The Left Berlin News & Comment

This is the archive template

Letter from the Editors, 29th February 2024

No lies about Palestine in our schools


Hello everyone,

Friday sees the next national climate strike organised by Fridays for Future. This month’s stike is organised in cooperation with transport workers in the trade union ver.di. In recent months, a climate activists and trade unionists have built a strong alliance under the slogan Wir fahren zusammen (we’re travelling together). We have built bridges, listened to each other, swapped ideas and learned from one another. And we have forged plans: we are building a movement which is fighting for climate protection and social justice. In Berlin, strikers and activists will be gathering in Invalidenpark at 10am.

A new pamphlet containing myths about the formation of the State of Israel is going to be distributed in schools. This pamphlet, which falsifies history and denies the historic suffering of Palestinians, has no place in schools. The pamphlet has been supported by the Berlin office for political education and will be used in Neukölln schools after a vote by the CDU and SPD members of the local parliament. The Greens abstained, and die LINKE opposed the proposal. A protest against this falsification of history has been called by Kifaya and the Palestine Campaign. It will take place on Friday at 4pm outside the Rathaus Neukölln.

On Saturday, the Global South Unites alliance has called a Joint Demo for Palestine. Resistance gives us meaning. Resistance is an on-going purpose. From Gaza to Algolan Heights, from Jenin to Idlib, from Al-Quds to Cairo, from Tulkarm to Ayn al-Hilweh and Shatila, from Nablus to Al-Yarmouk Camp and Al-Nayrab Camp, from Palestine to all of the diaspora; we see no borders! Together, we end colonialism, racism, and white supremacy! The demonstration starts at Neptunenbrunnen, near Alexanderplatz, at 2pm. If you would like to march with other international activists, we will be meeting at the Marx-Engels statue at 1.45pm.

There is no Palestine Reading Group this week as the current venue is booked for something else, and we are still negotiating new, larger rooms. Instead, on Friday night, members of the Reading Group will be attending the performance Court Fantasies in Ballhaus Ost. With the help of visions of the future, the performers Salma Said und Miriam Coretta Schulte take a look at the apparently unchangeable asylum system. They invite the public to look at a future archive. The performance starts at 8pm. If you’d like to meet members of the Reading Group, you can find us in the theatre bar before it starts (and possibly afterwards). If you can’t make it on Friday, there’s also a showing on Saturday as well.

The following Reading Groups are planned for March:

The Reading Group currently meets in the Agit offices, Nansenstraße 2, but we are seeking a larger venue. To be sure of the right venue, check our Events page and future Newsletters. You can also join our Telegram Group to keep up with the debate and suggest future subjects or readings.

On Monday at 7pm, it’s the next monthly meeting of the Berlin LINKE Internationals. This month, the main discussion is on how we can stop the AfD. Currently, the AfD is polling second in polls, which continues to strengthen the likelihood of German support in the upcoming elections. How can they be stopped? Are social democrats and Greens our friends or our enemies? How can we build broad demonstrations which are welcoming to everybody? With large demonstrations planned against the AfD national conference at the end of June, are demonstrations alone enough? We will be discussing these questions and more with Ferat Kocak, anti-racist activist, local councillor and blogger (active on social media as Der Neuköllner). Everyone is invited to join the debate which takes place in Ferat’s office, Schierker Straße 26.

There is much more going on in Berlin. To find out what’s happening, go to our Events page. You can also see a shorter, but more detailed list of events in which we are directly involved in here.

Two dates for your calendars:

  • On Saturday, 16th March, we will be showing the film Aisheen, Still Alive in Gaza in oyoun. The film was originally scheduled for 10th February. Food will be available, and following the film there will be a discussion with Palestinian activist Ramsy Kilani.
  • Please note: the LINKE Internationals Summer Camp has now been postponed to avoid clashing with a big demo against the AfD. Summer Camp will now take place on 21-22 September, still in the Naturfreundehaus Hermsdorf.

This week’s Campaign of The Week is a project by Palestinian journalist Hebh Jamal, and British journalist Tom Wills, both of whom are long-time collaborators with theleftberlin website. Hebh and Tom are currently fundraising so that they can make a film: The Reason of State. The film aims to investigate, explain, and reveal Germany’s support for Israel, its impact on Europe’s largest Palestinian community, and how those affected are fighting back. After producing the first episode, Hebh and Tom hope to extend the project into a series or a feature-length film focusing on how Germany’s pervasive pro-Israel bias has infiltrated society. You can make your donations here.

