tv Focus on Europe PBS February 25, 2017 6:00pm-6:31pm PST
michelle: hello and welcome to "focus on europe." i'm michelle henery. one of our stories today reports on a spy network active right here in germany. it is said that the turkish secret service is behind it. the network of informants is so widespread, it has drawn comparisons to the stasi that operated in communist east germany. but not everyone is convinced the network even exists. there is no outside interference, out of the question, says this man. more on this is coming up later, in the program. modern germany is widely seen as a model of democracy. but for some, it's still menacing. after experiencing the horrors of the holocaust first hand,
lillian levy was able to start a new life in britain. but lately, she's found herself contemplating something that for decades was unthinkable. in the wake of the brexit vote, german-born jews and their descendants are using their legal right to apply for german citizenship, in order to remain part of the european union. >> lilian levy has been wary of germans most of her life. as a child, she saw her parents starve to death at the bergen-belsen concentration camp. she was later adopted and grew up in london. as an adult, she never felt comfortable about germany. >> i would not buy a volkswagen car, or any electrical gadgets with german names on it, it was a bit obsessive actually. but at the time, and i did not want to speak german. my adoptive family were german
speakers. they spoke in german and i answered in english. >> haunted by the holocaust her whole life, lilian levy, now 77, never imagined a day when her family would apply for german citizenship. but after brits voted to leave the european union, levy's daughter feels having a u.k. passport isn't enough. she wants a german passport, so she can travel and work anywhere in the eu. >> it very much fits with my ideals, as somebody who wants to be open to other people, other religions, societies. we have more in common with each other than we have thats not common. applying for german citizenship meant i can keep with my friends in europe. >> lilian levy's family is hardly alone.
since the brexit vote, more than 600 jewish families of german descent in britain have made the same move. but at the official holocaust remembrance day ceremony in london, some survivors voiced their disapproval. >> it seems very odd to me that jews would want german passports. >> i think it's disastrous. they are not doing right. they are afraid that if england goes out from the union, they can not travel. >> for lilian levy and her daughter, there's no contradiction in remembering the past and looking toward the future. >> i agree wholeheartedly with what hilary says. on the other hand, i can understand that people feel that way, because i have felt that long enough. but time has moved on, and i hope it moves on for those people as well. >> the levy family started
talking about german citizenship the day after the brexit vote. lilian's son and grandchildren applied for german passports. they consider it a security measure, even though no one feels the need to move to germany at the moment. >> i hope not, thats all i can say. but you never know. one would hope not. but we are living is such a fluid world, one just doesnt know what might come around the corner. >> for a family who suffered at the hands of the nazis, it's been hard to watch the growing popularity of germany's far right. but they've noticed the same tendency in britain, with an increase in racist attacks. >> what it implies i find really very worrying, this xenophobic feeling that is obviously very much around, which i had not realized. >> oblivious to rising tensions,
right-wing populists in britain point to what they see as the main advantage of the brexit vote, greater independence from brussels. but lilian levy considers herself a devoted citizen of the european union. >> it has kept the peace in europe, the european union, since the second world war. it was created for that in my opinion, and it has succeeded, which is why i have voted remain in the eu and i want to be part in the european project. >> at nearly 80 years of age, lilian levy won't be applying for a german passport, herself, but she fully backs her children's and grandchildren's bid to hold dual citizenship. michelle: the history of europe's jews has been scarred by nationalism, which once again seems to be on the rise. nearly a century ago, the european bison was driven to the
brink of extinction. thanks to a reintroduction program, thousands now once again roam the wilds of eastern romania's carpathian mountains. but because many of the animals were bred in captivity, the task of resettling them has proven somewhat challenging. >> at the edge of the southern carpathian mountains, forest rangers daniel hurduzeu and matei miculescu are braving the snow and freezing temperatures in search of one of the continent's largest inhabitants, the wisent, or european bison. they locate the herd in a mountain meadow. most of the animals were released here just a short time ago. >> it's really something special to be able to see wisents in the wild, again. they were raised in captivity and we've released them into these forests, so many years after the species disappeared from the area.
