Hell in Hitlersdorf
On August 20, Germany’s neo-nazi party NPD tried to hold a rally against a newly opened refugee lager in Hellersdorf, a neighborhood on Berlin’s far-right fringe.
**The concrete-slab dwellers here are economically and emotionally frustrated. Their fearful psyches yearn for authority. The parallel society persiflaged on “reality” TV: infantile grunts who have been promised jobs since 1990, but got only shopping malls.**
Yet, contrary to mainstream prejudice, openly nationalist parties like Pro Deutschland and the NPD achieve only results in the lower single digits. Most of their candidates are “not fit for daylight.” Hellersdorfers support Nazism like fast food fans support cowicide: It’s on the menu, so you eat it. All restaurants sell meat, so it must be normal; likewise, all “non-radical” parties openly promote jingoism. You don’t have to vote far-right to vote racist.
The strongest parties in the neighborhood are the Christian Democrats (CDU), the Democratic Socialists (LINKE) and the Social Democrats (SPD). Like most average citizens, the major parties were completely absent during the protests against the Nazi rally.
Around 800 protesters faced 20 Nazis. Nearly all protesters were “radical activists” according to police and media depictions. In theory, resisting fascism is not “radical,” nor is it particularly courageous. In practice, it gets you beaten and arrested.
If opposing Nazism is coined “radical activism”, then nothing has changed since Weimar: The majority of people in Germany are passive opportunists who’d allow their grandmother to be deported, if it doesn’t interfere with their paycheck.
This includes all residents. The majority of the protesters against the last (failed) NPD rally in Kreuzberg belonged to the politicized elite. Most locals hardly bothered to watch from their balconies.
This does not mean that working-class Kreuzbergers don’t protest. They just seem to care little about German politics, of which racism is an integral part. The Taksim solidarity (and anti-Erdogan) protests attracted thousands of Kreuzbergers.
The Hellersdorfers also kept their distance during the Nazi rally. Boys with overtight shirts and girls with too much make-up watched from across the road. A group of public drinkers, unusually young, unusually female, stared menacingly from their regular bench.
Maybe the hundreds of riot cops dissuaded regular citizens from voicing their protest. The cops had the job to protect the Nazi rally, and they did well.
Apart from the vulgar press, also bourgeois infotainment mags like DER SPIEGEL (“Conflict around asylum center in Berlin escalates”) and the Bionade Socialists of TAZ (“Action in Hellersdorf”) exercised conformity: Radicals here, radicals there, Police keep the peace.
This is not true. The police made the rally possible and escalated a peaceful counter-demo. I’m wondering why the cops didn’t hold the umbrellas for the Nazi speakers. The cops can – and regularly do – dissolve gatherings at will, for example, by citing risks to public safety.
Police squad leaders know various loopholes to bypass freedom of assembly. I’ve been arrested twice this year for attending arbitrarily cancelled (or declared) public gatherings. The Nazis were outnumbered forty to one. Had the police not been present, they would not even have been able to leave their truck.
All of the estimated 25 arrests against activists were for hiding their faces, throwing eggs or just protesting against police brutality. Using the minimum (600) and maximum (800) attendance estimates, your chances for being arrested arbitrarily at a protest against fascism in Germany is 3 to 4%. Your chances for being arrested for holding a Nazi rally: 0%. In 2013. You can see photos of the police’s “peacekeeping efforts” against anti-fascists here.
Not one of these images appeared in the press. Most of the stylish mainstream photographers took their shots from the side of the Nazis. To them, anti-fascists are the “mob.”
When a Nazi beat down a female journalist, the police did not even talk to him, much less stop him. The next day, I heard the officer in charge on the radio, telling citizens not to worry, because his troops had “everything under control.” Christian politicians were quoted, telling “concerned neighbors” not to let themselves be instrumentalized by “rat catchers.”
Hellersdorf is where the subcultures can clash without bothering the fancy folks: Proles, immigrants, Nazis, protesters. Don’t worry, downtown they’re discussing solutions for everybody.