If you are looking for Resources on Palestine, we have set up a page with useful links. We will be continually updating the page, so if you would like to recommend other links, please contact us on You can also find all the reading from our Palestine Reading Groups here.

In News from Berlin, transport strikes in Berlin unite with climate activists, Deutsche Wohnen charged with breaches of data protection, fast mobile phone links to be available on Berlin U-Bahns, and Berlin’s mayor calls for punishment measures against the Berlinale.

In News from Germany, Grünheide residents vote against the extension of the Tesla plant, investigation into racism allegations against law students in Hessen, cannabis is decriminalized – but not legalized – in Germany, survey calls for a Digital Reset to protect the climate, and AfD to be categorised as a “confirmed extremist party.”

Read all about it in this week’s News from Berlin and Germany.

New on theleftberlin, we report from the police assault on the Palestine bloc at this week’s demonstration commemorating the Hanau murders, Rasha al-Jundi and Michael Jabareen visualise state surveillance. Nathaniel Flakin looks at the fabricated Berlinale antisemitism scandal, and Phil Butland is impressed by Jonathan Glazer’s new Holocaust film, The Zone of Interest.

This week’s Video of the Week shows the acceptance speech of Palestinian film maker Basel Adra and Israeli journalist Yuval Abraham after their film No Other Land won the public prize for documentaries at this year’s Berlinale. The speech has enraged German politicians. Watch it and judge for yourself.


You can follow us on the following social media:

If you would like to contribute any articles or have any questions or criticisms about our work, please contact us at And please do encourage your friends to subscribe to this Newsletter.

Keep on fighting,

The Left Berlin Editorial Board

Film Review – The Zone of Interest

Jonathan Glazer’s film about the Commendant of Auschwitz was released in Germany this week. It brillianty shows the Banality of Evil


1942, a river in Poland. A family in bathing costumes and summer dresses hover tentatively by the waterside, having a picnic. After a while, the boys go to splash around in the water while the girls collect berries. At the end of an idyllic day, the family return to their sumptuous villa which has its own swimming pool. These scenes of domestic bliss follow a couple of minutes of a blank screen while we listen to discordant music with ever-increasing volume.

Back at the villa, the kids have a birthday present for father Rudolf – a long canoe which can carry up to four people. He fusses about them, saying he’ll have to decide which of them he’ll take out to the lake first. Meanwhile mother Hedwig (played by the woman who, notwithstanding her many other successes is doomed to be known as “Toni Erdmann’s Sandra Hüller”) pootles along in the background doing her chores.

Not that Hedwig has much to do. The house is full of maids and men who clean everything, including Rudolf’s boots. The family carry out a mundane bourgeois lifestyle, spending as much time as they can in their beautiful garden and large conservatory. At the end of the garden, there is a stone wall behind which you can see a large brick chimney from which black smoke occasionally billows. At the end of each eventless day, Rudolf and Hedwig retire to their separate twin beds.

Occasionally, very occasionally, we leave the villa, mainly to accompany Rudolf to work. You see, Rudolf is the Commandant in charge of Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Even here, his life seems to be full of dull meetings where SS officers discuss the most effective forms of deportation and execution with exacting meticulousness. Anyone who has ever cracked a joke about over-officious Germans will find affirmation on screen.

At home. Rudolf spends his time with the kids reading them bedtime stories or taking them out horseback riding. One afternoon, they go out fishing and canoeing together. Their fun is broken when Rudolf notices ash and bone floating on the water – presumably the remains of former camp inmates. With his usual speed and efficiency, he orders the kids out of the water and back home, where he ensures that they are thoroughly washed down.

A serpent enters Eden when Rudolf is ordered back to Berlin. On its face, this is a promotion – as a reward for his efficiency, he has been put in charge of “dealing with” Hungarian Jews. Although Hedwig is proud of her husband, she is aghast that this may destroy everything that they have built together. Haven’t they been trying since they were 17 to create a peaceful home in the country, just like the one they have now?

The most incredible part of the film is the unobtrusive background sounds – an occasional shriek, the odd gunshot, a dog barking, the incessant rumbling of a furnace. They are always there, but somehow we get used to them, in the way that the Höss family is able to separate the horror which is happening on the other side of the wall from their daily lives. Hedwig, for instance, does not come over as a polemicizing Nazi. She doesn’t seem to think much about politics at all.

It is difficult to watch The Zone of Interest without thinking of Hannah Arendt’s phrase “the banality of evil”, which feels like a cliché but fits just so well here. And yet for all the numbing conventionality of her everyday life, Hedwig clearly benefits from the evil being carried out on the other side of the fence. We see her trying on a fur coat pillaged from Jewish prisoners. She finds some lipstick left by the previous owner in one of the pockets. In the next scene, she is putting on some lippy.

