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Germany

Photo by Alex Potter

The New Berliners

On a chilly April morning in 2016, at a newly converted shelter in southern Berlin, Om Belal struggled as she maneuvered her ten-year-old son, Jad, in his wheelchair out the building’s front door.

Photo by Valerie Schmidt

The Useful Village

In the fall of 2015, Germany designated Sumte, population 102, as a sanctuary for nearly 800 refugees. What followed was a living experiment in the country’s principles.

Map by Jenn Boggs

Paths to Refuge

A special project on Europe's migration crisis, on both the perilous journey and life inside the destination. A story of assimilation, of the bureaucratic limbo, of strangers in a strange land settling into something more awkwardly, unexpectedly permanent.

Alex Potter

Farhad

Ahlam, twenty-seven, was visiting Germany for a conference in the spring of 2015 when war broke out in Yemen, her home country. Her family urged her to stay, so she applied for asylum. “For me, it’s a new life,” she said. “This is what I really want. Most of us, we just came for a safe place, a place we can really do something that we can’t do in our countries—maybe because of the war, maybe because of society, maybe because we don’t have freedoms. I never felt freedom and I never knew what independence meant until I came to this country. As a woman in Yemen, we can’t do anything. Independence is for the men.”

9 Sencu Iela

On the night of August 3, 1944—in the hot crickety darkness of Riga, Latvia—my grandparents did two remarkable things. After midnight, while his children were sleeping, my grandfather—Harijs Mindenbergs—sat down at the kitchen table and wrote three letters: One to Benita, his wife. One to Juris, his son. And one to Ruta, his daughter and my mother. Soviet troops were advancing toward the city. In five hours, most of the family would flee to Germany.

A Berlin Epiphany

And now, there it came looming into view: an austere block-wide low-slung hive of graphite-gray monoliths: monoface rectangular plinths arrayed in a regular perpendicular grid over gently undulating terrain—more than three thousand of them spread across nearly five acres, some (near the perimeter) as low as a foot and a half, some farther into the hive (where the terrain fell away into some of its deeper undulations) as high as ten feet, the entire expanse crisscrossed by narrow paths between the parallel rows of vaguely pitched concrete plinths, paths that veritably beckoned those above on the busy city sidewalks into this uncanny maze of vaguely determinate remembrance.

 

The New Corporal

It's dusk, the sky still light, but the sand at their feet in shadow. It slides away as they descend the dune, and ahead of him Karsten sees Wolf stumble, struggling to keep his balance with his hands up.