months, the young Enissa suffered from nightmares and, in her innocent child's mind, she asked herself whether only Turks were in danger or Iranians as well.

DW-Aktion „Wir sind Deutschland“ im Auswärtigen Amt - Enissa Amani
Enissa AmaniImage: DW/S. Kinkartz

Now, the 31-year-old is a German citizen and helps refugees as much as she can: she organizes fundraisers and calls for help on social networks. When Amani sees images of right-wing extremists, they evoke the bad feelings she had when she was a child.

Role models fight racism

Gerald Asamoah can relate to that. In 1990, when he was twelve years old, the Ghanaian went to Germany and later launched a successful soccer career in the German Bundesliga, the German premier soccer league. After his naturalization in 2001, he was the first African-born player to be nominated for Germany's national soccer team. "At that time, I wondered a lot whether I was welcomed at all or accepted as a German."

DW-Aktion „Wir sind Deutschland“ im Auswärtigen Amt - Gerald Asamoah
Gerald AsamoahImage: DW/S. Kinkartz

Despite negative experiences in Germany, it still feels like home, says Gerald Asamoah. "I was attacked but it was clear to me that other people, meaning the people who are important to me, take me as I am." That is why he forged ahead and actively worked against racism and is now happy to be a role model.

Think out of the box

Enissa Amani, the comedian Abdelkarim, Gerald Asamoah and two-time Olympic figure skating champion Katarina Witt feel that Germany is home to people of all skin and hair colors. Around 16 million in the country people come from a migrant background.

The Moroccan-born comedian Abdelkarim does not experience blatant racism every day but he notices that people in trains seldom want to sit next to him.

"And if someone does come down to sit next to me, then it is mostly an open-minded college student who still believes that people are good at heart or another foreigner who has nothing to lose." Abdelkarim is infuriated over the violence against refugees in Germany today.

DW-Aktion „Wir sind Deutschland“ im Auswärtigen Amt - Abdelkarim
AbdelkarimImage: DW/S. Kinkartz

Zero tolerance policy for racism

Katarina Witt also finds the recent events in Heidenau and attacks on refugee homes disturbing. "Things that are completely normal to me and others I know seem to be a big question mark for some people," she says. She appeals for a zero tolerance policy regarding racism. She feels that people who help refugees should be given more help and that people who support refugees should join forces and form large groups because, as she says, "They have to show that this is normal in our country."