Later, Hedwig and her friends joke about the benefits they gain from their unpaid housemaids. In other scenes, the power imbalance between mistress and maid is palpable. Hedwig’s maids know that she just has to say the word, and they will end up on the other side of the wall. Hedwig knows this too, and for all her bourgeois respectability, she is not afraid of using the horrific situation to impose her power over her underlings.

When the Holocaust memorial was built in Berlin, there was serious debate about whether it was possible to depict the Holocaust. Theodor Adorno’s quote “No poetry after Auschwitz” was dusted off. I think that architect Peter Eisenman took the correct decision to design an abstract series of blocks, as it is just not possible to visually represent the immensity of the horrors of the industrial genocide of millions of Jews, trade unionists, Roma and Sinti people and many more.

Director Jonathan Glazer has a similar problem with The Zone of Interest. Whatever he shows cannot be as shocking as the real thing. So it is a brave, but in my opinion, effective, move on his part not to show any of the terror, apart from a coda filmed in the modern day Holocaust museum where we see cleaners passing glass display cases full of suitcases and shoes robbed from people who were to be murdered in Auschwitz.

Most of the film is shot from a distance, which is perfectly understandable, as we should avoid any semblance of identification with the main characters. At the same time, Glazer has said that his intention was to show “our similarities with the perpetrators”. By this, I understand him to mean that The Zone of Interest is not just a film about something which happened in history, but real political developments in the world today.

At the recent BAFTA awards, The Zone of Interest won the award for best “foreign-language” film. In his acceptance speech, producer James Wilson talked about “the walls we choose not to look behind”, saying, to applause: “those walls aren’t new, from before or during or since the Holocaust, and it seems stark right now that we should care about innocent people being killed in Gaza or Yemen in the same way we think about innocent people being killed in Mariupol or in Israel.”

It is important that The Zone of Interest was filmed in German, for more than one reason. Firstly, for authenticity. It makes a difference whether we hear people speaking in the language of the protagonists instead of English with a stereotypical “Tscherman” accent. But also, at a time when Germany is both seeing a rise of the AfD and a civil society which is reluctant to accept that Never Again must also apply to Palestinians, this is a film which Germany needs to engage with.

The Zone of Interest is an incredible accomplishment, but is it any good? It’s certainly not fun to watch. There is also no happy redemptive ending. No-one has a Damascene conversion and discovers the barbarity of their actions. Which is absolutely fitting, as the film is recording actual history, not a story which we would like to tell ourselves to ignore the brutality of everyday life (or the financiers who were quite happy to enable Nazism to thrive in Germany).

The film is not entirely without hope. Everything is filmed in natural light, the one exception being a single scene filmed using thermal imaging. A girl – she is maybe 14 – gets on her bicycle, and – avoiding the passing security patrols – takes apples to leave near the gravel quarries where the camp inmates are forced to work. The girl is clearly Polish, living nearby while being a member of the partisan forces. Her actions show that humanity has not entirely deserted the area.

There are some films which are great to watch, but if you’ve seen them once, that’s all you need to see. This is not one of those films. In fact, knowing what is going to happen increases your appreciation of The Zone of Interest. It is hard work, a film which makes you think, and is not afraid to make you suffer. It would not necessarily be my preferred Oscar winner, but it is in a quite different league to superficial baubles like Oppenheimer.

This review originally appeared on the cinephil Berliner Film Blog

Fundraiser – The Reason of State – Documentary Film

A documentary investigating Germany’s war on Palestinian voices

Like other Western nations, Germany has funded the war in Gaza, increasing its military budget and abetting Israel with material and political support as they continue to kill tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians.

However, what is unique about Germany is the sheer level of repression towards Palestinians and their supporters. Protests have been banned, even chants and slogans have been banned, all in the name of protecting Israel’s national security.

This is such a high priority for the German government that they call it their “reason of state.”

The German media closely reflects this agenda, reporting only the Israeli version of events in Gaza, and grossly misrepresenting or completely ignoring the Palestinian perspective.

It is about time this changed. The purpose of this documentary film project is to highlight the Palestinian voice that has been erased from the media for decades. We have already completed 70% of the filming for the first episode and drafted an editing script.

By funding this independent project, we will be able to investigate, explain, and reveal Germany’s support for Israel, its impact on Europe’s largest Palestinian community, and how those affected are fighting back.

