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Squatters Occupy a Berlin Apartment Building (1981)

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The house next door is certainly the next one scheduled for evacuation. The "Neue Heimat" wants to add three floors of low-income housing to the front building. The cooperative has already written several letters to the "Dear Users" – letters in which they were urged to "voluntarily hand over the front building." In case they needed apartments, "Neue Heimat" would be prepared to accommodate them elsewhere. Intially, they could move to the side wing and the back building, and if they were interested, their banners could be fastened to the front building's scaffolding. The squatters replied that they were adequately supplied with toilet paper, and that they weren't thinking of yielding to the cooperative's requests. "Neue Heimat" also wants to modernize the side wing and the back building, the spaces into which they would have the squatters moved. But that would take place in six to nine months. "Until then they are welcome to stay," the redevelopment commissioner tells me.

The twenty squatters who inhabit the block of about 80 rooms are a colorful mixture. In addition to university and high school students, [they include] unemployed youth, punks, a Maharishi disciple and a bank clerk. There is a lot of fluctuation in the house. Only three of the original squatters are still living there. A group of homeless people, "Berbers" as they call themselves, originally lived in the front building; they had moved in with the support of an agency and the accompanying publicity. Their resistance to negotiations with "Neue Heimat" was not that great. They were more interested in holding on to the roof above their heads; they had furnished some of their digs rather smartly. The majority in the house, however, categorically rejected negotiations or moving out of the front building voluntarily. They don't see any chance of keeping the house when the cops come. We'll see.

[ . . . ]

Source: Benny Härlin, "Von Haus zu Haus – Berliner Bewegungsstudien" [“From House to House – Studying a Berlin Movement”], Kursbuch 1981, n. 65, p. 5 ff. [© Benny Härlin]; reprinted in Christoph Kleßmann and Georg Wagner, eds., Das gespaltene Land. Leben in Deutschland 1945-1990 [The Divided Country. Life in Germany 1945-1990]. Munich, 1993, pp. 330-32.

Translation: Jeremiah Riemer

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