#103: Labour shortage, FEMEN v. Scholz, Rio Reiser
An east Berlin beach excludes non-local bathers.
Dear 20 Percent,
A Tagesspiegel reader from Schöneberg (in the city’s west) reports that her and her handicapped son were turned away from Strandbad Grünau, a lakeshore beach, after staff asked for their postal code. They were told the facility was for “East Berliners only”. According to the newspaper, a family from Hamburg and hopeful bathers from other parts of Berlin, including people who were visibly of immigrant origins, received the same treatment.
I don’t want to compare apples with oranges, and maybe it’s unfair to even mention this in the same breath but this disturbing little piece of news, coming almost exactly 30 years after the massive racist riots in Rostock-Lichtenhagen (in another region of the former East) doesn’t inspire confidence that this part of the country is really evolving into a tolerant place.
The provincial, exclusionary mentality reported in Grünau is the East’s ugly history rearing its head one more time. One of countless daily experiences that add to the allround impression that you simply can’t count on getting friendly treatment out there — the kind that leads plenty of Berliners to never venture beyond the S-Bahn ring and spend their precious vacation time in other parts of the world. Even though most people I’ve encountered in the former East are friendly and open, some there still seem quick to reject the new or the foreign.
In case you’re interested, DW has an English documentary on the 1992 Lichtenhagen attack on buildings housing immigrants, which took about a week for the police to get under control and became a precedent for further racist violence during the 1990s.
More news below.
The Berlin corona stats for Tuesday, August 23
Received booster: 63.1% (63% Friday)
New cases in one day: 1,203 (1,105 Friday)
Total deaths: 4,742 (+3 over Friday)
🔴 7-day Covid-19 incidence (cases per 100,000): 173.2 (233.4 Friday)
🔴7-day hospitalization incidence (also per 100,000): 15.1 (16.3 Friday)
🟡 Covid-19 ICU patient occupancy: 5.0% (5.1% Friday)
Source: Berlin’s corona page
FEMEN disrupt Scholz
Two topless women interrupted an appearance by Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) during the government’s open house on Sunday. They threw monopoly money up in the air, shouted “No money for Russian gas!” and “Stop financing the war!” The duo, who belong to the activist group FEMEN, had painted “GAS EMBARGO NOW” across their bare chests, a blunt indictment of Germany’s continued dependence on Russian energy, half a year into Putin’s Ukraine invasion. The chancellor had been in the middle of a Q&A session with citizens. Scholz remained Scholz-calm and continued his talk once security forcefully removed the women.
Back to school
This weekend, you probably saw a lot of six-year-olds proudly carrying cardboard cones half their body weight stuffed with candy and stationery. The cones, or Schultüten, are part of one of Germany’s more endearing traditions: die Einschulung, half ceremony, half party for new first graders and their families on the school grounds the weekend before the first day of term, which was Monday in both Berlin and Brandenburg. A record 380,000 kids are attending Berlin schools this year, acccording to Tagesspiegel, but the city is still grappling with a shortage of hundreds of teachers.
Heinrichplatz is now Rio-Reiser-Platz
Rio who? Any self-respecting Kreuzberger should probably know about Rio Reiser, the frontman of Ton Steine Scherben, a West Berlin proto-punk band with a cult following in the 1970s and 1980s. The 1970 song Macht kaputt was euch kaputt macht (“Break what is breaking you”) — the video has some great Berlin footage — gives you a good idea what they’re about. Reiser, a rare example of an openly gay musician at the time, was an early supporter of the Green Party, back when they were radicals. He died on August 20, 1996. On Sunday, Kreuzbergers celebrated the renaming of Heinrichplatz (named after a brother of Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III) as Rio-Reiser-Platz. Appropriately, the square is right on Oranienstraße, ground zero of the radical old Kreuzberg SO36 of lore.
Our kids need school supplies too, so feel free to donate to us on our Patreon! Also school lunch is more expensive this year.
Massive labour shortage looms
The Berlin Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK) predicts that the city’s economy will suffer a shortfall of 414,000 qualified workers by 2035, four times as many as today. Already now there is a shortage of every kind of worker, from apprenctices to tradespeople, from university graduates to technical specialists. The IHK blames the Berlin education system for failing to prepare enough young people for the job market, but a big part of the problem is demographics: boomers are beginning to retire en masse, leaving a giant void in the workforce. According to Berliner Zeitung, IHK Berlin president Sebastian Stietzel says better language instruction is needed to get more refugees and other immigrants into training and employment.
Save the date!
Andrew’s not a fan, so I’m going to sneak this one into today’s newsletter: Saturday is the Long Night of Museums — the annual event where one ticket gets you into nearly every museum in town. There’s an exhaustive programme of events in various languages, from dance performances to DJ sets to movies. Times: 3pm-3am. Tickets: €18/€12(concessions). All the info.
The Schultüten, or gift cones, kids get on their first day of school even varied between the former East and West Germanys: They were traditionally round in the West (see above) but were hexagons in the East. Nowadays it’s mal so, mal so (a little of this, a little of that).
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You are right. Equating the beach controls in Grünau with the racist riots in Rostock 30 years ago is like comparing apples and oranges. And your instinct was right again; it is unfair. So why do you go ahead and make a direct comparison, only to come up with a preposterous and irresponsible conclusion? When was the last time you were in Rostock? At the beach in Grünau? If you have personally had xenophobic experiences in eastern Germany, go ahead and report them. But here you have no idea of what you are talking about.