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News from Berlin and Germany, 6th December 2023

Weekly news round-up from Berlin and Germany



Antisemitic attack on bar in Berlin-Lichtenberg

A new episode of antisemitic vandalism against the neighbourhood bar “Morgen wird besser” means that the venue has now been targeted three times this year. The bar is Jewish-owned and has repeatedly been the subject of antisemitic attacks. In 2020 an arson attack almost destroyed its entire interior. According to the Tagesspiegel, the owner said the situation left him feeling “desperate”, but also spoke of the great solidarity shown by the local neighbourhood. The Antisemitism Research and Information Centre (RIAS) reported October 2023 as having the highest number of such incidents since they started collecting data in 2015. Source: exberliner

Fewer buses in Berlin from December 10

Bad news for commuters and others who rely on public transport: the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) announced that its bus services will be reduced from December 10, as the city struggles to cope with a shortage of drivers. According to Rolf Erfurt, BVG’s operations director, the company has not yet decided which bus lines will be affected, but he promised such reductions will be evenly distributed across the city. The changes are planned to primarily affect services taking place outside of peak times, and large schools and hospitals should remain well-serviced. Erfurt said, however, that the cut was unavoidable given the tense situation on the labour market. Source: iamexpat

More than 10 criminal charges after pro-Palestinian demonstration in Mitte

Following a pro-Palestinian demonstration with around 2,000 participants in Berlin-Mitte last weekend, the police filed 13 criminal charges. The charges were for offences such as incitement to hatred or displaying signs of unconstitutional organisations, a police spokesman mentioned. The demonstration entitled “Stop the genocide in Gaza” marched through Wedding, Prenzlauer Berg and Mitte last Saturday. According to the police, isolated criminal statements were expressed. A second demonstration from Oranienplatz in Kreuzberg to Puschkinallee, entitled “Solidarity with Palestine,” took place without incident. Source: rbb24


Court mandates that the government should take additional climate measures

Following a judgement by the Berlin-Brandenburg Higher Administrative Court, the Federal Government must adopt additional immediate measures to reduce greenhouse gases from transport and buildings. This was decided by the court last Thursday following legal action by Deutsche Umwelthilfe and the environmental organisation BUND. The organisations had gone to court because, in their view, the responsible ministries had not acted sufficiently when the permitted amount of greenhouse gases was exceeded in the two sectors. The German government is considering an appeal. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection, headed by Robert Habeck (Greens), said in response to an enquiry: “The court has expressly allowed the appeal.” Source: focus

Rent debts: around 30,000 forced evictions in 2022

Rent debts led to the forced eviction of tens of thousands of flats last year. More than 27,319 flats were evicted in 2022, according to an answer from the federal government to an inquiry by MP Caren Lay (Left Party). In Berlin, the number of evictions rose particularly dramatically compared to the previous year. According to the federal government, there were 1,931 evictions in the capital, compared to 1,668 in 2021. Brandenburg and Bremen were also disproportionately affected, considering the number of inhabitants. Lay demanded that eviction notices for back rent payments be cancelled and that “evictions into homelessness” be prohibited. Source: nd

November train punctuality worst in years

According to the Bild am Sonntag newspaper, almost half the high-speed, long-distance trains of German rail operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) were delayed last month. Moreover, DB was at its least punctual in eight years in November. A Deutsche Bahn spokesman said three-quarters of long-distance trains had been delayed by at least one construction site on railway tracks. The statistics do not include trains less than six minutes late, as DB classifies those as on-time. The company told the Bild that because of the “massive backlog in renovation” work, DB “had to expand considerably its construction operations during this year.” Source: dw

New report: right-wing extremism on the rise

Right-wing extremism is closer and more noticeable in the everyday lives of many people. This is the worrying conclusion of the first annual report of the Mobile Counselling Service against Right-Wing Extremism,  presented in Berlin last Monday. Although democratic forces throughout the country are standing up to the ultra-right, their work is increasingly under threat. The three reasons for the normalization of right-wing attitudes identified in the report are the growth of the AfD’s success, the Corona protest movements, and the local spread of right-wing extremists through the purchase of real estate, especially in many places in East Germany. nd

