Neukölln true crime story

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On our last episode we interviewed 4 Blocks writer Hanno Hackford about the fictional Arabic gangs depicted in the TV series. The show is based on real stories of gang violence. Here’s one we found in last week’s newspaper showing that fiction isn’t far from fact:

Berliner Zeitung – May 18, 2017

Beaten to death: masked attackers kill a family father. Background: a fight between two Arabic clans over €100,000 euros.

Ali O. left his three-storey house in Britz at At 7.55am. Two masked men hit him with fists and a baseball bat in the head. They struck until he lay motionless on the ground. Many witnesses saw the attack, including a child who stood close by.
The attackers fled into bushes. They must have been spying on the 43-year old, as they knew when he would be leaving the house to take his child to school.
In the neighbourhood rumours are going around about a fight between two criminal members of Arabic Großfamilien – or clans. Police will not confirm the suspicions.
It is speculated that Ali O. had given a loan of €100,000 euro to Family R., who were not prepared to pay the money back. The situation escalated. Possibly the debtors had wanted to give Ali a lesson, but not kill him. Many in Family R. now fear a deadly payback from Family O.
“I fear for my life,” said one person. “This could cause a family slaughter. Such things have happened before.”
The man who borrowed the money often caused problems for his brothers. In the past there were frequent bloody disputes between the clans, often ending in murder.
Ali. O was described as quiet and friendly man who moved to the area after separating from his wife, with whom he has three children. But he wasn’t nice to everyone. In summer, Ali. O had sprayed teargas inside a doctor’s office in Leinestraße after arguing with another patient.

Source: Berliner Zeitung

Cafe Filou Stays – Investor Renews Contract

By Joel Dullroy, Radio Spaetkauf

Kreuzberg bakery Cafe Filou has been spared from eviction after the property’s owner agreed to renew the contract. British investor Charles Skinner told Radio Spaetkauf he had experienced a change of heart following talks with retiring Green party politician Hans-Christian Ströbele.

“In the end we saw reason, Mr. Skinner said. “A lot of mistakes have been made along the way, not just by us but from them, from everybody. I think there’s going to be a good coming together.”

Mr. Skinner said he would now work with Mr. Ströbele to create a fair commercial property contract to give business tenants an automatic renewal. While residential property leases in Berlin are well protected by law, commercial leases remain vulnerable.

“It’s not a financial thing, it’s a moral thing… I would like to design a different kind of contract for commercial properties whereby they get an automatic renewal rather than something that just goes down to zero, and people like me can just say ‘no’,” Mr. Skinner said.

Cafe Filou co-owner Nadja Wagner confirmed that they had received a verbal agreement from Mr. Skinner that the contract would be renewed. While the details are yet to be finalized, Ms. Wagner said she expected the rent to remain unchanged, and the contract to be valid for several years with extension options.

“We’re pleased with the outcome,” Ms. Wanger said. “It is only because of the support of the neighbourhood that we have been able to come so far.”

Mr. Skinner praised the role played by Clare D’Orsay, the operator of Vertikal restaurant, which sits next door to Cafe Filou on Reichenberger Straße, and is also Mr. Skinner’s tenant.

“She was relentless in getting us to keep the Cafe Filou operators,” Mr Skinner said.

Clare D’Orsay spoke on the latest Radio Spaetkauf podcast about the violence and vandalism she had experienced from misguided protesters who had targeted her business due to its proximity to Cafe Filou.

Ms. D’Orsay said she had been spat at, pushed to the ground and had her windows smashed by an organized group for being a foreigner opening a nice looking restaurant in Kreuzberg.

The 32-year old New Yorker moved to Berlin seven years ago and has run other businesses in the neighbourhood. She pointed out that Restaurant Vertikal did not displace any existing business, as the building was recently constructed on an empty corner lot.

Ms. Wagner from Cafe Filou said she hoped the attacks against Vertikal would cease, and that the restaurant would be integrated into the community.

