Teuton actor-helmer Til Schweiger was fed up with with increasingly emboldened racists in Germany, who attacked what he thought would be his rather innocuous social-media appeal for people in Hamburg to donate clothing and toys for refugees pouring into the country this year. His expletive-filled response to the critics on social media sent shock waves across the country this week and turned him into a lightning rod on the issue dividing Germany.
The 51-year-old Schweiger told Variety that he had no regrets after becoming a target of wrath for the myriad Germans speaking out against the refugees, and said he wished more celebs and politicians in Germany would take a stand against the anti-refugee sentiment spreading in the country. Germany is trying to cope with the arrival of a record-breaking 450,000 refugees — more than twice as many as last year — fleeing war and violence in countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
“It was a shock for me to see that there are obviously more people in Germany with fascist opinions than I thought there would be,” he said during a break in filming of his latest production, “Conni und Co,” starring his 12-year-old daughter Emma in a pic about the adventures of a young girl. “There was an Internet sh**storm against me the highest imaginable level. They came out of the woodwork because they don’t have anything to fear — because there are no consequences against racism.”
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Schweiger is so far the first prominent German to take such a vocal and public stand against the anti-refugee mood in the country but points out that there are many millions of Germans, like those who organized the charity drive he supported, who are working quietly and tirelessly to help the refugees. It’s unfortunate, he said, that the racists seem to be getting most of the attention even though “good Germans” are clearly in the majority.
“I don’t want to be the only one speaking up for the refugees,” he said. “I get all these comments from people saying thanks so much for your courage and you’re the only one who’s spoken out. But I don’t want to be the only one speaking up.”
Schweiger, an actor, director and producer who is best known internationally for his role in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds,” said politicians, justice officials and celebrities were not doing enough to thwart racism as the country of 82 million struggles with the record influx of people fleeing conflict and famine. More than 150 shelters have been attacked this year — often by arsonists trying to keep refugees from being sheltered in their towns.
Schweiger, who has made several of the country’s top-grossing films in the past decade, including 2014 hit “Honig im Kopf,” which sold 7 million tickets, triggered an avalanche of public debate discussion this week after a heated online exchange about refugees.
“Oh, man, I was afraid that would happen,” Schweiger wrote on a social-media page after some followers called the refugees “parasites” and “vampires.” “You people make me want to vomit. Get away from my page, you pitiless pack. You make me sick.”
German newspapers published excerpts of the exchange, including a long selection of anti-refugee comments.
“The charity drive was a runaway success,” he said. “They were hoping to get two truckloads of clothing and toys and soccer balls but in the end they got 14 truckloads. People were standing in long lines to donate things, and there were even lots of senior citizens who came with their walkers to donate stuff. So it was worth it. It was a victory.”
The rising anti-refugee sentiment has hurt the image of Germany, a country that has done much to atone for its Nazi past.