Mai-Phuong Kollath

(born 1963 in Vietnam, came to Rostock in 1981 as a contract worker in the GDR, lives in Berlin)

"What scared me was that nobody stood up and said anything.. Nobody.“

Mai-Phuong Kollath is committed to the integration of migrants and the fight against the intolerance she has encountered in Germany. 

Kollath came to Rostock from Vietnam in 1981 as a contract worker. She had imagined working as a hotel manager. Instead, she was instated in the port of Rostock as a cookmaid. 

Kollath lived in the Sonnenblumenhaus (Sunflower House), a residential building for contract workers in the Lichtenhagen district of Rostock, for ten years. This became the scene of the racist and xenophobic pogrom in 1992: a mob of several hundred right-wing radicals besieged the accommodation and set it on fire. The trapped residents waited in vain for assistance from the police and the fire brigade—some 3,000 applauding spectators however hindered the emergency personnel to such a degree that they were temporarily forced to make a complete withdrawal, thus leaving the victims to their own devices. 

While Mai-Phuong was no longer living in the house at the time, the arson attack nevertheless had a lasting impact on her. With her work, she seeks to give a voice to those affected by the incident, as well as to their children, and document their experiences. Many Vietnamese remain politically invisible and excluded from public debate—a situation Kollath seeks to change.  

From 1999 to 2005, she pursued educational sciences at the University of Rostock, working from 2000 as a freelance interpreter and translator for various organisations and authorities. From 2005 to 2010, she set up an intercultural consulting service and eventually moved to Berlin. Kollath regularly participates in the Integrationsgipfel der Bundesregierung (Integration Summit of the Federal Government) and is Vice-President of the Bundesrat für Zuwanderung und Integration (Federal Council for Immigration and Integration). She continues to fight against the racism she has experienced since her arrival in Germany.

Mai-Phoung Kollath
Credits: Esra Rotthoff