Germans tackle racism

June 8, 2001

A German university on the border with Poland has started an anti-far right campaign to protect its international students from racist attacks.

The Europa University Viadrina, in Frankfurt on the Oder, said the violence had scared students and threatened to deter applicants.

University president Gesine Schwan said the town had a complicated history of "victims and aggressors" that still led to violence and hatred of foreigners.

In recent years, the university - which was conceived as a bonding cross-border place of study where students were as likely to speak Polish as German - has experienced monthly attacks on students.

Peter Krauser, personal assistant to the president, said: "There are tensions between students and the working class, but we have a small group of young men with extreme rightwing views.

"Most attacks have been on foreign students but some have involved any student who looks a bit different, anyone with slightly longer hair or glasses."

In the past 12 months, the violence has been kept in check by an increased police presence and special patrols.

With foreign students from South America, Asia, Israel and Africa as well as Eastern Europe making up half of those studying at the university, the authorities have taken steps to encourage integration.

Programmes to help students and locals live together include "Foreigners Become Friends", which puts overseas students in touch with local families.

"It is important to tackle the problem from both sides," Dr Krauser said. "We try to go into the city and build contact to help promote understanding, but we also have to take short-term measures. At the moment, our visibly foreign students get a place in the hostels next to the main university building to keep them safe.

"I am optimistic; the projects seem to be working. There have been no new attacks for nearly six months."

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