• Germany's news in English
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

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

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)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Long-vanished German car brand joins electric race
Photo: DPA

Cars bearing the stamp of once-defunct manufacturer Borgward will once again roll off an assembly line in north Germany from 2018, the firm said Wednesday.

Eurowings cabin crew union to strike all day Thursday
Photo: DPA.

UPDATE: A union representing cabin crews on Lufthansa's budget airline Eurowings has announced that strikes will last all day Thursday as ongoing contract negotiations continue to falter.

Hesse hopes to set example by building Iraqi orphanages
Refugee children in northern Iraq. Photo: DPA

The wealthy central German state of Hesse has set aside €1 million to build a school, family homes and an orphanage in northern Iraq, in an effort to help refugees there.

The Local List
10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
David Hasselhoff. Photo: DPA

Whether it be efficiency, humourlessness or a love of a certain Baywatch star, there are many cliches stuck in the heads of foreigners about Germany. But how true are they?

Fake Germanwings victim relative convicted in Cologne
A torn piece of metal at the crash site in 2015. Photo: DPA

A German court on Wednesday gave a woman a year's suspended jail sentence for posing as the cousin of a victim in last year's Germanwings plane crash and obtaining compensation offered by the airline.

Couple accused of torturing, murdering women go on trial
The so-called 'house of horrors' in Höxter where the couple allegedly tortured and killed women. Photo: DPA.

A couple accused of luring women to their village home with personal ads started trial on Wednesday over charges that they tortured and killed at least two of their victims.

After July attacks, govt drafts new video surveillance law
Photo: DPA

The Interior Ministry is drafting a law which will enable public spaces to be filmed for surveillance purposes as a reaction to deadly attacks in July, according to a newspaper report.

Merkel: murky internet giants distort perception of reality
Angela Merkel. Photo: DPA.

Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Tuesday for internet giants to make public their closely-guarded algorithms, claiming that they are not giving people diverse enough information.

Pegida leader 'paid court costs with group's money'
Pegida leader Lutz Bachmann. Photo: DPA.

The leader of the anti-Islam movement reportedly used money from Pegida's coffers to pay for two personal court cases, German media reported this week.

Anger as Berlin scraps Turkey concert on Armenia genocide
The Dresden Symphony Orchestra. Photo: DPA

Germany's foreign ministry Tuesday scrapped a planned symphony performance on the Armenian "genocide" in its Istanbul consulate, sparking accusations that it was caving in to Turkish pressure.

10 ways German completely messes up your English
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd