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The Wall of Racism in Berlin Still Stands

16 November 2009

When a white German disguises as a black

For more than a year, journalist and filmmaker Gunter Wallraff traveled across Germany wearing a dark-haired curly wig and with his white skin painted black. Equipped with a secret camera, he went to predominantly white areas to see how a black man with a foreign accent is treated.


"I hadn't known what we would discover, and had thought maybe the story will be, what a tolerant and accepting country we have become," said Mr Wallraff after a screening of the film Black on White in Berlin. "Unfortunately I was wrong."


He was almost beaten up by neo-Nazis after a football match in eastern Germany, and was told by a skinhead outside a small-town nightclub: "Europe for whites, Africa for apes."


But the film's most disturbing aspect is not the well-known racism of right-wing extremists, but rather the secretly-filmed reactions of everyday people: A landlady says she could not possibly rent out a flat to a black person; a shop owner refused to let "Kwami" try on an expensive watch, but willingly hands over the same watch to the next customer who is white.


Sven Mekarides, general secretary of the Africa Council in Berlin, said that for black people in certain parts of Germany such experiences are commonplace


According to the Amadeu Antonio foundation there have been 138 racially-motivated murders in Germany since 1990.


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