>> the last animal of its kind to roam this range was killed around 200 years ago. ever since then, the european bison was extinct in the wild. reintroducing the genus proved challenging. human beings pose the greatest threat to the large herbivores. more and more villages are spreading into the wisent's habitat. cameras set up by conservationists observe the herd. in this footage, dogs from surrounding villages have formed a pack and are hunting the animals. their owners leave the dogs to find their own food. the emaciated canines see the half-domesticated bison as a ready meal. project leader adrian hagatis is still optimistic. he's hoping that large herds will soon be roaming through the carpathians. but for this to succeed, he needs the support of the villagers. >> when we started reintroducing wisents into the wild, we worked hard to integrate local people in the process, to ensure they
would accept the project. and it appears that little by little, the surrounding communities are becoming accustomed to their new neighbors. >> we pay a visit to a village with one of the rangers. deer, wild boar and the occasional bear are nothing unusual around here. but the wisents, which can weigh up to a ton, are something new. this one has made itself at home in a farmer's barnyard. the hay is tasty and provides a warm place to sleep. >> he was cast out by the herd when it was near this village, so he came straight here. now, he's found a place to stay for the time being. >> the rangers talk to farmers, who've reported close encounters and try to reassure them. >> i got close to the animal and
wanted to give it some bread, then he came at me with his horns. it scared the daylights out of me. >> the animals have eaten everything. >> conservationists have their work cut out for them when it comes to persuading the farmers to welcome their new neighbors. it will still be some time before the bison have resettled here, deep in the forests of the southern carpathians. michelle: yuksel kotch lives in fear of his life. as someone who campaigns for increased kurdish rights in turkey, he says he often receives death threats. but he doesn't live in turkey, he lives in germany. after last july's failed military coup in turkey, an estimated 6000 informants are said to be monitoring kurds and others perceived to oppose the government in ankara, right here in germany.
>> the memories still haunt yuksel koc. three of his turkish political allies were executed at a kurdish cultural center. french investigators were never able to solve the case, but prosecutors suspect the turkish secret police were behind the murders. since then, koc has feared for his life. at home in northern germany, he has received a number of death threats in the mail and via text message. >> even if our cover is blown, life is short, so we might as well enjoy it. >> koc suspects that turkish secret police are behind the threats. he's a member of a group with ties to the kurdish workers' party, the pkk, which is prohibited in turkey and germany. authorities in both countries are suspicious of people who have links to it, but koc has committed no crime and germany
is providing him police protection. after a witness tipped off the police, german federal prosecutors investigating the death threats issued an arrest warrant for a turkish suspect. turkish and german authorities have declined to comment, but the german parliament's domestic policy specialists are horrified by the case. >> yuksel koc's case is very credible, it's not for nothing that federal prosecutors started investigating spying allegations. and the witness who blew the spy's cover is in a witness protection program. given that, i find it very credible and also very worrying. >> koc must always be on the lookout. he has to keep on the move. he prefers to spend time in familiar kurdish circles, like this tearoom, and the police
have given him hints on how he can hide in plain sight. >> i don't spend much time in my home city of bremen at the moment. if i do, i tell the police. i quit my job. the police told me i should constantly change the way i got to work, but there weren't many options. and what use is that, when the people persecuting me have my address? >> more and more opponents of the government in turkey are seeking refuge in germany. security officials fear that domestic strife in turkey could spill over into germany. the turkish secret police is known to maintain a large network of agents here. experts say there are more than 6,000 of them. >> there are agents who've been instructed by high-ranking officials, and in addition to that, there are many informers
who they simply use, so you've got an established surveillance chain, meaning we've got a network of spies so dense it's comparable with the stasi of former communist east germany. the turkish secret police are also observing mosques in germany. the association that represents their interests, the ditib has since admitted that in some mosques, there have been reports of agents commissioned by anakara spying on visitors. so german prosecutors are now investigating ditib. reactions to the news are mixed. >> i hope that it didn't happen that way, but i can easily imagine it did. but i hope not. >> there is no outside interference, out of the question. >> koc doesn't agree. he says the turkish government has openly admitted that it's hunting its opponents, abroad.
>> erdogan has said publically that either europe should deal with these people or we will take care of them, ourselves. and look at the newspaper headlines, europe doesn't extradite terrorists or we've got our eye on the terrorists. >> so turkish opponents of the government must now fear for their lives, even when they are out of the country. there hasn't been an assassination attempt in germany yet, and yuksel koc hopes the german authorities will continue to protect him. michelle: a film about the rise of the far-right is causing outrage in france. "chez nous," or "this is our land," isn't even screening in movie theatres yet, but after the preview trailer revealed a character with a strong likeness to marine le pen, the leader of france's national front, members of the right wing populist party were furious.
they consider it unacceptable to show a film with such thinly veiled references to a real political party, so close to the upcoming presidential election. >> in the french film "chez nous," the fictional character pauline is a nurse in a former mining region in northern france. she is the single mother of two and has never left her hometown. she is attractive, popular among the locals, and down to earth. for the fictional far-right patriotic bloc, with its blonde female leader, she is an ideal candidate. so they make her an offer. the film is set for release in late february, and the trailer comes across as rather harmless, but it's already created a furor. the far-right front national is not at all impressed, calling it scandalous and unacceptable.