After producing the first episode, we hope to extend the project into a series or a feature-length film focusing on how Germany’s pervasive pro-Israel bias has infiltrated society. This will include Germany’s classification of Israel as their “Reason of State,” Germany’s anti-BDS resolution, the silencing of students, artists, and academics within Germany’s higher education institutions, and Germany’s anti-Palestinian response to the Israel-Hamas war.

Fundraising goals

  • € 15,000 will enable us to complete the first 25-minute episode, which we will release for free on YouTube. We may choose to partner with an established channel in order to increase our reach.
  • € 30,000 will enable us to produce the first episode to a higher standard, making it even more engaging and allowing us to reach a bigger audience.

Further funds will allow us to produce more episodes or a feature-length version of the film for wider distribution.

About the team

Hebh Jamal is a Palestinian journalist living in Germany. Her reporting on the repression of Palestinians in Germany has appeared on Al Jazeera, Middle East Eye, Mondoweiss, and 972 Magazine.

Tom Wills is a British journalist living in Germany. He has researched and produced documentaries for international broadcasters including Al Jazeera and the BBC. His reporting on the repression of Palestine solidarity in Germany has appeared in Middle East Eye, Neues Deutschland, and Junge Welt.

Allocation of funds

  • 30% to Hebh Jamal (Presenter & Co-Producer)
  • 30% to Tom Wills (Director & Co-Producer)
  • 40% for production expenses (equipment rental, travel costs, additional crew, etc.) to be agreed by Hebh & Tom

You can make your donation here.

News from Berlin and Germany, 28th February 2024

Weekly news round-up from Berlin and Germany


Another public transport strike announced

The trade union ver.di has called for warning strikes in local public transport throughout Germany this week. The first warning strikes take place in Brandenburg on Wednesday, February 28th. In Berlin, the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) is on strike all day on Thursday, February 29th, and until 2 pm on Friday, March 1st. This will affect underground trains, buses, trams, and ferries. Most S-Bahns in Berlin and Germany are not affected. In parallel to the warning strikes, “Fridays For Future” (FFF) is organising numerous demonstrations against the climate crisis on March 1st. Source: rbb24

Deutsche Wohnen: data protection dispute continues

A legal dispute against the real estate group Deutsche Wohnen SE regarding a million-euro fine over a data protection breach has been brought back to court, as reported by the Berliner Zeitung. At the centre of the case are questions about what kind of data real estate companies are allowed to store on their tenants. Lawyers from Deutsche Wohnen, which has been part of the Vonovia real estate group since 2021, are getting ready for a lengthy legal process. Back in 2019, a similar case was issued against Deutsche Wohnen, eventually making its way to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Source: exberliner

Fast mobile phone network soon to be available on Berlin U-Bahns

After years of waiting, a fast mobile phone network is to be available on all Berlin underground lines this spring. The expansion of the mobile phone technology should be completed by the end of March. By January, already 90 per cent of underground routes had been equipped with 4G/LTE. Further work “to increase density and capacity” will then be carried out on the most recently upgraded sections by September. The mobile phone company Telefónica is responsible for the expansion of the technical infrastructure with an LTE network. The new and even faster 5G network should then be available nationwide by the end of 2025. Source: rbb24

Accusations of antisemitism after Berlinale awards ceremony

Following political statements on the Middle East conflict at the Berlinale awards ceremony, Berlin’s Mayor Kai Wegner (CDU) has called for measures to be taken by the new Berlinale festival management to prevent relativization about Israel. Senator for Culture Joe Chialo (CDU) also wrote that “Culture should offer space for diverse political expressions of opinion, but this year’s Berlinale awards ceremony was characterised by self-righteous anti-Israeli propaganda that does not belong on Berlin’s stages.” Among the festival’s winners was “No Other Land,” a film about the expulsion of Palestinians in the West Bank. The documentary’s Palestinian director, Basel Adra, referred to the current armed conflict in the Gaza Strip in his acceptance speech, while his co-director, the Israeli journalist Yuval Abraham, spoke of “apartheid” in the West Bank. Source: tagesschau


Tesla: victory for democracy and nature conservation

The majority of citizens in Grünheide voted against Tesla’s expansion plans for its car factory. The turnout of over 70% shows that the issue is politically explosive, and the community has been deeply divided since the emergence of Elon Musk, explained Thomas Löb, state leader of the Ecological Democratic Party (ÖDP) in Brandenburg. The outcome is not legally binding but is considered an important basis. The water board demanded that the municipal representatives vote on the development plan at the next meeting on 14 March as planned. Source: n-tv

Hesse Finanzamt and judicial trainees under investigation for racist party song

Students interning as judicial officers at the Finanzamt in Hesse were accused of singing a racist song at a party in the Rothenburger Study Centre for Financial Administration and Justice. According to other students, who were present at the party and later filed complaints, the song included the lyrics “Ausländer raus, Deutschland den Deutschen” (“Foreigners out, Germany for the Germans”). The public prosecutor’s office in Hesse has announced it opened an investigation on suspicion of “incitement of hatred.” The parliamentary secretary Miriam Dahlke (Greens) said that people training to become civil servants must “guarantee that they firmly stand for our free democratic basic order at all times.” Source: iamexpat

Cannabis in Germany: what is now allowed, what is not?

