Dear citizens of Neubrandenburg,

I was given my first rainbow flag as a 15-year-old student at the sports high school in Neubrandenburg in the form of a pin. The German Aidshilfe was a guest in a biology lesson and enlightened us on the subject of HIV/AIDS. This was in 1993.

At that time, homosexual acts between men could still be prosecuted and punished according to Article 175 of the Criminal Code. The World Health Organization (WHO) listed homosexuality as a disease until 1990. So I received this pin with the rainbow flag in very moving times and I still have it today, 30 years later. I wear it occasionally. Especially on December 1st, World AIDS Day.

“Rainbow flag stands for tolerance, openness and diversity”

For me, the rainbow flag is a symbol of how our country has developed in recent years. In many areas. Because the rainbow flag is an inclusive symbol. It stands for tolerance, openness and diversity. The social developments do not only affect queer people, but all of us! We’re talking about the inclusion of people with disabilities, greater awareness of environmental protection and nature conservation, equality and many other issues. We have achieved a lot on all these issues, but there is still a lot ahead of us. A democracy thrives on further development.

This is exactly why a self-working, tolerant, open, diverse and, above all, democratic society is so important. The removal of the rainbow flag at Neubrandenburg train station was a repeated symbolic act of intolerance.

“Hoisting National Socialist symbols is a breach of taboo!”

The hoisting of National Socialist symbols at the Neubrandenburg train station is a breach of taboo!

This is not Neubrandenburg.

I was further shocked by the apologetic comments on social media following the city government’s press release on the incident, which were in the “yes, but…” style. The darkest chapter in German history does not allow “Yes, but…”. Never!

For a long time, enemies of democracy have exploited the possibilities of democracy. They use the tolerance of our society for their intolerance. We have to position ourselves and defend ourselves much more strongly against this!

The essence of democracy is discourse. However, this discourse has rules and limits. Assertions, disparagements, insults, abuse or even threats are the poison of democracy. This poison has been administered for years, especially on the Internet, and endangers the very foundations of our coexistence.

“Don’t ignore principles and human customs”

Of course, one can and must criticize the actions of the pillars of our state. However, principles and human customs must not be neglected. Only through them can the discourse take place in a safe framework.

The first prisoners of war arrived in Neubrandenburg 84 years ago. They were driven from the train station to the F├╝nfeichen camp. Some have already not survived this path. At the end of the war, around 70,000 prisoners passed through the camp. 6,500 did not survive. Our city was guilty during the National Socialist period. For many years we have been investing a lot of time and money to give the victims back some of their dignity by turning nameless mass graves into memorial sites that bring people’s names back to memory and consciousness. F├╝nfeichen is one of these places and every Neubrandenburg resident should have seen it at least once.

“Living engaged in democratic discourse”

The brutality, degradation and inhumanity of the National Socialist system took place here in our Neubrandenburg. In front of the people!

Dear citizens of Neubrandenburg, let us do everything together to ensure that history never repeats itself.

Let us live the democratic discourse with commitment, but let us protest clearly when enemies of democracy endanger the pillars of our state defined in the Basic Law with intolerance and hate speech.

Let’s be empathic people who keep trying to understand each other’s position, even when it’s hard.

In the next few days and weeks, let us send an all the clearer sign to the world that the four-gate city of Neubrandenburg is a tolerant, inclusive, cosmopolitan, lovable and, above all, humane homeland!

Silvio Witt
Lord Mayor


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