Video message by the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas, Member of the German Bundestag, to mark the launch of the Hilde Domin Programme

14.04.2021 - Speech

Democracy needs freedom just as we need air to breathe. Intellectual freedom, freedom of research and ideas. And so academic freedom is, for us, a cornerstone of democracy.

But sadly, this freedom is under growing pressure worldwide. Students and researchers are being de-registered from their institutions against their will, suffering threats and persecution.

Today, therefore, the Federal Foreign Office and the German Academic Exchange Service are launching a new programme to strengthen freedom of knowledge and ideas around the world.

More specifically, we aim to create academic safe spaces for students – including doctoral students – who are threatened or persecuted in their countries of origin.

This programme is named after the German Jewish lyric poet Hilde Domin, who was herself forced to leave Germany and spent many years in exile.

She left us with a wonderful quote which could be the guiding principle of the Hilde Domin Programme:

“Never abandoning oneself nor others – that is the smallest utopia, without which it is not worth being human.”

Let us ensure that we do not abandon those who are standing up for freedom of science and research. Who are being threatened because of their ideas.

Protecting them is a question of humanity – and a boon for democracy.


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