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Squatters: Waypoint of decline (neue-deutschland.de)

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Squatters: Waypoint of decline (neue-deutschland.de)

East Berlin at its best: occupied house at Kastanienallee 86 in Prenzlauer Berg, late May 1990

Photo: imago images / Detlev Konnerth

“Many of the images that I have in my head today are more media images,” says Andrej Holm. In retrospect, one thing is beyond question for the Berlin sociologist of the city: »After the CDU victory in the Volkskammer election on March 18, I perceived the introduction of the western currency as another milestone in the decline, as a symbol for the coming takeover and the end the just gained independence. «The pictures of euphorized masses, which held like crazy D-Mark notes in the television cameras on July 1, 1990, triggered one thing above all at the then 19-year-old East Berlin antifascist: a» form of foreign shame «.

“What scared me most of all was that from one day to the next, all Eastern products simply disappeared from the shops,” recalls Freke Over, who was 22 at the time and had just moved to Berlin from West Germany at that time and belonged to that time to the squatters on Mainzer Strasse in Friedrichshain. And they made a virtue of necessity. »Before July 1st, we collected all the available Ostgeld and invested in Pilsener in Berlin.«

A part of the countless beer crates thus acquired for a manageable GDR mark amount was then resold in the kiosk in Overzer and operated by Mainzer Strasse for hard western money. »It was a good deal and well calculated. If you take it seriously, our squatters have thrived with the monetary union. «

In the summer of 1990 there were almost 130 squats in East Berlin, most of them in Friedrichshain. Mainzer Straße, which is almost completely occupied from the end of April, has been firmly in the hands of western autonomists such as Over from the start. A nuisance for the East Berlin SPD-CDU magistrate. “It cannot be that East Berlin becomes a mecca for pseudo-leftists and other desperados,” the city councilor of the city council, Thomas Krüger of the SPD, was outraged. East Berlin is considered “the most easily occupied city in Europe”.

“Basically, we were out every day that summer and looked around for vacant apartments,” says Andrej Holm, who was still living with his parents in Hohenschönhausen at the time. With friends from the large housing estate, Holm moves through the city center, especially through Prenzlauer Berg. To celebrate on roofs and to finally find your own apartment.

Renting apartments is not an option – but the subsequent semi-leveling of “silent” apartment occupations, which was not unusual in the east of the city, is just as little. »Many of the houses were completely empty and there were no neighbors at all who we could have asked for the employee responsible for the municipal housing administration.«

Today, Holm says of the “Desperados” from the West that he was “just curious about the West Berlin political scene in the beginning”. »But at some point I registered strange rituals and behaviors towards us East Germans, which I felt as overwhelmingly as the general political context.«

“The Ostler thought we were very arrogant, and maybe we were,” says Freke Over. “But we also did not understand this gentle way of the many occupiers of the East, this way of dealing with the people’s police.” That one could talk to overwhelmed Eastern policemen, that even “security partnerships” could be set up to protect against the numerous everyday neo-Nazi attacks – “that was a difficult approach for us «.

In fact, there was by no means a lot of sunshine internally in the squatter scene. The trench, however, was not only between East and West radicals. Origins and socialization or not: The business acumen of the punk comrades was a thorn in the side for many. Years later the magazine “telegraph”, which emerged from the radical left-wing opposition of the GDR, complained about “decadence, greed for money and arrogance”. This was evident from the squat bars, cafes and kiosks stocked with furniture from bulky waste – and specifically at the local beer prices. Shamelessly overpriced, the »telegraph« said: »The prices for a 0.33 liter beer were generally set at 1.50 M, later quickly at 2.00 M and just before the currency union again at 3.00 M the fun stops at the beer price.

It was soon over with funny. “Reunification in early October was the end of the summer of anarchy,” says Over. A month later – the People’s Police are history – Mainzer Strasse is brutally cleared. Other occupations have since been legalized, while others have been tolerated. However, many of these are also cleared by the end of the 1990s. What remains is a brand that can also be used commercially, which in part still shapes the club culture to this day: Berlin remains dirty.

“The absence of economic exploitation interests and government planning proved to be a favorable prerequisite for the establishment of subcultures,” says Holm. The mechanisms from the time of the monetary union would extend to the present. »A board club can hold parties on a wasteland until it becomes interesting for the real estate industry or the state.«

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