New Berlin: Refugee Camp Oranienplatz

At the beginning of the refugee crisis, Kreuzberg was already fighting for its new citizens to stay.
9 Apr ’14 by Sara Community, Street Life

When I stepped out of my door last evening, a flying rock missed my face only by inches. I looked around the corner to see hooded ANTIFA rioting on Reichenberger Straße. At first I thought I had missed the 1st of May. I finally summed up the moxy to go and see what was happening and asked a passerby.

“The Antifa is protesting the demolition of the refugee camp on Oranienplatz. The protests were peaceful at first, but when the cops came, some of them started behaving aggressively.”

There were about two or three dozen rioters and about six hundred police men. The relations were ridiculous. There was a lot of tension, and I was lucky to quickly pass the danger-zone. I looked back and realized that I didn’t even know where the refugees were going next.

I read in the papers this morning that the refugees left voluntarily. These were the conditions the Senate put up for the talks to continue. Some of the refugees are in proper accommodations now, others in a former hostel. The refugees were promised a chance of an individual examination of their immigration status.

I wonder why the Senate was so desperate in its attempt to close down the camp. Is it an eyesore for the city to have the obvious wrong-doings of our state put on display publicly? Or was it  a matter of responsibility? What was the idea behind the camp, what is the legitimation of shutting it down? Where will all those people be in a couple of months; back where they fled from or in a safe home in Germany, possibly even Berlin?

It’s been more than a year since the refugee camp was put in place by the demonstrators. They might be better off – around 500 people mind you – but nothing is going to change for the rest of the refugees who run ashore in Germany or Europe in general, or so it seems.

The picture I took a couple of weeks ago symbolizes in a very literal way what kind of place Berlin is. Always loaded with hopes and dreams. There are so many traded legends and myths about how these dreams came true in an unrestrictive environment that could only be found right here, but it seems today they’re only reproduced, stripped away from any meaning. I hope the refugees who came to find “New Berlin” will not be disappointed. I hope they will find a new home here, and all of those who follow, too. But something tells me that the re-location of the refugees, out of sight from the good middle-class Berliners, is just another step towards a bleaker life in a clean, tidy city, in which protests become integral parts of the event society and cultural art world and not tools of political and societal change.

array(6) { [0]=> int(43) [1]=> int(116) [2]=> int(359) [3]=> int(412) [4]=> int(1225) [5]=> int(1633) } array(2) { [1]=> int(116) [5]=> int(1633) } array(1) { [0]=> int(43) }
array(6) { [0]=> int(43) [1]=> int(116) [2]=> int(359) [3]=> int(412) [4]=> int(1225) [5]=> int(1633) } array(3) { [1]=> int(116) [2]=> int(359) [3]=> int(412) } array(2) { [1]=> int(116) [5]=> int(1633) }

Seven comments

  1. Complicated topic, but for me as a Berlin citizen I have to say that I’m in favor of removing the camp. I’m fully aware of the bad situation for refugees and I vote only for parties trying to solve this problem. But having a Favela-like space in a city is not something I like to accept. I’m pretty sure this opinion is shared by the majority of people living in Berlin. Don’t forget, people have to live in this city, too.

  2. Thank you for your input, Sebastian. I do agree with you: this is no solution. But it was intended to raise awareness of the problem, a problem that should be solved politically and not ignored. Now, with the removal of the camp, they’re pleasing the citizens but effectively they changed NOTHING about the situation. This is why I find it so sad that they removed the camp. The protesters didn’t even get what they wanted, a change. Nobody cares anymore. And once all the leftovers are removed, nobody will remember either.

  3. The protesters have occupied an open space that belongs to everybody in Berlin. It’s a public parc area used by all kind of people living in Kreuzberg. The are was unusable for nearly two years. Do you really find it acceptable that a small minority terrorizes the majoritiy in a city? That happens far too often in Berlin. And yes: It’s about the freedom of everybody. Removing the camp is a liberation for us Berliners living there. If you are so concerned about the refugees (which I don’t blame for what they did, it’s the failure of Berlin authorities) you are always free to welcome some of them in your home.

    Publishing this comment is a proof of freedom of speech on this page.

  4. No, I don’t find it acceptable. But I also don’t find the political situation acceptable. This is not an individual problem, it’s a general problem that needs attention. Do you think the people had fun camping all winter? Did they enjoy staying in a public space, vulnerable like that? I doubt it.

    But that’s what a protest usually is: it’s uncomfortable, it needs sacrifices. If I invite a refugee into my home, then what did I change about the political status of refugees in Germany? Nothing. But if people get worked up about a public space being used like that, it might bring the discussion forward.

    So think about that for a moment before you think about your public space being “liberated”. Liberated from what? From the protest aiming to make a better place of this country?

    That said, I KNOW the process is complicated. I’m not saying the solution is right at hand. It’s not. There is no quick way to resolve this or the Asylstatus in Germany. But it’s better to show the open wounds than to hide the bodies where nobody can find them.

    Or let me sum it up in a less diplomatic way: fuck your public space if it can’t be used to publicly display what’s wrong with this country.

  5. You contradict yourself in your answer: first you say that you don’t find it acceptable, that a minority terrorises the majority, then at the end of your comment, you tell this majoritiy to just “fuck off”. Excuse my french, but you have a quite immature an naive approach to this problem.

    Letting people in your home will change exactly what those people need: a home. So you could make a difference. But of yourse you won’t: It’s much more comfortable to call the “state” or government for help instead of yourself changing something. Helping the refugees: yes, do it government, but hey don’t involve me. To your rhetorical question: “Do you think the people had fun camping in winter” let me answer with another rethorical question: Do you think the Anwohner found it cool not beeing able using their place for two years? all the women with babies, hm? all the elderly turkish women sitting on those benches? see how idiotic such a question is?

  6. You’re twisting my words. I don’t find it acceptable because the political situation isn’t acceptable, that doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary to point out where the problems lie.

    As for helping individually, sure, I can take one refugee into my home. But the point of a protest is to change societal/political issues. World hunger doesn’t end if I send one person food for the rest of their lives.

    I am not being comfortable by not doing anything, but I can’t change the system by providing housing for one person. I hope you understand the point of view this whole ordeal entails. This is what public protests and demonstrations are for.

    As for the Turkish women and the babies that need their Oranienplatz: sure. Let them have it. They need it more than a “redundant political protest”. I am not going to keep this conversation going, you are well entitled to your opinion, so am I.

  7. Hi Sara,

    yes, it is very sad that nobody cares about this obvious problem. We are one of the richest countries in the world and instead of welcoming foreigners and integrating them, we do everything we can to piss them off and often forcing them into criminal careers.

    On the other hand, if this kind of protest had no lasting effect in two years as you said, I would call it ineffective. There is no point in continuing it.

    I don’t know how to create more awareness for this problem as German citizens usually don’t care that much about problems of foreigners. This is a sad trueth as people usually ignore what doesn’t affect them.

    I know I don’t have any solution for it, but at least wanted to share the perspective of someone living here.