German Publication Criticizes Attacks On Migrant Shelters In Germany
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
German chancellor Angela Merkel is being criticized today both for visiting a refugee center and not.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
There have been almost daily attacks in Germany on centers housing migrants. The one Merkel went to today in a small town outside Dresden has been the target of violent protests since the weekend. People fleeing conflicts in Syria and Iraq are taking temporary shelter there. Germans who want the refugees to leave heckled Merkel as she made her tour.
SHAPIRO: While others are criticizing the Chancellor for not visiting sooner. Today was her first official visit to any migrant center. Julian Reichelt is the online editor-in-chief for the German newspaper Bild. He wrote a commentary on the attacks and the government's response. And although Bild is a German-language publication, he also posted this op-ed in English.
JULIAN REICHELT: Well, I thought that it was about time to not only show to our German audience but also to our international audience that is reading us that we have a very clear position on what is going on in that small town, in Saxony Heidenau and that those people who are rioting there, who are throwing rocks, who are protesting that shelter home for refugees do not represent Germany.
SHAPIRO: You criticize the protesters, the rock throwers, and in this piece, you also criticize the response from the government.
REICHELT: Yes. I think the response to something like that - to such a disgrace to our country - should've been massive from the first hour. And unfortunately, it wasn't. I made a comparison in my op-ed saying that your average football game in Germany is protected by roughly 900 to a thousand policemen. That refugee shelter there was, for over a weekend of riots, only protected by 170 policemen who ended up retreating from the right-wing rioters.
SHAPIRO: This op-ed seems to be a way of saying these rioters, these rock throwers and protesters do not reflect our country. But I wonder how much they do reflect the country. Are they a teeny minority of fringe opinion, or is it a growing sentiment that is of real concern to Germans?
REICHELT: Well, it is of real concern, but I don't think it's a growing sentiment. I think it's an isolated sentiment that does exist in, you know, small communities, small towns that are not used to having refugees, that are not used to having foreigners. But now we're looking at these enormous numbers - expecting 800,000 refugees coming to Germany alone this year. But I think the overwhelming majority in Germany really is ready to receive those people and has good understanding of what they have been through.
SHAPIRO: Your newspaper has done more than just write op-eds. You have described in detail the journey of Syrians traveling to Germany. You have done spreads on how people can volunteer and donate and employ some of these refugees. Many people might find this surprising coming from what I have at least seen described as a conservative tabloid.
REICHELT: Well, you know, being conservative, which is definitely true for our tabloid, in my opinion, always means that you try to concern the values you stand for. And this is a country with - based on Christian values. The EU is a community based on two things - a common currency which is not doing so well and common Christian values. And who are we if we, in such a situation, do not stand up for those values? What kind of community, what kind of union, what kind of country are we? And providing help, providing shelter is just our main priority, and, you know, we will not back down an inch from that position.
SHAPIRO: What kind of response have you had from readers?
REICHELT: I was very happy to see that many people put it on their social media pages, saying, you know, this is how - exactly how we feel. Thank you for writing this. You know, I don't want to leave out that there have been, you know, the usual suspects from the right-wing fringes partly threatening, you know, our organization or me for writing this, but that is something we are, you know, we are very happy to live with when it's about making a clear point that - where we stand.
SHAPIRO: Julian Reichelt is the online editor-in-chief for the German newspaper Bild. Thanks very much for joining us.
REICHELT: Thank you very much for having me on the program. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.