News from Berlin and Germany, 29th November 2023

Weekly news round-up from Berlin and Germany



Thousands in Berlin protest against the war drive

Despite the cold weather, thousands of people from all over Germany gathered at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin last Saturday to demonstrate in favour of disarmament and a ceasefire in Ukraine and the Middle East. The actual number of participants lies between the police’s estimate of 10,000 participants, and that of the demo organisers, of more than 20,000 demonstrators. People who already took part in the “Uprising for Peace” demonstration exactly nine months ago in February estimated this time that there would be significantly fewer people. On the previous demonstration, some attention focused on Sahra Wagenknecht, who was still a member of the Left Party at the time. Source: nd-aktuell

Warning strike at Berlin daycare centres

Once again on Tuesday, childcare workers and teachers are striking for more money and better working conditions. The trade unions ver.di and GEW are once again calling on employees of daycare centres to go on a warning strike. The background to this is the current wage dispute in the public sector of the federal states. No agreement has been reached in two rounds of negotiations. Negotiations are taking place nationwide, with the next round scheduled for 7 and 8 December in Potsdam. The trade unions have repeatedly drawn attention to their demands with warning strikes in Berlin in recent weeks. Source: tagesspiel

The Berlin stadium and its heritage

Some call the ensemble around the stadium the best-preserved Nazi artwork to date, while others speak of a “dark heritage”. Very little being actually contextualised. Instead, below the bell tower in the Langemarckhalle, you will find Hölderlin’s sacrificial motto in stone put there by the Nazis: “Live above, O Fatherland / and do not count the dead / Not one too many has fallen for you, dear one”. Those do not seem to be the best conditions for a Berlin Olympic bid. But that is what the black-red Senate in Berlin has done. On 14 November, the CDU and SPD signed a “Memorandum of Understanding” making a bid to host the Olympics. Source: taz



The rights of the Palestinians

The Saarland Museum cancelled an exhibition by Candice Breitz with a video installation about prostitution, planned for spring 2024. The South African-born Jewish Breitz has recently advocated for the rights of Palestinians. Together with other Jews and Israelis, she organised a rally in Berlin on 10 November under the title of the cancelled conference “We still need to talk” for a ceasefire in the Middle East, the release of the hostages and freedom of expression in Germany. “We are the descendants of Esther Bejarano,” the South African referred to the Holocaust survivor and anti-fascist who died in 2021. Source: jungewelt

Peng! Collective Protest gegen Amazon

The German artist-activists Peng! Collective greeted the shopping frenzy of Black Friday Week with a campaign aimed at Amazon. Delivery companies in Germany like Hermes and FedEx as well as Amazon use subcontractors who often subcontract even smaller companies. Some of these operations, according to Rory Linton, spokesman for German union ver.di, are so small that they only employ two or three people and only exist for a short time. “They know they can’t fulfill the contracts if they have correct health and safety and pay a decent wage, so the big companies get rid of the responsibility,” he said. Source: dw

GDL move to strike again on the railway

The train drivers’ union GDL had cancelled the collective bargaining talks with Deutsche Bahn. This was announced by GDL boss Claus Weselsky last Friday. The reason for the cancellation of the negotiations was that the employers’ side did not want to negotiate in areas important to the GDL, he said. There was “no discernible will to negotiate” on the part of the railway, so further negotiations were “pointless”. In addition to the reduction in working hours, the GDL is also demanding an increase of 555 euros per month and an inflation compensation bonus for employees. Source: rbb

Number of major insolvencies at record level

According to a study by the credit insurer Allianz Trade, there are more and more major insolvencies in the German economy. “Major insolvencies have returned this year and are on course to reach their 2020 peak,” says Allianz Trade insolvency expert Maxime Lemerle. Allianz Trade defines major insolvencies as bankruptcies of companies with an annual turnover of at least 50 million euros. Allianz Trade study still points out the construction industry recorded the most insolvencies across all company sizes to date, followed by retail and companies in the service sector. Source: tagesschau

