African Refugees in the African Quarter

For years, thousands of Afri­can refu­gees have been dying in the Medi­ter­ra­ne­an Sea. Only few ever reach the Euro­pean con­ti­nent. Again and again, poli­ti­ci­ans express their hor­ror – with no effect on asyl­um bureau­cra­cy and the situa­ti­on in Afri­ca. Some of the trau­ma­ti­zed sur­vi­vors have arri­ved at Paul-Ger­hard-Stift in Ber­lin ‑Wed­ding, whe­re they get trea­ted – right in the “Afri­can Quar­ter”. How do they feel when they read the street names which are pro­bab­ly well-known to them?

Die Straßennamen im Afrikanischen Viertel sind in Berlin einmaligWhat do the­se street names mean to us? For most of us, “Afri­can Quar­ter” is just a name for the Kiez, such as the “Dut­ch Quar­ter” or the “Eng­lish Quar­ter”. That is a mis­con­cep­ti­on, though: Bet­ween 1899 and 1958, new streets with street names rela­ted to Afri­ca were intro­du­ced here. Around 30 names mir­ror very dif­fe­rent view points on Afri­ca. In the begin­ning, colo­ni­al fan­ta­sies were eter­na­li­zed while just recent­ly Gha­na­st­reet was named in honour of the Afri­can sta­tes which free them­sel­ves from colo­nia­list powers.

Sin­ce May 2012, an infor­ma­ti­on board at the sub­way sta­ti­on Reh­ber­ge informs about this uni­que memo­ri­al of colo­ni­al histo­ry. The board was initia­ted by the Ber­lin SPD (Social Democrat’s Par­ty) and fea­tures, amongst others, texts by mem­bers of the Afri­can community.

Die Info-Stele am Beginn der OtawistraßeThe board reminds about the past and gives us a mis­si­on for the pre­sent, as the histo­ry of Ger­man colo­nia­lism is often neglec­ted. While the­re are many memo­ri­als around SED and Nazi regimes, the­re is none for Ger­man colo­nia­lism. Now, try­ing to invol­ve artists, schools and, most import­ant­ly, mem­bers of Afri­can com­mu­nities, various shades of colo­nia­list times are being pushed into public awa­reness. Also, more and more tours deal with this topic and exp­lain Ger­man histo­ry in Afri­ca in the Afri­can Quarter.

100 years after the end of colo­nia­list aspi­ra­ti­ons in Ger­ma­ny it is more than time to open­ly.  take respon­si­bi­li­ty. More and more requests come up to rena­me streets which were named after colo­ni­al “heroes”. Local poli­ti­ci­ans will have to find solu­ti­ons tog­e­ther with the resi­dents. One thin is clear: In the long run, the dis­crepan­cy bet­ween a poli­ti­cal fight against racism and having racists hono­u­red in street names needs to be solved.

Of cour­se, the his­to­ri­cal respon­si­bi­li­ty does not end with the exchan­ge of street signs. A basic under­stan­ding for how our gre­at-grand­f­a­thers have used the Afri­can popu­la­ti­on with bar­ba­ric mea­su­res needs to be crea­ted. The gro­wing memo­ri­al in the Afri­can Quar­ter is a small step towards crea­ting a con­scious­ness for our his­to­ri­cal respon­si­bi­li­ty, which also lies in mee­ting Afri­can refu­gees at Euro­pean bor­ders with help and humanity.

Guest arti­cle by Dr. Mat­thi­as Dahlke 

First publis­hed in “Noti­zen” (Paul Ger­hardt Stift); Mül­ler­str. 56 – 58

Trans­la­ti­on: Danie­la Hombach

More on Wedding’s Eng­lish Lan­guage Face­book-Page “Der schö­ne Wedding”


Als offene Plattform veröffentlichen wir gerne auch Texte, die Gastautorinnen und -autoren für uns verfasst haben.

Schreibe einen Kommentar

Your email address will not be published.

Diese Website verwendet Akismet, um Spam zu reduzieren. Erfahre mehr darüber, wie deine Kommentardaten verarbeitet werden.