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Germany

Berlin Arson Suspect Burned Luxury Cars 'To Punish People Who Were Better Off'

So far this year, some 550 cars have been torched in Berlin. Police suspect left-wing political extremists for some of the attacks. But about 100 of the damaged cars may have been set off by a single down-and-out (and envious) man, who authorities call An

A torched luxury car in Berlin, Germany (2009)
A torched luxury car in Berlin, Germany (2009)


*NEWSBITES

BERLIN -- The first time André H., 27, torched a car in Berlin was on June 7, 2011 at around 3 a.m. His modus operandi remained the same over the next two months – targeting the expensive Audi, Mercedes, and BMW brands that he himself, an occasional worker, could not afford.

While the vehicles burned, H. was already on his way to torch another, or heading home by bike, subway or bus. By Aug. 27, he had burned 67 cars and damaged 35 others around Berlin, with the total bill amounting to millions of euros.

Last Friday, Berlin police arrested the alleged arsonist, who at first admitted to only one incident but confessed to the full extent of the activity after being confronted with CCTV footage. According to the police, H. – who is "psychologically fragile" but has apparently never received therapy – acted out of frustration at his lack of success, money troubles, and a kind of "diffused social envy at those who supposedly had it better than him." When he got a temp job in late August, he stopped the activity.

Prior to his arrest, André H., who was on social benefits, lived in a small apartment with his mother and invalid sister, according to Die Welt sources. A neighbor stated that when his mother became seriously ill he "reached the limit of what he could stand." A police officer stated that "it seemed to him André H. that things were going a lot better for others, as symbolized by ownership of the three brands of car that he repeatedly torched. He seems to have wanted to punish people who were better off financially."

It remains unclear if H. realized that he could have killed people when, for example, on July 28, he burnt a car in a carport and the flames reached the roof of an apartment building. A few days later, he burned several vehicles at a car rental business. The cars were parked near a gas pump, and residents of a nearby old peoples' home had to be evacuated. No one was injured in the incidents.

One thing is clear: the majority of the spate of car torchings in Berlin – 550 so far this year – were not carried out by H. but rather by left-wing political extremists and imitators. André H., who is responsible for about a fifth of the car torchings in Berlin in 2011, faces up to 15 years in jail.

Read the full story in German by M. Behrendt, D. Ehrentraut, J. Wiedemann and S. Pletl

Photo – PhyreWorx

*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations

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Ideas

Tolstoy's Lesson: Why Boycotting Russian Culture Is Such A Bad Idea

The Ukrainian Culture Minister has called for a total boycott of Russian culture. Such a move should be resisted because it ignores culture's potential to challenge power.

Tolstoy's Lesson: Why Boycotting Russian Culture Is Such A Bad Idea

The exhibition ''War and Peace in Russian Art'' at the Russian Museum of Malaga

Gaspard Koenig

-Essay-

PARIS — Oleksandr Tkachenko, the Ukrainian Culture minister, recently called for an international boycott of Russian culture — a measure that has already been put into practice by some Western opera theaters and universities.

Yet, despite the utter sympathy that we feel for Ukraine, the answer for Tkachenko is clear: No.

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Today, Tkachenko argues that Russia is trying to undermine Ukrainian’s culture by destroying its cultural heritage or by eradicating Ukrainian’s language in occupied territories. And that’s precisely the reason why Ukraine, which wishes to be the herald of European democracies, shouldn’t use the same means nor the same logic as its enemy.

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