Listen to the full Radio Spaetkauf podcast to hear more:

New Radio Spaetkauf series for RadioEins

Radio Spaetkauf RadioEins Berlin Podcast

Radio Spaetkauf is thrilled to announce the launch of a new podcast series produced together with RadioEins, Berlin’s public broadcaster. Every two weeks we’ll release a short snappy update of local Berlin news headlines. The shows will be released on the RadioEins website and iTunes channels, as well as our own feeds.

The short updates will be fast, entertaining and informative, with a mix of news headlines and our own observations. They are recorded in the RadioEins studio inside Kino Babylon in Mitte, which has great sound quality (and a fantastic green screen backdrop).

In addition, we’ll still be presenting our monthly hour-long live show, recorded at the Comedy Cafe Berlin in Neukölln. The full-length episodes will feature a full cast of hosts and guests with in-depth discussions about local Berlin news.

RadioEins is Berlin’s main public radio station, presenting a mix of current affairs, music, news and entertainment on the FM frequency 95.8, as well as online. RadioEins is part of the RBB (Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg) network.

The partnership with RadioEins comes is perfectly timed. November 2016 marks Radio Spaetkauf’s fifth anniversary. The show is now presented by a cast including Joel Dullroy, Maisie Hitchcock, Daniel Stern and Jöran Mandik.

On this first episode for RadioEins, Joel and Dan talk about how Berlin’s new “red-red-green” coalition between the SPD, Die Grünen and Die Linke plan to change the city. Their coalition talks include closing Unter den Linden to most vehicle traffic, and building several new tram lines across the city. The incoming coalition also plans to end the crackdown on marijuana in Görlitzer Park, and perhaps even introduce legal medical weed apothekes.

This first RadioEins Radio Spaetkauf short features a brand new set of jingles created by Berlin electronic duo Ducks!, made up of Lani Bagley and Craig Schuftan. You’ll be hearing more of their sounds across future episodes.

To hear more local news, and to help us celebrate both our partnership with RadioEins and our 5th anniversary, come along to the next live recording of the hour-long Radio Spaetkauf monthly show on Sunday November 20, 6pm, at the Comedy Cafe Berlin on Weserstraße, Neukölln.

Here’s the first show…

Who to vote for in Berlin?

By Joel Dullroy, Radio Spaetkauf

Berliners will go to the polls to vote for their local councils and the city-state government on Sunday September 18 2016. Who should you vote for – if you can vote? Radio Spaetkauf decodes the parties and their programmes for you:

WHO CAN VOTE?

If you’re a European Union citizen and have registered your address with the Bürgeramt, you are eligible to vote – but only at the very local level, which is called the Bezirks-Verordneten-Versammlung, or BVV or short. You should have received a letter in the mail informing you of your polling station. If you didn’t get a letter, you aren’t registered and can’t vote.

You get one vote, and you can give it to one party. Each party has lists of candidates who are given seats depending on what percentage of votes they win. There are no independents in the BVV system. These local councils decide on street-level issues. Most importantly, they can decide whether to declare an area as a “Milieuschütgebeit”, which creates extra restrictions over housing policy – which is good for renters.

Not sure who to vote for? If you’re worried about your rent going up, check if the party supports more Milieuschützgebeit and rent controls. This is the most effective thing you can do with your local vote.

WHO IS PROMISING WHAT?

Here’s a run-down on the main parties and what they stand for, in order of how they’re currently polling:

SPD
Latest poll: 22% (down from 28%).
Leader: Michael Müller.
About: In power in Berlin for the past 27 years, as major coalition partner for the past 15. Oversaw (or overlooked) the BER disaster.
For: More investment in education, free lunches at schools, and free kindergartens.
Against: Spaetkaufs opening on Sundays, legal cannabis.