Wissing holds car manufacturers to account

Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) believes the industry has a duty to expand electromobility. Wissing also pointed out that politicians are working intensively on more progress in e-mobility and are pushing ahead with the expansion of the charging infrastructure. “There are currently around 100,000 publicly accessible charging points in operation in Germany. That’s twice as many as two years ago,” he said. The total charging capacity available has also risen from two to 4.3 gigawatts. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) wants to discuss the expansion of electromobility with the automotive industry this week at the “car summit” in the Federal Chancellery, too. Source: tagesschau

News from Berlin and Germany, 22nd November 2023

Weekly news round-up from Berlin and Germany



Thousands of people demonstrate against the war in Gaza

A pro-Palestinian demonstration marched from Invalidenpark in Berlin towards the Tiergarten district last Saturday. The number of registered participants was 10,000, while the police spoke of around 4,000 demonstrators. At the start of the rally many people shouted: “Freedom for Gaza” and “Freedom for Palestine”. The protest was announced as a silent march, however – no slogans were to be shouted for 15 minutes around 4 pm out of respect for the victims in Gaza. The police also had issued conditions in advance, read out by a demonstration leader. Among other things, no flags or other objects were to be burnt. Source: rbb24

Olympia ’36: when German megalomania craves renewal

The 2036 Olympics in Berlin are being seriously discussed. But… a new Olympic bid from Berlin? The discussion has been going on for years. When the Greens and, above all, the Left Party were in government in the German capital, this was more difficult to implement. However, arguments about a “green Olympics” show the extent to which history has been forgotten. The discussion also highlights the Eurocentric worldview behind some campaigns against the Olympics or football World Cups organized in countries of the Global South. Source: telepolis

Berlin Senate agrees on Tempelhofer Feld law

After weeks of dispute, the black-red Senate in Berlin has agreed to amend the Tempelhofer Feld Act. As Senate spokeswoman Christine Richter confirmed, the “Refugee Task Force” headed by Governing Mayor Kai Wegner (CDU) was able to seal the agreement on Tuesday. Environment Senator Manja Schreiner (CDU) will now introduce a new bill, which the Senate is expected to pass in a week’s time. The number of temporary refugee accommodations on Coumbiadamm will be increased, but the use of an area to the southwest of the airport building on Tempelhofer Damm is now off the table. The CDU particularly wanted to build social meeting places for refugees there. Source: rbb24


Höcke top AfD candidate in Thuringia

Björn Höcke will lead the Thuringian AfD into the 2024 state election campaign as its top candidate. The 51-year-old Höcke was elected first on the list with 187 votes in favour, 26 against, and two abstentions at a meeting in Pfiffelbach near Weimar. There were no opposing candidates. The entire list still has to be voted on as a package at the meeting, which will last several days. Höcke, who is the state party and parliamentary group leader in Thuringia, reiterated his goal of participating in government. The AfD wants to “pose the question of power” in the state elections. Source: junge Welt

Outrage after a Taliban speaks at German mosque

German politicians demanded answers after the head of Afghanistan’s food and drug body spoke in Cologne. Abdul Bari Omar was previously in the Netherlands for a World Health Organization (WHO) event. The event in the German city was held by an Afghan cultural association at the Chorweiler Mosque, whose umbrella organization, DITIB, sharply criticized the incident. The Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) also objected, affirming that “nobody is allowed to offer radical Islamists a stage in Germany.” “We protect many refugees from Afghanistan from the oppression of the Taliban,” she added. Source: dw

The Left Party: ready for the European election campaign

The Left Party is entering the European election campaign with party leader Martin Schirdewan and former sea rescuer Carola Rackete as its top duo. A party conference in Augsburg confirmed both with a large majority. They are running in a team with the trade unionist Özlem Demirel and the public assistance doctor Gerhard Trabert. The party’s European election programme focuses on asylum, climate protection, redistribution and disarmament. “Die Linke” is hoping for a fresh start after the break with Sahra Wagenknecht’s wing. The European elections will take place in Germany on 9 June 2024. Source: SZ

Top protestant church official resigns

Theologian Annette Kurschus, the head of Germany’s largest national protestant church federation (EKD), abruptly resigned both from her national post and as the most senior cleric for the region of Westphalia. She declared that recent reports of her knowing about alleged sexual abuse by a church employee years ago, in Siegen, were unfounded. Kurschus said the issue had nonetheless led to her decision to resign. She mentioned that the decision was a difficult one, affirming that the loss of public trust meant she could no longer help in the church’s work dealing with historical cases of sexual abuse. Source: dw

