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"The closed society is the antithesis of science": Potsdam research institutions on the refugee issue

03/16/2016 - Potsdam's scientific institutions published an open letter for a tolerant society, rejecting all expressions of hatred, violence, and intolerance towards people on the basis of their origins, appearance, religion, or other grounds. They position themselves in the ongoing discussion about refugees in the state of Brandenburg, and in Germany.
"The closed society is the antithesis of science": Potsdam research institutions on the refugee issue

PIK's director Hans Joachim Schellnhuber with young international visitors. Photo: PIK

"It is harder to crack a prejudice than an atom."
Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Science thrives in open-minded environments – in places that foster our curiosity of the unknown and encourage a free and impartial exchange of ideas and people across nations, cultures, religions, and ethnicities. The closed society is the antithesis of science.

With science, the free spirit of the open society has found a home in Potsdam – a city which has hosted a number of world-renowned scientists throughout its history, among them Albert Einstein, who was forced to flee to the United States in 1933. In relative terms, no other city in Germany is home to more scientists than Potsdam. Many of the institutions based here employ researchers from diverse countries. With over 10.000 employees, the science sector is one of the leading sources of employment in the region. Around 25.000 students attend colleges and universities in Potsdam. Each year our city is visited by numerous researchers from around the world. And every day, researchers in Potsdam engage in joint research with colleagues based at institutes abroad to bring about a better future for people here in Germany and throughout the world.

To call into question the fundamental right to human dignity and its protection – as has occurred here in Potsdam in recent weeks in the context of the refugee crisis – is to attack the very spirit and character of this city. As the leaders of research institutes based in Potsdam, we reject all expressions of hatred, violence, and intolerance towards people on the basis of their origins, appearance, religion, or other grounds. There is no place in our country or in our city for hostility towards foreigners and those who come to us seeking refuge. These attempts to create a climate of hate run counter to our values as Europeans, as Germans, and as citizens of Potsdam – and to our interests as a leading centre for science and business.

We are extremely proud of the many employees at our institutes who, on their own initiative, dedicate considerable effort to fostering a caring and tolerant society in which violence has no place – whether they do so by helping those in need or by standing up for the liberal values that underpin our society. They are role models to us all, and we call on Potsdam to maintain its tradition as a cosmopolitan and tolerant city – not simply for the sake of science, but for the sake of all those who live here and who come as guests to our city.

(First signatories, in alphabetical order by surname):

Prof. Oliver Günther, PhD, Präsident, Universität Potsdam

Prof. Dr. Reinhard Hüttl, Leiter Wissenschaftlicher Vorstand, Helmholtz-Zentrum Potsdam – Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum, GFZ

Prof. Dr. Mark Lawrence, Geschäftsführender Wissenschaftlicher Direktor, Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, IASS

Prof. Dr. Karin Lochte, Direktorin Alfred-Wegener-Institut für Polar- und Meeresforschung, AWI

Prof. Dr. Hans-Joachim Schellnhuber, Direktor, Potsdam-Institut für Klimafolgenforschung, PIK


(Further current signatories, in alphabetical order by surname):

Leif Berling, Schulleiter, Ev. Gymnasium Hermannswerder

Prof. Dr. Eckard Binas, Präsident, Fachhochschule Potsdam

Prof. Dr. Alexander Böker, Institutsleiter, Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Polymerforschung, Fraunhofer IAP

Prof. Dr. Frank Bösch, Vorstand, Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung Potsdam e.V.

Prof. Dr. Ulrich Buller, Institutsleiter Standort Potsdam/Golm, Fraunhofer-Institut für Zelltherapie und Immunologie, Fraunhofer IZI-BB

Prof. Dr. Hartmut Dorgerloh, Generaldirektor, Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg

Prof. Dr. Helmut Dosch, Vorsitzender des Direktoriums, Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY, Forschungszentrum der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft

Prof. Dr. Günter Esser, Geschäftsführer, Akademie für Psychotherapie und Interventionsforschung

Klaus Faber, Vorsitzender, Wissenschaftsforum der Sozialdemokratie in Berlin, Brandenburg und Mecklenburg-Vorpommern e.V.

Prof. Karin Flegel, Geschäftsführerin, Urania „Wilhelm Foerster" Potsdam e.V.

Prof. Dr. Tilman Grune, Wissenschaftlicher Vorstand, Deutsches Institut für Ernährungsforschung, DIfE

Jann Jakobs, Vorsitzender, proWissen Potsdam e.V.

Prof. Dr. Reinhard Lipowsky, Geschäftsführender Direktor, Max-Planck-Institut für Kolloid- und Grenzflächenforschung

Christoph Miethke, Geschäftsführer, Christoph Miethke GmbH

Prof. Dr. Susan Neiman, Direktorin, Einstein Forum

Prof. Dr. Hermann Nicolai, Geschäftsführender Direktor, Max-Planck-Institut für Gravitationsphysik (Albert-Einstein-Institut)

Karen Pölk, Schulleiterin, Voltaireschule Potsdam

Uwe Schmidt, Schulleiter, Leibniz-Gymnasium Potsdam

Prof. Dr. Matthias Steinmetz, Wissenschaftlicher Vorstand, Leibniz-Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam, AIP

Prof. Dr. Mark Stitt, Geschäftsführender Direktor, Max-Planck-Institut für Molekulare Pflanzenphysiologie

Prof. Dr. László Ungvári, Präsident, Technische Hochschule Wildau

Prof. Dr. Dieter Wagner, Geschäftsführer und Sprecher, UP Transfer gGmbH

Prof. Dr. habil. Ditmar Wick, 1. Vizepräsident, Fachhochschule für Sport und Management Potsdam der Europäischen Sportakademie Land Brandenburg gGmbH

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