Steffi Bormann, social worker at the youth club in the small town of Schwarzbach (Saxony), helped to develop an exhibition on racism.
The campaign "Stand up against racist violence", established in 2000 by the weekly magazine Stern and the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, funds projects which are creatively engaged in fighting racism and anti-Semitism. One of the funded projects is a travelling exhibition dealing with the topics of racism, tolerance and democracy.
In the spring of 2007 a neonazi group called “Sturm 34” (now considered an illegal grouping) terrorised the population in the Mittweida district of Saxony. Local activists who were fighting against racism did not receive much assisstance from the municipality, the local authority or the wider population. A group of young people from the youth club in Schwarzbach decided to organize an exhibition called “For Democracy and Tolerance, against Racism”. The exhibition, which took two years to organize, was well visited and will be made into a travelling exhibition. The project has received 1000 Euros from the campaign "Stand up against racist violence".
The aim of the exhibition was to raise awarness to racism and teach tolerance and democracy. The exhibition emphasizes the importance of democratic principles especially in view of the German history and the current rise in hate crimes in East Germany. The exhibition presents the effects of bigotry and hate in Germany starting with pictures from the Auschwitz concentration camp and proceeding to current anti-Semitic incidents, for example the anti-Semitism often encountered in German football stadiums.
The focal point of the exhibition is racist motivated attacks in the region, especially incidents which took place in Mittweida between 2002 and 2007, thus proving that hate and bigotry are part of everday life and hate crime happens at our doorstep. It offers, especially young people, the opportunity to deal with hatred and bigotry not through abstract ideas but through concrete examples from their neighbourhood.
The exhibition was accompanied by various events, which offered a space for discussion. A theatre group from the Großhennersdorf centre performed a piece called “Hallo Nazi”. The piece deals not only with neo-Nazi racism, but also with everyday instances of hatred and bigotry. The group aims to fight bias and inspire critical thinking.
The reactions to the whole project were divided: Some argued that it was the foreigners who were causing problems because they were unwilling to integrate, others felt that young people were subject to peer pressure and need to be encouraged to distance themselves from hate groups. On the whole, many were positively impressed by the exhibition.
The organizers were disapointed at the lack of interest shown by the local authorities, who did not even view the exhibition. This shows how hard it is to enlist the public to deal with one of the most urgent problems of the region.
Jan Schwab (translation by Ruti Ungar and Andrés Nader)