The 20s – now in color

Victory Column: Well protected

The Nazi narrative around a hundred years ago was: The state is weak and you don't have to take it seriously. Anyone who has a different opinion than that of the Nazis would be wrong and should be driven out by force. Life was good in the Nazis' little bubble. There were only problems when they encountered a reality that did not correspond to their narrative. For the book "Why I became a Nazi“We evaluated the essays of more than 500 Nazis. They had one thing in common: fear of a strong state. Whenever the police broke up their events, beat them up, or landed them in prison, their beautiful Nazi bubble shattered. The Nazis initially had big problems with the police. Only after the Nazis came to power and were able to replace police leadership did this change across the board. Other Nazis complained bitterly that everyone shunned them at work after it became clear that they were Nazis. On the other hand, they enjoyed pointless discussions with people who wanted to get them back on the right path. There was nothing nicer than people being upset with them, annoyed with them, or arguing with them. Later, when the Nazis became more powerful, they went into the clubs, student associations, the regulars' tables and just everywhere. Little by little they tried to install like-minded people there and convince others.

At the end of the Second World War, when Germany was liberated from the Nazi dictatorship with the full force of several armies, no one wanted to be a Nazi anymore. Nobody wanted to discuss it anymore. As a loser, succumbing to superior forces, no longer accepted, people preferred to stay quiet.

These basic things haven't changed much in the scene for a hundred years. The right-wingers are still happy when people get upset with them. They still think the state is weak and they still rely on violence. But today we have the police who are supposed to stand between these people and ordinary citizens. And so far we have political conditions that do not allow the right-wing parties to come to power.

That the police protect you from rights, works quite well in everyday lifewhen the police are there. But what if she is absent? And why is she absent?

Unaccompanied, illegal demonstrations

Since the beginning of the corona pandemic, right-wing extremists, right-wing extremists and right-wing activists have often been moving through Berlin together. It didn't matter whether their demonstrations were banned or not. In Berlin everyone can be blessed in their own way. Anyone who does not believe in the decisions of a court can simply ignore them. There were illegal demonstrations with more than ten thousand right-wing radicals and right-wing extremists who marched through Berlin without police escort. They beat up police officers, the press and passers-by. It was usually not possible to report the perpetrators. It was not possible to determine their identities. It was also dangerous on public transport at that time. Anyone who wore a mask was often harassed or attacked. There was no help here either.

None of this was unexpected. The exact procedure was often announced for weeks in public Telegram channels. The illegal demonstrations split several times as they made their way through the city and later reunited. The ringleaders of the individual groups are well known to all journalists - but apparently not to the police. You can only recognize these people if you are there regularly.

The ringleaders communicate using freely available radios, give directions and streets and warn about the police. So following such an elevator is trivial.

The problem for the journalists present: you are alone in the face of violent criminals. At the  August 1, 2020, at August 29, 2020, in the March 2021 and yesterday you could clearly see how the police had no control over the crowd in large parts. Yesterday too, thousands walked through the city completely unaccompanied for hours. Again they attacked a number of people, and again they could hardly be helped.

Press zones

At individual demonstrations, the police have now set up “press zones” from which it is safe to report. This simply passes the buck: Anyone who is injured outside the protected zones is, in a sense, to blame themselves. But if the police don't accompany the demonstration at all, there's no point in standing apart from the demonstration in the "press zoo". But what are the alternatives? Several inquiries to the Berlin police and the assembly authorities about what protective equipment would be permitted for journalists remained unanswered. According to the police, you can bring private bodyguards with you, but they are not allowed into the press area or through the barriers because they are not journalists themselves.

Good atmosphere at the illegal demonstration

During the illegal demonstration last Sunday, the Victory Column as the central location was well protected with special vehicles (“clearance tanks”) and water cannons. But there was hardly any police on the more than 15 km long demonstration route from the Olympic Stadium across Berlin to Alexanderplatz. The hundreds-meter-long elevator moved unaccompanied through Berlin for around six hours. Free reporting was possible from the very front or the very back, but in the middle it regularly became very dangerous. In the evening hours, police officers continued to be attacked on Alexanderplatz. The situation was still not under control.

The rough demo route

So there is a problem and many ways in which it is not being solved. One of the consequences is that those demonstrating illegally feel safe and can safely attack media representatives. The state manager of the journalists' association DJU was targeted attacked and beaten to the hospital. He is not just any trade unionist, but the most important mouthpiece for Berlin reporters. Everyone who goes to these demonstrations knows him. He mediates between the press and the police and documents where press work was disrupted. And it does this for all journalists - regardless of the journalists' association, employer or similar. The fact that he was attacked like this hit the Berlin reporting scene particularly hard.

So why isn't the governing mayor pushing for tougher action? Why doesn't the Interior Senator instruct the police leadership to act or replace them? Why doesn't the police chief give orders to stop illegal demonstrations? It's a mystery. Those involved have not given an answer for a year. What you get are always the same phrases: It was all planned that way, it was a dynamic situation and everything was basically under control.

From the right's point of view, it's simple: for a hundred years they have cultivated the narrative of a weak state that can be ignored. In Berlin this is true in every single one of their demonstrations. They are allowed to ignore regulations and court decisions and hunt down their opponents. The ex-AfD MP Heinrich Fiechtner called for people to use bombs against the federal government “like Stauffenberg”. 

Berlin's Interior Senator Andreas Geisel (SPD) sees no problem in the approach. On a Query from the Tagesspiegel, whose reporters were attacked, he says: “We cannot see that the police were not in control of the situation.” And further: “What would have been the alternative to police action? “To surround and arrest all 5.000 people who were in Berlin throughout the day?” – the renewed message to the criminals is therefore clear: come in large groups and you can carry on.

The Interior Senator is happy, the criminals are happy, but the citizens are still left without protection.