signs of times

When I visited Poland / Silesia in June, I couldn’t help but notice all these huge advertisements for shopping malls, supermarkets, electronica etc … These would take up entire sides of buildings, buildings that more often then not were crumbling or at least in advanced stages of disrepair. Old buildings, beautiful houses falling apart. It was easy to imagine how beautiful this city must have been before the second World War … But what these huge bill boards triggered in me was the realisation that these advertisements were more then just that, they were propaganda for capitalism, signs of a new world order, capitalism not only as an economic tool, but as a belief system, a political system that must by all means be presented as the only true value and belief system a society must have.
This led me to trying to imagine the communist posters, billboards, statues and other signs, the entire propaganda of a totally different political dictatorship, the signs, images and stories meant to convince those same people of the exact opposite.
And before that, the incredible evil power of the nazi symbols, their omnipresence, the flags, signs and entire aesthetics of that dark period. And then how that must have affected people like my grand parents, displaced by those same Nazis, forced to live in appealing conditions and to work for the enemy … What must it do to people to be constantly visually aware that you are not wanted, that the enemy has the power and that those people in power despise you and want to change you, want to rule over you, want to decide about where you will live, what you eat, where you go ….

A couple of weeks ago, before the German elections, I was sitting in the U-banh in Berlin and half watching their “TV – program” which is broadcasted in all of the new Ubahn train … usually it´s gossipy news about celebrities and advertisements for shows … but this time they were broadcasting an ad for the far right political party AfD … a short spot about immigrants and how Germany does not need nor want them … I felt disturbed, shocked and a, maybe naive, disbelief that this message was broadcasted in a public transport train in the capital of Germany. My heart raced andI felt an anger that I didn’t couldn’tknow I could feel.
I couldn’t sleep the following night and decided that I needed to write to the BVG (they run the subway trains in Berlin) and to the firm responsible for the content of those “TVs” to tell them about my shock and dismay …

This is what I wrote and their answers: 

Sehr geehrte Mitarbeiter von Mcrud, 

Meine Grosseltern wurden 1942 mit ihren zwei Kindern, einer davon mein Vater, von den Nazis aus Ihrem Land vertrieben, und in Arbeitslager in Schlesien gesteckt.

Als ich im Jahre 2000 nach Berlin kam war ich überzeugt davon, dass Deutschland ein Land ist in dem Nationalismus keinen Platz mehr hat. 

Gestern bin ich mit der U8 gefahren und sehe, zu meinem Entsetzen in den “Berliner Fenster” Wahlpropaganda der nationalistischen AfD. 

In den öffentlichen Verkehrmitteln wirbt auf einem “Berliner Fenster” eine Partei die so braun ist, dass sie sich blau anmalen muss. Eine rassistische, frauenfeindliche, Hass und Lügen verbreitende Partei darf in den öffentlichen Verkehrmitteln ihre Botschaft verbreiten. 

Mir wurde schlecht. 

Dass Parteien ihre Wahlplakate aufhängen ist eine Sache, dass sie Reklamezeit kaufen ist neu, dass es Unternehmen gibt die das Geld nehmen und zulassen, dass in dem öffentlichen Nahverkehr nationalistische Hetze gesendet wird ist unakzeptabel.

Wie kann es sein, dass Sie das zulassen?

Ist Geld mittlerweile wirklich das Maß alle Dinge? Oder stehen Sie insgeheim hinter der Botschaft dieser neuen Nazis? Es ist zum kotzen. 

Schämen Sie sich. 

Mit freundlichen Grüssen, 

Anne Michaux

The answer of the BVG:

Sehr geehrte Frau Michaux,

vielen Dank für Ihre Nachricht.

Zunächst möchten wir uns bei Ihnen für Ihre kritischen Anmerkungen zur im Berliner Fenster gesendeten AfD-Wahlkampfwerbung bedanken und uns zu den Hintergründen der gesendeten Wahlwerbung äußern:

Im Zusammenhang mit der Erteilung der Sendegenehmigung im Jahr 2000 hat sich das Berliner Fenster hinsichtlich der Parteienwerbung dem diesbezüglichen Regelwerk des Rundfunkstaatsvertrages und des Parteiengesetzes unterworfen. Dieses Regelwerk gestattet den vom Landeswahlleiter zur Wahl zugelassenen Parteien in Zeiten des Wahlkampfes Zugang sowohl zu öffentlichen, wie auch zu privaten Programmanbietern.

