• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Cologne locals take refugees under their wing for Karneval
A charity-hosted "Karneval for Beginners" class for refugees in Cologne. Photo: DPA.

Cologne locals take refugees under their wing for Karneval

Emma Anderson · 10 Feb 2016, 10:34

Published: 10 Feb 2016 10:34 GMT+01:00
Updated: 10 Feb 2016 10:34 GMT+01:00

When longtime Cologne resident Heide Strauch saw reports of a backlash against immigrants after hundreds of women reported being sexual assaulted by men of "north African or Arabic appearance" over New Year, she said she "woke up".

"I had to do something," Strauch told The Local at Karneval this weekend.

Police have reported gangs attacking immigrants in the centre of the city and far-right groups are widely seen to have used the events of New Year as fuel for their anti-immigrant stances.

So Strauch helped put together a small group of Germans and refugees from a local shelter to celebrate Karneval together. But the group was met with some antagonism, Strauch said, as some yelled slurs as the refugees walked with the group on Friday on the way to watch a parade in the Alter Markt.

"It’s the power of thoughts, that means if I tell you that you are bad, at some point you will start to believe it," says Strauch. "It is very important that we fight against this... people can learn to say 'no, I am good'."

One of the refugees, Atif, had come from Pakistan after fleeing the Taliban. With arms around each other’s shoulders, Atif and the group swayed together as the locals among them bellowed drinking songs in the Kölsch (Cologne) dialect.

Reactions to the events of New Year have been diverse, with Strauch's group at one end of a wide spectrum.

One Rhineland town 30 kilometres outside Cologne decided to temporarily ban male refugees from public pools after some women reported being harassed.

Another town north of Cologne cancelled its Karneval plans altogether due to fears that what happened in Cologne and elsewhere could happen there.

Cologne itself stepped up security measures with a very visible police presence this year, setting some 2,500 officers on duty for the celebration that ended on Tuesday. 

Photo: DPA.

Officials also set up security points aimed at giving women a place to feel safe and report any sexual assaults.

Flyers passed around in German, English and Arabic explained to revellers when, where and what Karneval is, proclaiming "Anyone can join the party during Carnival!"

But others, like Strauch, took a more personal approach to integrating immigrants into the Karneval culture. Her group shared beers with Atif, whose country of Pakistan does not allow Muslims to acquire alcohol permits, though many still drink homemade liquors.

Some groups placed signs around the city to promote tolerance, with slogans like "Karneval with love - without sexism and racism," and others saying "Jecken [Karneval revellers] of the world are welcome!"

"A Karneval with love - without sexism and racism." Photo: Emma Anderson

The Catholic charity Caritas also held a class called "Karneval for Beginners" which explained the customs of Cologne’s biggest party to more than 100 refugees and integration class students before the fest kicked off.

Another group called "Refugees and Colognians for a peaceful Karneval," helped refugees pass safely through the area around the central train station and answer questions people had in their native languages.

Story continues below…

"There were a few Germans and around 30 refugees involved," organizer and Tunisian refugee Fahed Mlaiel told The Local. "We all celebrated together... it's important that we all celebrate and live together."

Still, there were some bars in Cologne that turned away refugees, even when with groups of non-refugees, citing security concerns.

But that didn’t stop some like Atif from Pakistan from celebrating with their new friends.

"Karneval is really great," he told The Local. "I feel very good here."

The "Karneval for Beginners" class hosted by Caritas. Photo: DPA.

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Emma Anderson (emma.anderson@thelocal.com)

Today's headlines
Munich pulls together after shopping mall shooting
Photo: DPA

In the chaos after the Munich mall shooting, city residents spontaneously offered shelter to strangers - a move that Chancellor Angela Merkel said showed that Germany's strength lies in its values.

Merkel deplores 'night of horror' in Munich
Photo: DPA

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday said Munich had suffered a "night of horror" after a shooting spree in the southern German city left nine people dead.

Munich shooting
Munich attacker was shy video game fan
People laying flowers at the site of the shootings. Photo: DPA.

David Ali Sonboly was a quiet, helpful teenager who loved playing video games. His neighbours say there were no warning signs before his deadly rampage at a Munich shopping mall.

Munich shooting
Munich gunman inspired by rightwing Breivik: police
Photo: DPA

The lone teenager who shot dead nine people in a gun rampage in Munich was "obsessed" with mass killers such as Norwegian rightwing fanatic Anders Behring Breivik and had no links to the Islamic State group, police said Saturday.

Munich shooting
Turks, Kosovans and a Greek among shooting victims
Photo: DPA

Three Turkish citizens were among the nine people killed in Germany's Munich mall shooting. Three Kosovans were also among the nine victims.

Munich shooting
Munich gunman was likely not Isis terrorist: police
Flowers laid at the Olympia Shopping Centre underground station. Photo: DPA

According to initial investigations by Munich police, the young man who went on a shooting rampage in Munich on Friday evening was a lone gunman without motive, not a terrorist.

Munich shooting
'Lone' Munich shooter kills nine, commits suicide
Photo: DPA

A teenage German-Iranian gunman who killed nine people in a shooting spree at a busy Munich shopping centre and then committed suicide had likely acted alone, German police said Saturday.

As it happened
Nine dead in shooting rampage in Munich
File photo: DPA

Nine people are dead after "at least one person" went on a shooting spree in a Munich shopping centre on Friday evening. An attacker is believed to be among the dead.

German Turkish community split by unrest after coup plot
Pro-Erdogan protesters in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Hatred between supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and those opposed to him has exploded on social media in Germany in the wake of a failed coup attempt last Friday.

Germany stresses defence of Baltics after Trump comments
Photo: DPA

Germany on Friday stressed its promise to protect its NATO allies after White House hopeful Donald Trump called the commitment into question.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Analysis & Opinion
Nice was an attack on France, not on Germany
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
National
Bavaria train attack: Were police right to shoot to kill?
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Travel
Six soothing day trips to escape the bustle of Berlin
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
National
Five things to know about guns in Germany
Sponsored Article
Health insurance for expats in Germany: a quick guide
Culture
10 things you need to know before attending a German wedding
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
National
Eight weird habits you'll pick up living in Germany
Lifestyle
Six reasons 'super-cool' Berlin isn't all it's cracked up to be
Society
Only one country likes getting naked on the beach more than Germany
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Lifestyle
23 ridiculously fascinating things you never knew about Berlin
Culture
8 German words that perfectly sum up your 20s
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Lifestyle
Can't make it past the door at Berlin's most famous club? Help is at hand
Business & Money
Why Frankfurt could steal London's crown as Europe's finance capital
Features
6 surprising things I learned about Germany while editing The Local
Culture
Five sure-fire ways to impress Germans with your manners
10,808
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd