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Germany elects first ever black mayor
Photo: P. Schmelzle (Wikipedia)

Germany elects first ever black mayor

Published: 02 Jun 2012 09:50 GMT+02:00
Updated: 02 Jun 2012 09:50 GMT+02:00

John Ehret, a black German who used to work for the Bundeskriminalamt (BKA), Germany’s equivalent of the FBI, is Germany’s first black mayor.

The 40-year-old Ehret, whose father was an African-American soldier and mother a native German, took over running the village of Mauer near Heidelberg, southern Germany on Friday, Der Spiegel reported on his inauguration.

Despite almost no campaigning, he picked up slightly more than 58 percent of the vote, beating out a civil servant in the village of about 4,000 residents. Observers said Ehret profited from a so-called “Obama” effect, though the trained police inspector didn’t seek the comparison.

Ehret’s first days suggested that he was unlikely to end up as head of anything. The only thing he knows about his American father is that he was stationed as a US soldier in Karlsruhe. His mother suffered a brain tumor when he was a toddler and gave him up to a children’s home at the age of two.

At six he was adopted by the Ehret family from Mauer. John became a star in the village and was the village’s only black resident. He was known as Pelé, after the Brazilian legend, at the club where he played football. John’s new dad was a respected Social Democratic Party member on the local council.

Ehret says his skin colour was never an issue – either in Germany or in the many places he’s travelled to as a member of the BKA, where he was its first black employee. His employer even once sent him to observe a neo-Nazi concert, apparently unconcerned about his skin colour.

Ehret was sent abroad many times, including on several United Nations missions. He served as an investigator into attacks in Lebanon, as a mentor in Sarajevo to help expand the village’s finance office and as an advisor to help rebuild Afghanistan’s police force. He is trained in civil service administration.

But deep down he was a boy from Mauer, so when he saw that the mayor’s job was vacant, because the previous mayor took a post elsewhere, he applied for the job.

“I didn’t hesitate for long,” he told the magazine.

Tahir Della, chairman of the Black People in Germany Initiative, said, “Before Ehret there weren’t any black mayors in Germany.” There was however a mayor of Indian descent in an eastern German town in 1993.

Ehret, who insists he’s never experienced discrimination in Germany, is now in an odd position in which black Germans want him to be an example to others. But he’s not interested in that role.

“For that I feel I’m too German,” he said.

The Local/mw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

19:42 June 2, 2012 by AClassicRed
As a minority who was born in Germany, I would express also that I've never felt myself to be the recipient of discrimination. Never in the overt sense, but perhaps I may have experienced some in a covert sense, maybe not getting a job or flat or something which might later found to have been based on the color of my skin, but I have never chose to focus on that. Life has enough issues without analzying and picking apart any gesture, glance or rejection as being based on color.

From the story, however, it would seem to suggest that the man's position was aided by his having German adoptive parents simply based on acceptance and probably how he behaved, language proficiency, etc. Just as I would say, I have been someone who was fortunate to have close German friends and support that did seem to bring me more opportunities than if I had sequestered myself within a sole ethnic group, culture and/or language. This could be the same for anyone. I would hesitate to say if a German with African American ancestry might have been elected or held various positions if he had come from an African-American primary family. There could certainly have been more challenges in that situation.

That other black Germans want him to be representative somehow is like asking someone to be a poster child for any and all movements from a certain group. I would feel uncomfortable with that role as well, though certainly I might find occasion to speak up on some applicable issues. I could also commiserate with his statement, ¦quot;For that I feel I¦#39;m too German."
21:11 June 2, 2012 by Lisa Rusbridge
Germany has a black man as mayor of a village, while the USA has a black man serving his nation as President and Commander-in-Chief.

I didn't realize that Germany and the USA were so vastly different in terms of racial diversity and opportunity for minorities. A real eye-opener!
00:32 June 3, 2012 by rosebudnv
Good for him. No reason why he cannot do a great job. In Canada we have had a black lieutenant governor in Ontario and a black female Canadian governor General (Queen's represenative in Canada) and they were wonderful.

One less obstacle to overcome it seems.

Congratuations.
00:40 June 3, 2012 by coffmap8
Obama what is he not a true american! This guy is a true German!
04:15 June 3, 2012 by DOZ
Obama is Black! I thought he was a "Man" who became President.
05:31 June 3, 2012 by Alofat
Lisa, Germany had no need for slaves, so no there aren't that many black Germans around. I believe the total comes in at about 0.6 % of the entire population.
22:15 June 4, 2012 by deftlefthand
"Germany had no need for slaves"

1. apples and oranges 2. this statement isn't 'entirely' historically accurate..
23:03 June 4, 2012 by disconizeme
Germany already has a gay foreign minister, gay mayors in the biggest cities Berlin and Hamburg, a Vietnamese born economics minister and a female Chancellor - so where's the news?
05:58 June 5, 2012 by Powell
If his mother was German and he was born and reared in Germany, how is he "black"?
20:42 June 7, 2012 by Englishted
"His employer even once sent him to observe a neo-Nazi concert, apparently unconcerned about his skin colour."

Where are the heath and safety people when you need them?

Next trip is to a KKK meeting in Mississippi.
16:29 June 8, 2012 by McNair Kaserne
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
17:58 June 8, 2012 by nocebo
05:58 June 5, 2012 by Powell

"If his mother was German and he was born and reared in Germany, how is he 'black'?"

Possibly the stupidest question I've read on this site yet... or any site. Thanks for posting.
19:30 June 8, 2012 by darkwisdom
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
02:57 June 9, 2012 by bebosa
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
14:01 June 9, 2012 by McNair Kaserne
Nice job with the censorship there, "Local". Anyone reports "abuse", you delete their post.

It seems your standard for what constitutes a violation of your terms is so low that almost any non-politically correct post could qualify, as well as any criticism at all of things like multiculturalism or immigration.
09:21 September 5, 2012 by German Worker
Bad news for Germany.. We're going to be the new Haiti in a few years..
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