News from Berlin and Germany, 15th November 2023

Weekly news round-up from Berlin and Germany



Israeli filmmaker attacked during Star of David action

A 37-year-old Israeli man who wanted to distribute Star of David stickers was attacked and threatened outside a grocery shop in Berlin-Charlottenburg last Saturday. He was not injured, but the lens of his camera was broken, according to a police spokeswoman. The attacker was an employee of the shop. Criminal proceedings have been initiated against him for threatening behaviour and damage to property. The 59-year-old got angry about the sticker campaign and said: “Not here!”. An argument then developed in front of the shop. According to rbb information, the person attacked was the Israeli filmmaker Gilad Sade. Source: rbb

“KulturLeben Berlin” against massive funding cuts

The association “KulturLeben Berlin – Schlüssel zur Kultur” is a placement centre for the Federal Voluntary Service (BFD) and has been providing unsold cultural places free of charge to people on low incomes for 13 years and is actively committed to cultural participation and social inclusion. In 2024, there is to be a 25 per cent cut to funding of the BFD, increasing in 2025 to 36 per cent. This organisation is appealing for these funding cuts to be scrapped. Through the BFD, KulturLeben Berlin can, for example, integrate refugees into the organisation’s work and give them the opportunity to actively contribute their own profession. Source: kobinet

Why does Berlin keep trying to build housing on Tempelhofer Feld?

Tempelhofer Feld is quite a unique public space. An old airport, it currently offers Berlin’s a place for relaxing and gathering. So why do politicians try to build on this beloved open space every few years? This time around it is the ruling CDU and SPD coalition claiming this will solve the city’s housing crisis. Despite the 2014 public referendum which came out against any development, the argument about building is back. One question, is that if the point is that the Feld offers space, then why not focus on Tiergarten, Berlin’s biggest park, or the massive Grunewald? Both of these parks fall in SPD and CDU majority areas. Source: exberliner



On the streets at pro-Palestine demonstrations

Since the outbreak of the Gaza-Israel war following the attacks on 7 October, pro-Palestinian groups have repeatedly called for protests around the world. Last Saturday, too, there were widespread expressions of solidarity at home and abroad, but overall they were peaceful. In Germany, according to the police, around 2,500 people gathered for a rally in Munich. The demonstration began at Odeonsplatz and was initially largely peaceful, according to a police spokesperson. Around 200 officers were deployed. Thousands of people also gathered in Berlin for pro-Palestinian demonstrations. Police counted around 2,600 people before the start of the protest movement, which began at Oranienplatz. Source: spiegel

Germany remembers Nazi 1938 pogroms amid renewed fears

On the 85th anniversary of the Nazi November Pogroms against Germany’s Jews, the leader of the country’s Jewish community, Josef Schuster, said old anxieties were being revived and underlined the need for Jews in the country to be able to live freely and without fear. He acknowledged Germany was committed to protecting Jewish life in stark contrast to the Nazi era. His speech was part of a memorial event in the Beth Zion Synagogue in central Berlin. Among the guests present at the event were the German head of state, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Source: dw

No fears for a German cold winter

A study commissioned by the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW) shows that 64% of Germans believe they will get through the winter without any major issues. Only 4% were indecisive. “Thanks to the good cooperation between the energy industry and politicians on the issue of supply security over the past year-and-a-half, we can now be relatively optimistic about the supply situation this winter,” said BDEW managing director Kerstin Andreae. Summing up, if Germany does run low on gas this winter, it won’t be until February. But for that to happen, several other things will have to happen simultaneously such a particularly cold winter, among other conditions. Source: dw

Germany doubles military aid for Ukraine

The German government is doubling its military aid for the Ukraine. ARD reported that the coalition of the two parties in the government had agreed to increase support from four to eight billion euros. The budget committee will vote on the increase in the so-called reinforcement aid for Ukraine next Thursday, so changes could potentially still be made. With the planned increase in aid for Ukraine, defence spending would then amount to 2.1 percent of gross domestic product. The declared goal of the NATO countries is to spend at least two percent of their gross domestic product on defence annually. Source: tagesschau

