Discover more from 20 Percent Berlin
#221: Stasi murder, car sharing fraud, more bike path drama
Show of hands: Who misses Knut?
Hey 20 Percent!
I have to admit something to you: I never used to mind the Ausländerbehörde. When people would complain about it I sometimes wondered if we had to visit two different offices — didn’t theirs have maitre d’s and complementary champagne too? I kid. But it was never unpleasant for me.
Five years ago I easily got an appointment just to ask a question about what documents I would need for my visa but when I arrived the woman behind the desk had everything ready and just asked me for a signature. Presto — fresh visa.
But that all changed last year. After struggling to get an appointment, the visit itself was adversarial and uncomfortable. No more free champagne. Not only the name had changed at the Ausländerbehörde (now officially the Landesamt für Einwanderung).
This morning I started thinking — for as much as Germans love bureaucracy, you’d think they’d be much better at it. If they were more efficient, they could do even more and we probably wouldn’t mind. We’d send even more faxes, smile when we got mailed responses to e-mailed questions and gladly take a number in stuffy waiting rooms — if the processes just worked. If the bureaucracies were just bureaucracies and not just tiresome brick walls.
Have a good weekend.
PS: We’re the official media partner for Podfest Berlin 2023 this weekend and as such you can get 23% off any of the various tickets by using the code 23%for20%! There’s lots to see, listen and learn this weekend. I’m on the panel at a recording of Radio Spätkauf Sunday a.m. I’ll also include a link to the episode when it’s out!
Car-sharing not sharing parking info
While we might intentionally forget to scan an item or two at the self-checkout, prosecutors suspect the two top executives at carsharing company MILES have been doctoring GPS locations for its cars to lower its parking bill for years. Investigators Wednesday searched company offices in Berlin, the state of North-Rhine Westphalia and Vienna as well as the homes of the two unnamed top execs. They’re accused of avoiding up to €30 million in parking fees by manipulating the locations of the cars — the locations are transmitted automatically to calculate fees. CEO Oliver Mackprang has railed against parking fees for years saying his cars pay up to €200 per month to rest on Berlin streets while a residential parking permit costs just about €20 for two years — and he’s right, it’s much too inexpensive to store your car on public streets here. Let’s hope this isn’t the end of MILES — I smirk every time they’re rebranded as MILFS by vandals.
Unplanning bike paths a costly idea
The race to axe planned bike paths in Berlin after our new center-right coalition took office earlier this year will cost either the district of Reinickendorf or the Berlin government. Reinickendorf halted the opening of a brand new bike path on Ollenauerstraße in June, sparking environmentalist group Deutsche Umwelthilfe to sue to get it opened — officials then relented and opened the path before a court could rule. But a judge said either the city-state or Reinickendorf have to reimburse DUH for its €2,500 in legal costs, according to Tagesspiegel (paywall). Despite their initial conservative euphoria in halting the path, both now say it wasn’t their idea after all.
Ex-Stasi shooter charged
Berlin prosecutors Thursday charged a former member of the East German secret police, the Stasi, with a murder committed in 1974, when he is thought to have shot a Polish man crossing into West Berlin, according to RBB24. The then-38-year-old victim had carried what looked like a bomb into the Polish embassy in East Berlin, demanding passage to West Berlin. Officials agreed to his demands but as he crossed at Friedrichstraße, the 31-year-old suspect was ordered to open fire, shooting the man once in the back. It’s unclear if a court will allow the case to proceed — investigators had been searching Stasi archives for years to discover the shooter’s identity. The last trials for former border guards were held in 2004, according to the broadcaster.
For about five years in whatever those years were called between 2000 and 2010, Berlin stopped being enthralled with itself and fell in love with a polar bear named Knut who had been born at the zoo. Part of Knut’s fame was due in part to his photogenic keeper and best friend, Thomas Dörflein, who was born on this day in 1963. Both Knut and Dörflein died early deaths — Knut drowned in his moat in 2011 while suffering from a weird neurological virus and Dörflein died in 2008 from a heart attack. A stuffed Knut can be seen at the Museum für Naturkunde. A stuffed Dörflein cannot.
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