Science Thrives in an Open-Minded Environment

»Science Thrives in Open-Minded Environments« Open Letter of the Directors of Research Institutes in Potsdam

16 March 2016


There is no place in Potsdam for hostility towards foreigners and those seeking refuge, argue the heads of educational and research institutes in Potsdam in an open letter published on 16 March 2016 in the Märkischen Allgemeinen, the Potsdamer Neuesten Nachrichten and other newspapers.


“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.




Leif Berling
Protestant Secondary School Hermannswerder


Prof. Dr. Eckard Binas
University of Applied Science Potsdam


Prof. Dr. Alexander Böker
Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research, Fraunhofer IAP


Prof. Dr. Frank Bösch
Centre for Contemporary History Potsdam


Prof. Dr. Ulrich Buller
Director Branch Potsdam/Golm
Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology, Fraunhofer IZI-BB


Prof. Dr. Hartmut Dorgerloh
Director General
Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation Berlin-Brandenburg


Prof. Dr. Helmut Dosch
Chairman of the DESY Board of Directors
German Electron Synchrotron DESY, A Research Center of the Helmholtz Association


Prof. Dr. Günter Esser
Managing Director
Academy for Physiotherapy and Intervention Research


Klaus Faber
Wissenschaftsforum of the Social Democrats in Berlin, Brandenburg and Mecklenburg Western Pomerania


Prof. Karin Flegel
Managing Director
Urania „Wilhelm Foerster“ Potsdam e.V.


Prof. Dr. Tilman Grune
Scientific Director
German Institute of Human Nutrition, DIfE


Prof. Oliver Günther, PhD
University of Potsdam


Prof. Dr. Reinhard Hüttl
Scientific Executive Director
Helmholtz-Centre Potsdam – GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences


Jann Jakobs
proWissen Potsdam e.V.


Prof. Dr. Mark Lawrence
Managing Scientific Director
Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, IASS


Prof. Dr. Reinhard Lipowsky
Managing Director
Max Planck Institute of Colloids Interfaces


Prof. Dr. Karin Lochte
Alfred-Wegener-Institute for polar and marine research, AWI


Christoph Miethke
Managing Director
Christoph Miethke GmbH


Prof. Dr. Susan Neiman
Einstein Forum


Prof. Dr. Hermann Nicolai
Managing Director
Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert-Einstein-Institut)


Karen Pölk
Voltaire School Potsdam


Prof. Dr. Hans-Joachim Schellnhuber
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, PIK


Uwe Schmidt
Leibniz Secondary School Potsdam


Prof. Dr. Matthias Steinmetz
Scientific Chairman
Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam, AIP


Prof. Dr. Mark Stitt
Managing Director
Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology


Prof. Dr. László Ungvári
Technical University of Applied Science Wildau


Prof. Dr. Dieter Wagner
Managing Director and Spokesman
UP Transfer GmbH


Prof. Dr. habil. Ditmar Wick
1st Vice President
University of Applied Sciences for Sport & Management Potsdam, European Sports Academy Brandenburg gGmbH

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