News from Berlin and Germany, 8th November 2023

Weekly news round-up from Berlin and Germany



Thousands take part in demonstration in Berlin

A pro-Palestinian demonstration marched through Berlin-Mitte last Saturday afternoon. More than 8,500 people took part in the protest. The march was “mostly peaceful”, police spokeswoman Anja Dierschke told the rbb.  The demonstration was loud, but the atmosphere was not heated. According to the authorities, around 1,400 police officers were on duty throughout the day in connection with the Middle East conflict. Contrary to the demands of the police union, there was no support from other federal states. Since the 7th of October, there have been repeated rallies in the capital. According to the police, a total of 45 pro-Palestinian demonstrations have been registered, 20 of which have been banned. Source: tagesschau


No street for Kurt Goldstein in Dortmund?

Anyone who is no longer very young might remember Kurt Julius Goldstein, tirelessly active against Nazis. Goldstein was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit. He was surprised at the time, as a “German, Jew and communist” would not usually be honoured, he said. Now, 16 years after his death, commemorating him is controversial. In Dortmund, his hometown, a tiny new street is planned to be named after him. The naming should have been decided last week, but it was pointed out that Goldstein had “also held high offices in the SED regime in the GDR,” a revelation that apparently led the CDU to reconsider and postpone the decision. Source: nd-aktuell

German voters see antisemitism on the rise

Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck (Greens) caused a stir when he posted a video with a speech in which he warned of growing antisemitism in the country — among Islamists, right-wing extremists, but also “in parts of the political left.” Habeck stressed that criticism of Israel’s policies is permitted in Germany, as is standing up for the rights of Palestinians. However, “antisemitism should not be tolerated in any form — none whatsoever.” The politician seems to have hit a nerve: the pollster infratest dimap recently conducted a survey among eligible voters and found out that 52% of respondents believe there has been a rise in antisemitism. Source: dw

Warning strikes announced in the state-level public sector

Due to the wage dispute in the public sector, state employees will be called out on warning strikes and protest actions in the coming days and weeks. This was announced by the ver.di trade union last Friday. Schools, university hospitals, the police, and the administration of justice will be affected. For Berlin, Hamburg, and Bremen, unions are demanding a monthly state allowance of 300 euros. The demands thus tie in with the wage agreement reached in April of this year for the federal government and local authorities. The unions demand 10.5% higher income, but with a minimum increase of 500 euros. Source: rbb24

Germany set to tackle refugee issues

Germany is reexamining its refugee policy, and Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) is under pressure to make changes. So far in the current year, more than 200,000 migrants have made their initial applications for asylum. In October, 600 of Germany’s 11,000 municipalities took part in a survey conducted by Mediendienst Integration together with migration researchers from the University of Hildesheim. Among the outcomes, almost 60% of them described the situation as “challenging, but still feasible.” But 40% percent report being “overloaded” or even said they were “in emergency mode.” The lack of accommodation is just one factor, together with a shortage of administrative staff and related infrastructure. Source: dw

Super-rich, please pay!

The SPD wants to create one million new jobs by 2030 with a large-scale climate-neutral reorganisation of the economy. In a key motion adopted on Monday for the upcoming federal party conference, the party’s executive committee proposes a state “Germany Fund” that would activate private capital and create an annual investment volume of 100 billion euros. “We have presented a comprehensive plan for the modernisation of Germany,” said party leader Lars Klingbeil. The SPD wants to reform income tax, inheritance tax, and gift tax, as well as the debt brake. The super-rich should also pay additional taxes. The Left Party criticised the proposal as an election campaign tactic. Source: taz

Germany agrees cuts for energy transition, NGOs fear lower standards

With a wide range of measures to cut red tape and ease licensing procedures, Germany wants to speed up investments in and construction of renewable power installations, among others. Following a meeting with all 16 state premiers, Chancellor Olaf Scholz hailed the agreement on a “Pact for Germany” as a landmark achievement. He also said Germany could no longer afford such a bureaucratic approach if it wanted to get infrastructure projects done faster. However, environmental groups are concerned the compromise could ultimately undermine environmental protection by reducing citizens’ abilities to participate and shrinking the room for legal intervention by conservationists. Source: cleanenergywire