Bus driver's refugee welcome goes viral
A Bavarian bus driver who dug up his high-school English to welcome a group of refugees aboard his vehicle has become an overnight sensation online.
Sven Latteyer, 42, saw that a group of 15 asylum seekers who boarded the bus in Erlangen on August 7th seemed to be gloomy, perhaps feeling displaced and homesick in the strange country where they now found themselves.
He cobbled together some sentences from his rusty English and took the bus' microphone in hand.
“I have an important message for all people from the whole world in this bus: I want to say welcome. Welcome to Germany, welcome to my country. Have a nice day!”
All the passengers on board applauded loudly, and one decided to post about Latteyer's gesture on Facebook, where it was read thousands of times.
'War is horrific'
Latteyer told nordbayern.de that he had decided to make the announcement because of the impact of war and asylum on his own life, through his Kosovar brother-in-law and his German grandparents.
“My brother-in-law doesn't talk a lot about the years 1998 and 1999 when the war was raging in Kosovo. He's trying to forget the horror,” Latteyer explained.
Conversations with his grandfather and brother-in-law had convinced him that "war is something horrific", he added, saying that anyone fleeing war and torture should be granted sanctuary in Germany.
Although he's a volunteer firefighter in his hometown, Latteyer wasn't sure how best he could help asylum seekers.
In the end, it turned out to be as simple as saying, "Hey guys, you're really welcome."
Thousands of supporters
Latteyer's supporters have ranged from anonymous online commenters to Erlangen mayor Florian Janik.
"Not so long ago, massive numbers of Germans needed the support of others in their own flight," one person pointed out.
But even in the comment threads under articles about Latteyer, racist anti-immigration sentiments reared their heads.
"There are some girls and women who wouldn't feel so good if 15 African men boarded the bus," one person wrote.
"Asylum seekers' every wish is fulfilled," another fumed.
"These are people who have had to leave their homeland because something awful is happening there," Latteyer responded.
TV anchor brought to tears
TV presenter Claus Kleber was so overcome with emotion when he reported the story in ZDF television's daily news that he had visible tears in his eyes.
Claus Kleber ringt mit Tränen
Ein ungewöhnlicher Willkommensgruß an Flüchtlinge rührt Claus Kleber im ZDF heute journal fast zu Tränen: "Ich reagiere manchmal auf positive Kleinigkeiten emotionaler als auf große Storys. Nicht sehr professionell. Aber okay?“ Tweet: http://ly.zdf.de/7vpI/Posted by ZDF heute on Thursday, August 13, 2015
“Sometimes I react more emotionally to a positive little story than to a big one. Not very professional. But OK?," Kleber tweeted.
Ich reagiere manchmal auf positive Kleinigkeit emotionaler als auf große Story. Nicht sehr professionell. Aber okay? Nächste Sendung wartet— Claus Kleber (@ClausKleber) August 13, 2015