Bonn The lord mayors of the Rhine cities Bonn, Cologne and Düsseldorf have received countless hate mails after their refugee initiative. Now the State Protection Office investigates.
Three municipal leaders are receiving a lot of hatred after having turned to Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) with a humanitarian request“? After Bonn, Cologne and Düsseldorf announced in an open letter at the end of July that they are supporting a continuous refugee admission and stood up against the stopping of the sea rescue mission in the Mediterranean, all three cities received a lot of negative reaction.
Düssledorf’s Lord Mayor, Thomas Geisel (SPD) even received death threats. In those cases, and because of three e-mails to Bonn’s Lord Mayor Ashok Sridharan (CDU), the State Protection Office is investigating after the city councils handed the e-mails to the police. „Beside having received a lot of positive reaction we got many negative mailings too,” said Monika Hörig, press spokesperson of the city council in Bonn. „Among those were three e-mails that contained wording against the Lord Mayor personally, and we reported them to the authorities.“
The State Protection Office is investigating in all three cases for insult and threat, police spokesperson Frank Piontek confirmed. The hate comments came not just by letter or emails. Many posted similar comments on Twitter and Facebook. About a dozen comments were hidden by the city council, says Hörig, who does not want to refer in detail to the content of the verbal attacks. They exceeded comments like „Before you three dreadful idiots write letters, maybe you should ask the general public first,” or „Such ‚politicans‘ should be sued for gross or destructive negligence“, which are still to be found online.
Cologne’s Lady Mayoress Henriette Reker (independent) has also received many mailings, according to her press office - about 500 via letter or e-mail, plus many comments on social media. „Until now, the city of Cologne did not see any reason to report anything to the authorities,” said spokesperson Alexander Vogel. About one third of the comments were positive, he said, and two thirds negative. Death threats like in Bonn and Düsseldorf were not mentioned in any comment. The Lord Mayor of the NRW capital has made those kind of threats public himself, in the SPD newspaper „Vorwärts“. „Unfortunately there were openly racist tones and blatant death threats, which prompted my office to forward those mails to the State Protection Office,” Geisel said in the interview.
The head of the Lord Mayor’s Office, Jochen Wirtz, in an interview with the „Rheinische Post“ said, that there were „two to three mails, in which the Lord Mayor was personally threatened.” A police spokesperson confirmed the investigation in conversation with this newspaper. In total, many mailings from all over Germany were received, many of those positive, Wirtz added. „But it is surprising how many people express racist and national-socialist views openly, with their name and address,” he said. For the spokesperson of the city of Bonn, Monika Hörig, those reactions reflect a fundamental problem in the social networks.
„The tendency to type stuff is much bigger and unrestrained than writing a letter before,” she says. Unfortunately this seems to be also true for humanitarian appeals. Because that’s what it was: appeal for the Federal Government to act. „We want to set a sign for humanity, for the right to receive asylum, for the integration of refugees,” wrote the three municipal leaders. Until a European solution is found, it is „urgently necessary to make the sea rescue in the Mediterranean possible again and to secure the admission of refugees in need.” And: „Our cities want to and can admit refugees in need.“ Nonetheless, Hörig was not surprised by the many negative reactions, she says.
„We know that each initiative by the city council prompts criticism.“ Yet she sees signs in the mailings and their phrasing that represent a more brutal behaviour on social platforms in general. Deutsche Welle decided to take its own stand. The broadcasting service with its headquarters in Bonn decided to switch off the commenting feature underneath its online articles.
It wasn’t an easy decision, said the chief editor, Ines Pohl, on their homepage. But recently most of the comments had „reached such a level, that they had nothing to do with constructive exchange of opinions any more. The discourse was influenced by personal attacks, verbal abuse and racist statements, which have no place on our site,” he said. Original text: Daniela Greulich Translation: Mareike Graepel