Pop queen Helene Fischer makes rare political comment on Chemnitz

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At the top

Helene Fischer already has double platinum in the bag. Pre-orders for her self-titled album have been streaming in for months. Does it contain a hit as big as "Atemlos durch die Nacht" ("Breathless Through the Night") from 2013? We'll have to wait and see. Fischer, who was born in 1984 in Siberia and grew up in Rhineland-Palatinate, is the biggest star on the German music scene.

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Record breaker

Fischer has sold more than 10 million records in Germany alone. "Farbenspiel," with "Atemlos durch die Nacht," was the first album to reach number one on the German charts twice - in 2013 and 2014. It was downloaded 250,000 times, setting a record for German artists.

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Celebrating the world champs

Riding the wave of the "Atemlos" hype in 2013, it seemed like the country was full of Fischer fans of all ages and backgrounds. Even the national German football team (in particular, Bastian Schweinsteiger, second from left) was among them. The pop diva performed after the team won the World Cup in 2014 - and the players sang right along with her.

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Big show

Fischer trained as a musical theater artist, and her live performances are diverse and entertaining. Her mix of "schlager" (folk pop), rock and classical music appeals to many. More than 1 million people came out for her last tour. The singer has a full schedule this fall, with 83 concerts in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. In many cases, she'll be giving five back-to-back shows in each city.

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Not just song and dance

Fischer's upcoming tour has been called "spectacular" and "bombastic" - even before her fans have seen it. The reason is that the singer has added the troupe 45 Degrees to the program - a branch of the acrobatic theater group Cirque du Soleil. Acrobatics have often been part of her shows, as can be seen from this 2013 performance.

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Glamorous couple

Boyfriend Florian Silbereisen (left) will have to do without his Helene for a while this fall. Silbereisen helped launch the singer to fame: she made her first TV appearance in 2005 on his folk music show. Since then, Fischer has appeared countless times on camera and even has her own program. "The Helene Fischer Show" has been broadcast on Christmas Day every year since 2011.

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Wax doppelganger

Sixteen Echo Awards and two Bambis are among the countless accolades the singer has collected over the course of her career. But prizes aside, stars know they've really made it when they get their own wax figure at Madame Tussauds. Fischer's statue has been in Berlin since 2011 and its outfit and hairstyle are regularly updated.

She has been criticized for avoiding all political issues, but now the influential pop singer Helene Fischer has "broken the silence," joining the chorus of voices against violence and racism.

Pop star Helene Fischer, also dubbed the Queen of Schlager, has often been criticized for avoiding political topics.

The influential German star preferred to remain silent, for instance, when Germany was caught in debates on its refugee policy, and didn't say a word about sexism in show business as other entertainers worldwide gave their testimonies and expressed support for the #MeToo movement.

Rock singer Udo Lindenberg is just one the stars who had publicly called on Fischer — in an interview back in 2016 — to take a stance against far-right populism.

'Breaking the silence'

However, at a concert in Berlin on Tuesday, she decided to speak out for the first time, reacting to the violent protests in Chemnitz that grabbed the world's attention.

Introducing her hit "Wir brechen das Schweigen" (We are breaking the silence), she started by reacting to the criticism: "I do not talk about politics. My language is music."

"But I'm also following what's happening in the world," she added. "And that's why tonight, now and here together with you: Let's set an example." She called on her fans to stand up and, "Raise your voice together with me, against violence, against xenophobia. Let's sing this song together. Let's break the silence here in Berlin. "

She had previously posted a similar message on Instagram and Facebook, accompanied by the hashtag #WirSindMehr, which was the motto of the anti-racism concert held on Monday in Chemnitz.

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Helene Fischer

Since she emerged as a singer and variety TV star willing to revive a distinctly old-fashioned repertoire of uplifting Schlager ballads, Fischer has sold well over 10 million records in Germany alone. Songs like "Atemlos durch die Nacht" ("Breathless Through the Night") have dominated the charts, and the Russian-born pop princess is no stranger to kitschy TV shows like Schlagercountdown.

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Heino

Having sold more than 50 million albums since his 1967 solo debut, Heino is a Schlager pioneer known for his trademark dark sunglasses, platinum mop top and rich baritone voice. His smash hits range from "Jenseits des Tales" ("Beyond the Valley") to covers of controversial folk tunes such as "Schwarzbraun ist die Haselnuss" ("Black-brown is the Hazelnut") that were sung by the Hitler Youth.

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Jürgen Drews

Jürgen Drews landed a mega hit with "Ein Bett im Kornfeld" ("A bed in a cornfield") in 1976. Today, Germans label the seemingly ageless singer "king of Mallorca" because he has for decades been a staple on the German party scene on the Spanish island. Drews actually started his career playing the banjo in a jazz band.

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Michael Holm

The 1969 "Mendocino" was Michael Holm's first big hit, and "Tränen lügen nicht" ("Tears don't lie") made it to first place in the charts in 1974. He helped orchestrate a mega Schlager revival in the late 1990s by producing Guildo Horn's hit album "Danke" in 1997.

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Katja Ebstein

She won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1980 and came in third twice, in 1970 and 1971 - Katja Ebstein is regarded as the competition's German grande dame. Ebstein's hit song "Wunder gibt es immer wieder" ("There will always be miracles") is an integral part of the German Schlager repertoire. Ebstein also acts in plays, is involved in social projects and politically active.

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Drafi Deutscher

The Berlin-born singer and composer (and songwriter for Boney M. and others) rose from obscurity in 1965 with his immortal Schlager anthem, "Marmor, Stein, und Eisen bricht" ("Marble Breaks And Iron Bends") — an English version later charted in the US. The boy from working-class Wedding was a rebel who had issues with alcohol, but still released some 260 songs before his death in 2006.

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Jürgen Marcus

Known for his blonde locks, casual hip swing and beaming smile, Marcus' 1972 release "A New Love is like a New Life" has become one of the best-known songs in Schlager history, a staple of any German record collection. "Music is wonderful because you can capture people's emotions," Marcus once said of the sing-along favorites he performed incessantly until his recent death in May at the age of 69.

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Andrea Jürgens

Andrea Jürgens was a 10-year-old in 1977 when she sang what would become one of the all-time Schlager classics, "Und dabei liebe ich euch beide" ("And Yet I Love You Both"), which was composed by Schlager hit-maker Jack White. Child star Jürgens would peak young, but returned with a No. 1 in 2010 with "I Only Have a Heart." She died of kidney failure in 2017 after a 40-year career.

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Guildo Horn

Schlager has had its fair share of miscreants and eccentrics who are not afraid to play with the genre's kitschy cliches. With his trademark high-energy hilarity (including climbing all over the stage during his 1998 Eurovision appearance), and gaudy velvet green suit, this Schlager provocateur hit the charts in the 1990s with songs like "I like Steffi Graf" and "Guildo loves you."

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Andrea Berg

Berg was 26 when she went from being a nurse to a Schlager hit-maker with the album "Du bist frei" ("You Are Free") and smash singles like "Schau mir nochmal ins Gesicht" ("Look Me in the Face Again") and "Splitternackt" ("Stark Naked"). A 2001 greatest hits album went five-times platinum, selling 2 million copies. More recently, the singer won the Echo Award for best Schlager singer in 2017.

eg/ct (with dpa)

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