With the votes of the governing coalition, the Bundestag has decided to partially liberalise the use of cannabis in Germany. This means that from 1 April 2024 people of legal age in Germany will be allowed to carry up to 25 grams of cannabis. Hashish enthusiasts will also be able to grow three cannabis plants and store up to 50 grams of dried cannabis in their own home. However, commercial shops, such as those in some states in the USA, will not be allowed for the time being – even though this was envisaged at the beginning of the government’s deliberations. Source: dw

Digitalisation for the climate

Faster digitalisation could reduce Germany’s annual greenhouse gas emissions by up to 73 million tonnes in 2030. This is the result of a study by the Bitkom association, which primarily represents companies from the technology sector. The authors looked at the areas of energy, building, industry, transport, and agriculture. The greatest potential lies in the energy sector with the building sector following in second place. However, other studies are less optimistic about the role of digitalization. The large-scale study “Digital Reset,” for example, takes into consideration the rebound effect: when efficiency improves, the use of the technology also increases, and energy usage rises. Source: taz

AfD soon to be “confirmed right-wing extremist”?

The entire AfD might soon be classified as “confirmed extremist.” So far, the AfD has only been listed as a so-called suspected case of right-wing extremism. But according to research by the Süddeutsche Zeitung, a team from the Federal Office has been working on a new report for months. The newspaper relies on internal emails and notes from the domestic secret service. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution did not want to comment on the report. Source: tagesschau

Berlinale: Filmmakers say what the rest of the world is saying

At the Berlinale film festival, Israeli and Palestinian filmmakers called for equality and peace. German politicians want to ban such hateful talk


The Berlinale film festival ended on Saturday evening with a gala, but if you read the German press, it was actually a “scandal”. The speeches were “alarming”, “shameful”, and “frightening”, full of “Israel hatred” and “antisemitism”. What had happened?

Yuval Abraham and Basel Adra, an Israeli and a Palestinian, won an award for their documentary film No Other Land. Abraham spoke for just 36 seconds:

“In two days, we will go back to a land where we are not equal. I am living under a civilian law, and Basel is under military law. We live 30 minutes from one another, but I have voting rights, and Basel is not having voting rights. I am free to move where I want in this land. Basel is, like millions of Palestinians, locked in the occupied West Bank. This situation of apartheid between us, this inequality, it has to end.”

His co-producer Adra took just 21 seconds:

“I’m here celebrating the award, but also very hard for me to celebrate when there are tens of thousands of my people being slaughtered and massacred by Israel in Gaza. Masafer Yatta, my community, is being also razed by Israeli bulldozers. I ask one thing from Germany, as I am in Berlin here, to respect the UN calls and stop sending weapons to Israel.”

These are sober statements of liberal democratic principles. Who would dare to contradict? Should systematic inequality based on ethnicity (known in international law as “apartheid”) continue? Should Germany keep ignoring UN resolutions?

German politicians are claiming this will cause “damage to the Berlinale”. The opposite is the case: their demands for extreme censorship are a mortal threat to Berlin’s art scene. Do they even realize how far outside the global mainstream they are? In calling for a ceasefire, Saturday’s prizewinners were saying what the whole world except for Germany is saying – even Joe Biden has been mumbling about it.

Once again, we see how this virulent solidarity with Israel comes at the expense of Jewish life in Germany. What do we call this ferocious desire to silence Jews who don’t comply with the German Staatsräson? Last week, the Israeli director Udi Aloni said: “It seems like there is a new form of antisemitism in Germany, that no one calls antisemitism: the censorship of progressive intellectual Jewish voices.” He admitted that he was afraid to quote Walter Benjamin or Franz Rosenzweig in this country “because I might get canceled”.

It seems German politicians don’t want us to hear these speeches. They cannot defend the reality – so they try to avoid discussions about it. We must hear Israelis and Palestinians when they stand together to call for equality and peace.

This is a mirror of Nathanlel’s Red Flag column, written for Neues Deutschland