CDU
Leader: Frank Henkel.
Latest poll: 18% (down from 23% at last election).
About: Have been in coalition with the SPD since 2011. Got tough on protesters, squatters and drug dealers.
For: More police, more video cameras, using police in evictions.
Against: Gay marriage, burquas, streets named after Karl Marx.

BÜNDIS 90 / DIE GRÜNEN (THE GREENS)
Latest poll: 18% (17.6% at last election).
Leaders: Ramona Pop and Antje Kapek.
About: The only party to fully back the goals of the Volksentscheid Fahrrad (bicycle referendum).
For: Spaetkaufs open on Sundays, legalizing cannabis and same-sex marriage, body-cams on police.
Against: The A100 highway through Treptow/Friedrichshain.

DIE LINKE
Latest poll: 14% (17.6% at last election).
Leaders: Klaus Lederer.
About: Were part of the ruling coalition in the 2000s with Klaus Wowereit’s SPD.
For: Tougher rent controls, free kindergartens, legalizing cannabis and same sex marriage.
Against: Spaetkaufs opening on Sundays.

AFD
Latest poll: 14% (didn’t exist at last election).
Leaders: Georg Pazderski.
About: Nationalists, xenophobes, homophobes.
For: Border controls, less migration and refugees, zero tolerance on crime.
Against: Immigrants, non-traditional families, the TV tax.

FDP
Latest poll: 5% (1.8% at last election).
Leaders: Sebastian Czaja.
About: Trying to make a come-back after being destroyed at the last election.
For: Keeping Tegel airport open, building the A100 highway, English as a second bureaucratic language.
Against: The AirBnB crackdown, most regulation and taxes, investment in social housing.

DIE PIRATEN
Latest poll: Less than 3% (8.9% at last election).
Leaders: Bruno Kramm.
About: Were very effective in asking lots of questions in parliament and documenting the BER disaster.
For: Free public internet across Berlin, pilot project for unconditional basic income, free public transport.
Against: The A100 highway, video surveillance, the BER airport company.

OTHERS TO MENTION…

  • DIE PARTEI: A joke party that occasionally makes some prescient social points. Have already booked SO36 for their victory party.
  • BERGPARTEI: Another joke party, originally formed to build a mountain in Berlin.
  • DKP: The Communist party, promising lower rents and higher wages.
  • NPD: Almost Nazis. Germany’s main far-right party, before the AFD came along.
  • BÜRGERBEWEGUNG: Another right-wing party trying to trick voters with love hearts.

STILL NOT SURE WHO TO VOTE FOR?

Try using the Wahl-O-Mat website.

SO WHO IS GOING TO WIN?

The most likely outcome is a coalition between the SPD, Die Linke and Die Grünen. The CDU wants to stay in power in coalition with the SPD, but Michael Müller has said he’d prefer to share power with the Greens. At the last election, a potential SPD/Greens coalition failed to materialise because of disputes over the A100 highway. Those still exist, but the parties seem willing to work through it this time around. But the polls are close, and almost 30% of voters have told pollsters they are undecided. It’s still anyone’s game.

LEARN MORE:

Listen to the latest episode of Radio Spaetkauf for a full analysis of the election and possible outcomes, with some graphic design critique thrown in:

Refugees build Bureaucrazy app to solve German paperwork problems

bureaucrazy

A team of Syrian refugees in Berlin is building an app to help solve the problem of German paperwork. And it’s not just for refugees – all new arrivals in Germany will benefit from the app, which they’ve called Bureacrazy.

The app will allow a user to enter data in their own language, and prints out forms in German. It also gives tips on required documents and office locations.

It’s amazing no one thought to solve this common problem before. Even more amazing is that the Bureaucrazy team had no software development background before they arrived in Germany.

The app’s creators are Ghaith Zamrik, Munzer Khatt ab, Omar Alshafai and Salim Mohammad, all from Syria. They have arrived in Berlin over the past year after fleeing the war in Syria, and have been living in camps in sports halls and hotels across the city.

