Article in the tabloid BILD
Translation of the Article
Barbed Wire is Completely Fictitious
Gotha – Central Square, 3.30 p.m.: Jesters are whooping, 35 refugees are gathering around a model of a concentration camp and are demanding the closure of the asylum camp Tambach-Dietharz. The former socialist paramilitary GST camp there is being used for housing asylum seekers. 120 000 squaremeters, two buildings, 613 people from 35 countries. „The camp must be closed! The psychologically broken refugees have to be compensated!“, says Regina Andreßen (51) from Lower Saxonia and the “Association for Humanity” („Verein Menschlichkeit“). Yesterday she handed in a petition with 22 charges at the state parliament. One of these charges: The medical care is insufficient. Eckard Niemeyer (55), head of the camp Tambach-Dietharz: „For 613 Menschen there is one doctor and two nurses. Sick people are brought to specialised doctors.“ And what about „barbed wire surrounding the camp”? There is only a fence without barbed wire – and every inhabitant can leave through the revolving door. Always. Hans-Werner Martin (59) from the interior ministry: „The fence is protection. There was an arson attack in 1991.“ 1996 a representative of the UN visited the camp. Her judgement: “Above average.” p.3 kle
kle: barbed wire fictitious. Protests against Tambach-Dietharz, in: BILD Thüringen, March 3, 2000, p.3.
Photograph from the newspaper clippings collection of the Thuringia Refugee Council, May 18, 2021, Emilia Henkel.
On the 2nd March 2000, a group of asylum seekers living in camp Tambach handed in a petition at the Thuringian parliament, asking for the camp to be permanently shut down. Afterwards they came together on the central square in Gotha, the town closest to the camp. They put up a large banner saying „We are living behind barbed wire “. They set up a model of the camp on the market square, for which they had built miniature versions of the buildings and the fence with the barbed wire surrounding the camp. The activists themselves as well as the local newspapers reported that this protest moved the people passing by, who were empathetic and outraged about the living conditions in the camp, especially the barbed wire. On the next day, the Thuringian issue of the tabloid BILD published the article above. We could not find out the author’s full name. The same day as the article was published, the Thuringian refugee council wrote a letter of protest to the editors, calling them out for spreading fake news with an attached recent picture, which showed the fence and the barbed wire surrounding the camp.
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With the title and the layout of the article, I immediately felt a sense of delegitimization of the protests. Through bizarre comparisons and judgmental language, concerns and demands are questioned. The unequal distribution of the actors who have their say is an example of biased journalistic work. The conclusion of the article implies that the conditions in the asylum accommodation even meet UN requirements, so there is no need to worry. When looking at the film clip from Karawane, the claims become even stranger.
The question remains unanswered as to how such a text can get through the editors and be published.
It's unbelievable how the Bild journalist can claim something like that. I wonder if that was intentional or what the motivation behind it was. By the time the hoax was out, it's likely to have had an impact.
I also find the article somehow terrible in other regards. It reads like bullet points scribbled together at school. Good journalism would require verifying Niemeyer's testimony from another source. The lack of medical care for example is also denounced in the other sources. Precisely this order "charge - invalidation of the charge" is very suggestive.
And of the people who had to live there, once again no one has a say. In order to capture the reality of their lives, a longer report would have been needed rather than such a superficial article.
I grew up in Munich and I never experienced a place like the camp myself. I visited Tambach a few times since last year and have also been on the market square in Gotha, were the protest took place.
I am surprised that the BILD-Zeitung printed an obviously wrong headline. The barbed wire at the camp could have been easily fact-checked, it was not hidden from sight, visible to anyone passing by the camp. On what did they base their claim? It is not directly cited in the article, but placed behind a citation of the camp director Eckard Niemeyer, maybe suggesting that he is the source. But why should he have made such a blatantly false claim? The headline of the article underlines in my opinion the explosiveness, the barbed wire had as a symbol of the inhumane living conditions in the camp. Part of its success in mobilising (Eastern German) people outside of the camp might come from the historical parallels of state violence, among them the border regime of the GDR, which the image of barbed wire invoked. When interviewed about camp Tambach, the local priest drew a similar connection and added that due to his own experience of living enclosed by a border with barbed wire, he felt compassion towards the asylum seekers. About two weeks after the protest in Gotha, the barbed wire on the inside of the fence was removed. Even though the barbed wire on top of the fence remained, that can be understood as a success of the protesters.
I grew up in a village only 5 km from the camp since 2002, but only found out about its history as an asylum camp by chance in 2020, when I researched racist violence in the 1990s. Since then I have been trying to understand more about the place.