You Won’t Believe Where Germany Stuck Thousands of Syrian Refugees

You Won’t Believe Where Germany Stuck Thousands of Syrian Refugees

Between the Iran Nuclear deal from the U.S. and the Russians putting troops on the Ground in Syria we have a refugee problem spanning the globe.  Radical Islam today is growing and affecting more of us than you may realize.

REFUGEES

After five years in a cramped refugee shelter in southern Germany, Ashkan finally found a room to rent. It is newly renovated and cheap, if on the small side and a bit out of town. The 22-year-old chef, who fled Afghanistan after the Taliban killed his father, immediately set about decorating it with an Afghan bedroll, a Persian rug and an Afghan flag. The low building that flanks his new home looked unremarkable to him. But to a German, the distinctive, elongated shape is rather unsettling, and for good reason. Ashkan’s new home is in a part of Dachau, a former concentration camp where the Nazis murdered 41,500 people, some in agonising medical experiments. Under the Nazis, the complex of buildings where Ashkan lives was used as a school of racially motivated alternative medicine, surrounded by a slave-labour plantation known as the “herb garden”. Asked if he feels uneasy about the site’s history, Ashkan replies with a resigned smile: “I just wanted a roof over my head.”

With shelters and social housing under pressure even before the current refugee crisis, the town of Dachau, near Munich, has resorted to housing about 50 of its most vulnerable inhabitants – among them homeless people, as well as refugees like Ashkan – in the former herb garden. It is just across the road from the main Dachau camp, which is surrounded by watchtowers and walls topped with barbed wire. Custodians of the former camp argue that the herb garden should be turned into a memorial site. Town officials say they need the space for those with nowhere else to go. Trapped in the middle are people like Ashkan.

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He tells me he knows little about Germany’s Nazi past, and has had no time to visit the main memorial site: “I go to work, I come home, I go to work.” The herb garden looks bleak, despite the autumn sun. A few dilapidated greenhouses and a memorial slab are reminders of its past. Children play in the courtyard. Only a short train ride away in Munich, Germans are welcoming tens of thousands of Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis with cheers and “Willkommen” banners. But in Dachau, as in many other small German towns, the situation has been desperate, and not just this year. Recent headlines have focused on Germany’s hastily improvised emergency shelters – in exhibition centres and beer tents – to house new refugees. However, longer-term accommodation for those whose asylum claims are being processed, or who have been granted asylum, has posed just as much of a problem. In July, the city of Bochum caused an uproar when it announced plans to house up to 100 asylum seekers in containers in a cemetery. There have been calls to settle more refugees in former East Germany: many buildings there lie empty as locals move west, where the jobs are. However, the east has also seen furious protests against such shelters, and several refugees in Munich told me they were afraid to go there. Last year, 47% of all racist attacks in Germany took place in the former GDR, although it is home to only 17% of the country’s population.

But no other housing options are as controversial as former German concentration camps. Earlier this year, officials in the towns of Schwerte and Augsburg caused an uproar when they considered putting up refugees in external sites of concentration camps. Augsburg scrapped the plan, while authorities in Schwerte said the refugee shelter turned out to be next to – not on – the historical site. In Dachau, on the other hand, town officials and camp custodians are still at loggerheads over what to do with the buildings in question: remember past wrongs, or address present needs?

The entrance to the 'herb garden' at Dachau today
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The entrance to the ‘herb garden’ at Dachau today. Photograph: Frank Bauer for the Guardian

“For me, it’s not very welcoming to house refugees in a place that symbolises torture and death,” says Gabriele Hammermann, director of the Dachau concentration camp memorial site. Her office is next to a vast square in the main camp, where starving inmates once shivered for hours during roll call. While we discuss her ideas for the herb garden, which include using it as an exhibition space, visitors from all over the world are walking across the square. With 800,000 tourists a year, Dachau is one of Germany’s most visited camp memorial sites. An inscription on a memorial stone reads: “Think About How We Died Here”.

The refugees from Syria, Christian and Muslim, are having a hard time.  I mean can you imagine having to leave all you know and going to a different world to start again.  Most of us here have no idea what this feels like and never will.  One of the questions being asked now is how many of the refugees will America take?

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Earl Hall

Owner of the Conservative Internet Radio Station Right Talk USA (www.RightTalkUSA.com), Host of The Earl Hall Show "The #1 Black Conservative Talk Show Host in Wisconsin", and Author of "Somewhere In The Middle - My Transition From Left to Right" (on Amazon). email [email protected]

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