As they told Radio Spaetkauf recently:

“We started learning coding here in Berlin with the REDI School of Digital Integration. The best way to learn code is to start building an application,” Ghaith said.

In order to launch Bureaucrazy by January 1, the team now needs more support from professional coders and financial backers. You can contact them through their Facebook page.

Listen to their interview on Radio Spaetkauf here.

  • By Joel Dullroy, Radio Spaetkauf

Bring a Refugee to Mobile Kino Weekender

weekender banner

Radio Spaetkauf will be recording live at the Mobile Kino Weekender on July 31. Some of our guests will be Syrian refugees who are now living in Berlin. In order to bring them to the festival, we have to cover some costs.

Can you donate €40 to help bring a refugee to the Weekender? After all, festivals should be for all Berliners!

If you can donate, please send us an e-mail to hallo@radiospaetkauf.com. We’ll get back to you with some payment details shortly.

Thanks for your support, and see you at the Weekender!

British investors behind unlawful eviction that sparked fiery demonstrations in Berlin

Rigaer Str 94
Picture by Oliver Feldhaus, Umbruch Bildarchiv

By Joel Dullroy, Radio Spaetkauf

A British investment company is behind the escalating conflict between Berlin’s former squatter community and the city’s police, resulting in illegal evictions, demonstrations and car burnings.

Tensions have flared in recent months between police and the residents of Rigaer Straße 94, a former squat in the district of Friedrichshain. The building is owned by Lafone Investments Limited, a one pound company with registered offices in London.

More than 300 police raided the property on June 22 and evicted some of the tenants, including a bar called Kadterschmeide run by a community association. They were acting on a request by Lafone Investments Limited, which sought police protection for builders hired to renovate the property.

On Wednesday July 13 a Berlin court found the eviction was unlawful. There was no official eviction order in place to justify the removal of the tenants and their property. The police had effectively participated in an illegal property invasion on behalf of a foreign investor.

The court decision followed a fiery weekend of demonstrations and retaliatory car burnings in Berlin. On Saturday July 9 an estimated 3500 people marched through Friedrichshain demanding an end to police actions against Rigaer Staße residents. Around 1800 riot police followed the demonstrators and kettled them on Warschauer Brücke with a water cannon truck positioned at one end, and used tear gas on the crowds. Some demonstrators set off flares and threw cobblestones at the police.

An official statement from the police claimed 123 officers were injured, although only one required hospitalization. The police definition of officer injury can include heat stress and reaction to tear gas. There were eleven car burning reported across Berlin on the same evening. Car burnings have long been used as an anti-gentrification tactic by the so-called autonomous scene. They have flared again in recent months in retaliation against police actions in Friedrichshain.

Opposition politicians in Berlin have critized the city’s police minister, Frank Henkel from the CDU, who ordered the crackdown on Rigaer Straße and the autonomous scene. Rather than fostering peace, Mr. Henkel and his police department now stand accused of fermenting conflict. Following the court order, Mr. Henkel now appears to have supported an unlawful eviction on behalf of the property owner.

However, the true identity of the building owner remains unclear. The property was purchased in 2014 by Lafone Investments Limited. Company registration documents state that company’s single one pound share is held by Mr. John Dewhurst, a London-based lawyer. He was also listed as the sole company director until July 8, when he removed himself from the position. His name appears in the Panama Papers as a shareholder of Platinum Investment International Corporation, a shell company registered in the British Virgin Islands. Mr. Dewhurst has told German media that he is not the real owner of the company or building, but merely acting on behalf of the anonymous owner. In Berlin, the owner is represented by Hausverwaltung Centurius, a building management company.

Although Rigaer Straße 94 is often reported to be a squat, it is in fact a normal and legally occupied residential building. The property was originally squatted in 1990, but the residents signed contracts to rent their apartments in 1992 with the then-owner, a public housing company. The building was sold to a private owner in 2000, and again in 2014 to Lafone Investments Limited. In 2015 the property’s new owner began attempting to evict the tenants, sparking the current conflicts.

