Society

Danish Squatters Launch Alternative 'IPO' To Avoid Eviction

A group of squatters is pooling its resources and trading shares in an effort to save Christiania, a so-called ‘autonomous neighborhood’ founded 40 years ago in central Copenhagen. The famous squat – long a target of rightist politicians – is being eyed b

Walking in the streets of Christiania in Copenhagen
Walking in the streets of Christiania in Copenhagen

Worldcrunch *NEWSBITES

Copenhagen's Christiania, arguably the most famous squat in Europe, has historically sought to sidestep the basic rules of capitalism. This week, however, the self-administered Danish community borrowed a page straight from the corporate world it shuns, launching what can only be described as an IPO – of sorts. The goal? To raise 10 million euros and buy the land it has occupied for the past four decades.

Christiania, home to hundreds of hippies and other Copenhagen residents seeking an alternative way of life, is currently celebrating its 40th anniversary. Since the beginning, the community – which began with the occupation of former military barracks – has endured a long fight for survival against Danish authorities.

The last decade was particularly difficult for Christiania. Denmark's political right took power in 2001 on promises to crack down on drug trafficking and cultural radicalism. Not surprisingly, the conservative government upped pressure on Christiania, where hashish is smoked openly.

This month's legislative elections were reason to celebrate for the alternative community. The political left – which has historically been more tolerant of the squat – squeezed its way back into power. Yet the community still has to contend with a February ruling by the Supreme Court, which declared that the land Christiania occupies belongs to the state. The land is also highly coveted by property developers.

Three months later the squatters agreed – albeit reluctantly – to accept a deal proposed by Denmark's Finance Ministry, which called for establishing a fund to buy the majority of the buildings and a small part of the land for 10 million euros. Residents are expected to pay annual rent of some 800,000 euros for the rest. The estimated market value of the property is two to three times that.

"Even after buying the land and buildings, none of the Christianites will actually own the property," explained Risenga Maghezi, who is responsible for finances in Christiania. "However, we would like to buy as much as possible in order to keep the government out of our business."

The Christianites might be hippies, but they are also willing to fight to finance and keep their little piece of paradise. Technically, however, their newly acquired shares – which range in value from anywhere between 1 and 1,500 euros – are not the same as a traditional investment. Instead of property rights, buyers will be given nothing more than the joy of knowing they are supporting an alternative community, plus an invitation to the squatters' parties.

Read the full story in French by Olivier Truc

Photo - Kieran Lynam

*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations

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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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