Da wir in einer Demokratie leben und die AfD zu den vom Landeswahlleiter zur Wahl zugelassenen Parteien zählt, sind wir verpflichtet, ihre Wahlspots genau wie alle anderen zu senden.

Außerhalb des oben gennannten Zeitraums sendet das Berliner Fenster keine Parteienwerbung.

Jeder Wahlkampfspot einer Partei wird von uns sowohl am Anfang als auch an dessen Ende besonders gekennzeichnet und darauf verwiesen, dass der Inhalt ausschließlich von der betreffenden Partei verantwortet wird.

Wir hoffen, wenn Sie Gelegenheit haben das Programm des Berliner Fensters zu verfolgen, dass darin die Haltung unserer Redaktion für eine tolerante und weltoffene Stadt deutlich wird.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen

Michael Kramm

Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG)


FVM-M22 (IPLZ 43432)

and another one:

Liebe Frau Michaux,

ich verstehe Ihre Verärgerung sehr gut, hat doch meine Familie ein ähnliches Schicksal. Allerdings ist die AfD eine zur Wahl zugelassene Partei und Wahlwerbung muss aus rechtlichen Gründen zugelassen werden. Allerdings muss deutlich sein, dass dies die Meinung der jeweiligen Partei ist. Darüber hinaus ist das „Berliner Fenster“ ein eigenständiges Unternehmen (030 817985903 – Geschäftsführung des Berliner Fenster). Es tut mir sehr leid, Ihnen keine andere Auskunft geben zu können.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen

Petra Reetz

Leiterin Vorstandsstab Medien


Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG)

Note that the firm who is responsible for the content did not react to my mail. 


I cc-ed the mail to a couple of journalists, one of them, Rob Savelberg then contacted me and we spoke on the phone for a while about the effect this political propaganda had on me, you can read the article he then wrote here:


home … / part 2

I keep on wondering how people who have left their country under gruelling circumstances and then have to live in very crammed spaces that were not made to accommodate people for such a long time, how they manage to keep on living without losing their mind … How is it to live a small space with people you hardly know, or don´t know, without any real perspective, constantly worried about your future, your friends and family that you left behind, without the possibility to work, without privacy … in a place where the people who live there do not really care for you nor want to have you there and blame you for everything bad that is happening …

A friend of mine (Judith Affolter, who took the pictures features in the article) made me aware of this: … Putting up refugees in the “middle of nowhere” does not strike me as the best of  ideas … Every “encampment” makes me think of a prison and having large numbers of refugees living in one place is always going to create tensions. Is there a solution to this? I don´t know, but I wonder if many problems could be avoided if people fleeing their home countries and arriving here, probably heavily traumatised, and without possessions, were housed in smaller buildings, all through the city, in every kind of neighbourhood. The tendency to house them “out of sight” or in poor neighbourhoods, were people who live there already feel disadvantaged , seems to be a recipe for disaster. These are short term solutions, but without any considerations for long term effects, and long term is a big word here, negative consequences of short sighted politics can, in this case, be seen after a couple of weeks  already ….

My grandparents met some helpful people during their time in Silesia, but there were quite some locals who resented those foreigners … even if they weren’t´t there by choice … Silesia was a poor place then, and I read some reports that say that many of the deported people from Luxembourg had taken their good clothes with them and wore them and consequently looked richer and better off then the local population … leading to jealousy and resentment…  Rather ironic considering that the Luxembourgish people there were forced to be there, forced to work, constantly monitored and punished for the most ridiculous reasons … often ill and always scared of what might come next …
One can see the same twisted reasoning and baseless jealousy here, people who call  refugees “Sozialschmarotzer” while they themselves are on their way to collect unemployment money  … (the bus I take to my studio passes a place where refugees live and the (no-)job center next door … ) .
And remarks like: “why do they need mobile phones?” As if being a refugee strips you from all your rights and needs and makes you something else / less then human …