The yellow X is the icon of the Wendlanders' struggle against the nuclear waste disposal at the salt stock Gorleben. It symbolizes both, the mass blockades against the nuclear waste transports and the local "all doors open for the resistance" policy. Although the plans for the atomic dump are on hold, the symbol can still be seen all over the area.

Locals and refugees harvest apples in Pueggen for the "Willkommenstrunk" (Welcome Drink) initiative. Profits of the produced apple juice fund language courses, meeting places and social events. Simone Walter (center) is one of the founders of "Willkommenstrunk". The yellow X, the sign of the anti-nuclear movement is omnipresent in the Wendland.

Refugee supporters set up a café in Dannenberg, for locals and refugees to meet. Two times a week local teachers offer free german lessons and tutoring for refugee kids. One of them is Wolfgang Ehmke (right), the spokesperson of the local environmental initiative and thereby face of the anti-nuclear movement.

Gerd Hader, a former university teacher and longtime anti-nuclear activist, accommodates two refugees, Wissam from Syria and Murphy from Liberia, at his farm in Marlin. At night Gerd tries to teach his two housemates a German card game.

At the fence of the Luechow reception centre for refugees Sascha Omari (right), the facility manager, talks to Mr. Kunitz, a local peasant who offered to accommodate a sick refugee child and his family at his farm. The reception center was set up in a police barrack complex that was used to accommodate the thousands of additional police forces during the Castor protests.

Two Syrian refugees teach long-time residents their dances at a harvest celebration in Goettien. The new arrivals are not just a responsibility to take on but also a gain, brining new life and cultural diversity to a dwindling area.

Refugees and locals watch a fire show at the harvest celebration of the "Willkommenstrunk" (Welcome Drink) initiative in Goettien. Many of them had worked together in the collective apple harvest this autumn.

Refuge Wendland

There is a social revolution going on in northern Germany. The rebellious residents of the lowest populated district have refused to follow the rise of xenophobia in the country and all over Europe. Instead they welcome arriving refugees with open arms.

For over 30 years the inhabitants of the Wendland have resisted dumping nuclear waste in their backyard. This social struggle unified people from all walks of life and shaped a unique local culture of solidarity and openness.

But although the nuclear waste deposit is put on hold, the Wendland faces threats. The population is declining, the economy is stagnating, and people’s future remains uncertain. In other underdeveloped areas this uncertainty combines with a paranoid fear of change, culminating in a critical rise of xenophobic demonstrations and an alarming wave of violent attack against asylum seekers housings.

Meanwhile the Wendlanders warmly welcome the new arrivals as a chance to revitalize their region. A local initiative even calls for a proactive resettlement of 10.001 refugees in the district of only 49.000 inhabitants.

„Refuge Wendland“ explores how a social movement formed the societal structure and collective mindset of a rural community. It also documents the result which may hold answers on how to turn the so-called „Refugee Crisis“ into a more plural, more diverse future for Germany and Europe.