For more background to the Rigaer Straße police raids, listen to Radio Spaetkauf’s February podcast on which we interview journalist John Riceberg:

No more crazy columns on U-Bahn windows

The BVG gets a fresh perspective. Pay attention to the bottom of the columns.
The BVG gets a fresh perspective. Pay attention to the bottom of the columns.

After years of aggravating Berlin artists with its twisted perspective, the BVG has finally started fixing the design of its window stickers.

Last year the BVG promised to do something about the wonky sketch of the Brandenburg Gate printed on the protective sheeting on U-Bahn windows. Finally a new sticker design is being rolled out. The feet of the crazy columns have been slightly adjusted to make more spatial sense, and the lines have been slimmed down.

This comes in response to years of complaints about the design. But annoyed graphic designers will have to wait a while longer before the old image disappears, as the BVG is only rolling it out on a replacement basis.

For now, the improved Brandenburg Gate sketch can only be seen on the doors of some of the H-model U-Bahn carriages – those are the newish long interconnected trains – not the old F-model carriages.

Want to hear more about Berlin public transport and other local topics? Listen to the Radio Spaetkauf news show here.

– By Joel Dullroy, Radio Spaetkauf

The old design with its wonky legs.
The old design with its wonky legs.

The Lonely Bike Lock Phenomenon

Six theories on why Berlin is full of abandoned bike locks.
Six theories on why Berlin is full of abandoned bike locks.

Have you ever walked down the street and noticed a locked bike chain hanging from a post? What happened to the bike? How did the bike disappear? I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about this lately, and I’ve come up with six possible theories and corresponding likelihoods:

1. Someone Cut Through the Bike
This is the first theory most people instinctively respond with. But when you think about it, it seems quite unlikely. This means that someone sawed or cut through the structure of the bicycle, thereby damaging the bike, potentially beyond repair. Theoretically you could solder a bike back together, but that seems like a lot of work for a common bike thief. And surely anyone who has the equipment to do all of this work would have a tool capable of simply cutting the lock instead, which would save all the trouble. So I’m going to rank the likelihood of this option as a “maybe.”

2. Someone Cut Through the Wheel
It’s a lot easier to replace a wheel than to cut through and re-solder a bike frame, so maybe this makes more sense. But this theory has a few flaws. First, it is quite unlikely that anyone would cut through the tube and rim of the wheel. That seems like a lot of work, and wouldn’t it cause a loud pop? They could of course cut through the spokes, that’s very easy. But both cases assume that the bike owner was stupid enough to lock their bike only to the wheel, or even stupider, only through the spokes. And again, if anyone can cut metal, they can simply cut the lock. This theory is ranked “unlikely.”

3. The Polite Lockpicker
Perhaps someone came along, jimmied open the lock somehow, and took the bike. But since the lock is still there, this implies that they also closed the lock again. What kind of bike thief would do such a thing? Wouldn’t they also take the lock, which is worth some money? Or just leave it unlocked on the ground – why do extra work? This theory only holds if you think the thief was polite enough to leave the lock for the owner to find upon their return, so the owner could presumably take the lock home with them to use again.
I rank the polite lockpicker theory as “unlikely.”