the filmmakers didn't expect such an impact. >> i was surprised by the speed with which they reacted, and the brutality of their reaction. >> the movie is coming out during an electoral campaign. luckily, because it should be a part of the democratic debate, we're not going to turn up after the battle. >> everything that is sociological is true, even all the characters, they all exist. we see that in the north and east of france, in all the working class regions, which were predominantly on the left for 50 years or more. many of the front national's voters today came from the left, former socialist voters and militants or communist voters. [speaking french]
>> the strength of the populists is that they have 10 different discourses and sound almost credible in all of them. they address all every type of anger and resentment. >> the front national was particularly displeased by the film's portrayal of the cynical and charismatic party leader. front national vice-president florian philippot was outraged and not convinced by the case for artistic freedom,
>> we're two months away from the presidential elections. french films are financed by french taxpayers, so in part by front national voters. imagine a film coming out tomorrow about francois fillon or manuel valls, or i don't know, it would be justifiably scandalous. we think it is scandalous and unaccepatable, and maybe this film should be financed by our opponents. >> needless to say, film financing is not that simple. furthermore, the front national is currently under investigation for alleged embezzlement of eu funds for its own political campaigns in france. >> making political films, making films that make sense, making films that make french people think, should we not use public funds for this? what should public money be for then? to put the french to sleep? to entertain, but not teach anything?
i don't really understand the logic. [speaking french] >> it takes place in a very specific part of france. the geography has its role, but it could take place in many other european countries, or the united states. >> it's happened in the united states. >> yes, but i mean that this story could be transposed to north carolina. >> or to the ruhr area in germany. >> the film is due for release on february 22nd. the first round of the french presidential elections is set for april 23rd.
michelle: in the second part of our series, europe's mountains, conquering the peaks. we go to the swiss alps to meet two young men who are training hard in the hopes of qualifying for the next winter olympics. but these skiers haven't been hitting the peaks for years, like most downhill racers. they were plucked from a small village in afghanistan and transported to the glitzy and glamorous st. moritz, where they are learning more than how to ski. >> alishah farhang and sajjad husaini have a clear goal. the young men from afghanistan want to make sports history. in st. moritz, switzerland, they are training for the 2018 olympic winter games.
>> in the history of afghanistan, no one has been to the winter olympic. this will be for the first time and it is exciting, and i feel great about it. but the same time, it is not that easy to do this. >> swiss coach christoph zurcher gives clear instructions. this is the third winter the afghans have spent in the alps, training professionally from november through march. >> when i came here, i was a real beginner. i did not ski. mostly, i was crashing the skis and always i was falling down. >> the olympic hopefuls relax in the hostel where they live, here in switzerland. when they're home in afghanistan, they both attend university. as children, sajjad and alishah experienced the horrors of life under the taliban. their families had to hide. even today, their home province, bamyan, is one of the poorest
regions in the world. at an altitude of 2,500 meters, it is mountainous, with lots of snow and no infrastructure. when christoph zurcher was traveling in afghanistan, he was impressed by the enthusiasm of the people. he decided to do something for the country and to sponsor two skiers to come to switzerland. >> we started out just going around and asking if anyone was interested in skiing. there were a lot at first, but many soon gave up. constant practice and training is not considered standard procedure in afghanistan, like it is for us, so a lot of them dropped out. but these two were really persistent. >> zurcher founded the bamyan ski club, which covers the young men's training and living expenses in switzerland. the money comes from donations, and an annual benefit race, afghan style. all the participants have to schlepp their equipment up the
mountain, before they're allowed to descend. >> culturally, it is totally different, but when you are in the mountain, there is not so much difference to the mountain enviroment. >> the contrast is down in the valley. st. moritz is one of the most expensive alpine holiday resorts. sajjad and alishah find it all a bit much. >> it's incredible. >> even the subjects of these portraits mean nothing to them. >> i cannot say who is this. >> no, not really. >> but that's no wonder. what have james bond and marilyn monroe got to do with skiing? alishah and sajjad came to the sport later than most serious competitors. they have a lot of work to do, if they hope to keep up. >> first i was thinking about to have fun from the skiing. and then later, i understood, for a racer we have to work
more, we have to be more patient and we have to be more active. >> the moment of truth, this is the first time they're participating in an international race. the competition is strong. most of them practically grew up on skis, unlike sajjad and alishah. but the novices aren't in it to win, they just want to qualify. >> it doesn't matter how the skills is, but we are part of the racing team. >> sajjad is the second to last to start. the run is worn down and icy. despite limited visibility, he can't afford to fall. that would jeopardize his chances of participating in the world championships. but the young afghan masters the giant slalom and safely crosses the finish line. his coach christoph zurcher is happy. alishah also puts in a fine performance. >> i am not going for the
champions. i am going for afghanistan, to put the flag of afghanistan beside the other flags. >> they've succeeded in that. this winter, they'll race in the alpine world ski championships, as the first ever ski team to represent their country, the first step toward the 2018 winter olympics. michelle: our reporter told me that they are homesick, but at least they're living in one of the most beautiful parts of europe. that's all for this week. if you'd like to share your thoughts on any of today's stories, send me a tweet or visit our facebook page, dw stories. in the meantime, goodbye from me and the whole team.