4. The Organized Cyclist’s Distributed Lock System
I’m going to credit Mr. Joshua Alas of Mobile Kino, for coming up with this creative theory. Bike locks and chains can be heavy and annoying to carry around, especially if you have one of those fancy racing bikes. Maybe there are cyclists out there who prefer to ride unhindered by the weight of a chain. And to avoid this, they distribute locks around the city at locations they frequent. So they might have a lock near their house, one near their workplace, one near their favourite bar and so on. An added bonus is that this also reserves a bike parking place at a prime location. We all know how in summer it can sometimes be hard to find a post to chain your bike to.
This theory fits with what we know about how organized Germans can be, and also about how fastidious those racing bike owners are. Anyone willing to wear shoes with clips and funny pants could be the type to establish their own network of locks around the city.
But let’s pick this theory apart. To start with, fancy bike riders rarely leave their bikes on the street at all. They usually carry them upstairs into their apartment or office. Next, if you leave a lock out, it’s going to rust and become unusable, so you would have to be constantly replacing rusty locks. You can’t have locks everywhere, so you couldn’t just stop at some random shop on your way home if you wanted. There are so many lonely locks on the streets of Berlin, so if this theory is true it means there are huge numbers of people using this distributed lock system, so you would think you would have met someone who does this, or have seen someone taking their bike but leaving their lock.
For these reasons, this theory is ranked as “highly unlikely.”

5. The Intentionally Abandoned Lock
Perhaps someone just gave up on their lock. Either it got old and they didn’t want it anymore, so they just left it out on the street, along with their old mattress, TV and fridge. Or it could be some kind of art project. Or a statement, code for underworld activity we’re not aware of, in the same way that shoes hanging from a cable indicate the proximity of a crack dealer. Maybe it’s a symbol of marriage, like those engraved locks people leave on bridges. Or maybe, it’s the nihilistic act of a saddened bike owner who, upon returning to find their bike stolen, couldn’t even be bothered to use the key in their pocket to unlock the chain and take it home. Why would you, if the lock had proven so ineffective?
Berlin is full of art projects, but if this is one it doesn’t have much artistic merit. It would also be expensive acquiring all those locks, and I haven’t seen a Facebook post by any artists requesting donations of old bike locks for their extremely subtle city-wide installation.
I think Germans are too civic minded to litter their cities with old bike chains. I don’t see any engraved notices of affection, and believe me I’ve studied quite a few of these abandoned locks in the past few weeks. The nihilistic thievery victim is a tragic poetic image, but there’s too many chains out there, and I think Germans are pragmatic enough to take the lock. So that leaves the underworld signal, which I can’t disprove but does seem to be a stretch of the imagination. As are all of these scenarios, so I rate the intentionally abandoned lock theory as “unlikely.”

There’s just one theory left to discuss. This one, unlike all the others, involves no malicious activity, no scheming, no planning. Security experts often say that the weakest link in any system is the human. Which is how I came up with the last theory:

6. The Stoner
Some blissed-out Berliner was trundling along, floating on a cloud of euphoria as they rode into the sunset toward or away from some party. And when they arrived at their destination, still grinning irrationally, they looped their bike chain around their bicycle in such a fashion that it appeared to their livid red eyes to be secured. But in fact, they failed to loop the chain through any enclosed section of their bike frame. Perhaps they just wrapped it around their seat post, or they locked it to the bar but forgot to include their bike. And off they strolled, without looking back, feeling proud of themselves that they’d managed to arrive without getting into an accident for which they have no spare cash to pay for.
Then, some opportunist walking saw a bike resting against a post with a chain draped around it or near it for decoration, and simply took it as you might pick up money on the street.
That means that every time you see a lonely lock, you know a stoner is or has been nearby. So the number of lonely locks in any given area can be considered an indication of the number of stoners. You could imagine a social mapping project where they get volunteers to geolocate lonely locks to create a infographic.
How to rate this theory? Given the propensity of Berliners to enjoy a smoke, or a drink, or a pill, I’m going to rank The Stoner theory of the Lonely Bike Lock Phenomenon as “highly likely.”

If you’ve got a theory that I haven’t thought of, please contribute to this important research project. Or even better, if you’re a victim or perpetrator of a lonely lock situation, we want to hear your personal story. Contact us by emailing to hallo@radiospaetkauf.com, or posting on our social media walls.

By Joel Dullroy

Written for the April 24 episode of Radio Spaetkauf. Listen here: