• Berlin
  • Konrad Werner: Cold, withered souls


Konrad Werner: Cold, withered souls

This week, the residents of one Reinickendorf building called in a lawyer to demand that asylum seeker children not be allowed on their playground. Hooray for humanity!

Image for Konrad Werner: Cold, withered souls
Photo by Josef Wiese through Wikimedia Commons.

Ever wondered what’s wrong with the world? Ever lamented the disjointed nature of modern life? Ever got up and gone out into the street and been overwhelmed by a wave of total despair because you can’t connect with other people without the help of illegal drugs? Ever looked for a suitable image to illustrate this malaise? Well, I give you Reinickendorf, where the residents of one neighbourhood this week allowed the world a peek of their souls – and revealed mean, gnarled, stunted things, like blasted tree branches in a desert, shrivelled by capitalism and their own misery and self-pity, their pitiful spirits kept alive only by the one thing they can still feel: the diminishing value of their property.  

The owners of a certain building hired a lawyer to write a letter to the managers of a nearby asylum seekers’ home, asking them not to let the children play on their clean playground. It’s more or less the exact scenario of Oscar Wilde’s story The Selfish Giant, but set in Reinickendorf with asylum seeker kids. In his letter the lawyer, named Morgenstern, described the foreign children’s persistent frolicking on the usually undisturbed wooden climbing-frame/swing-set as “a breach of the peace.” But if you thought that humanity had now conclusively reached a new low, and that the only solution is a nuclear holocaust to wipe out the human race – perhaps limited to Reinickendorf at first, and then we’ll take it from there –  then marvel at what else Morgenstern had to say.

Seeing as the asylum seekers’ home in question contained refugees who were particularly vulnerable – such as the disabled, pregnant women, and war-traumatized people – the building constituted a “social powder keg,” because “post-traumatic stress disorder and social dissatisfaction could be taken out on the surrounding residential area,” and, he added, could depress his clients’ real estate value.  

For that reason, Morgenstern concluded, “refugees’ homes belong outside residential areas.” In other words, the world’s poorest, most underprivileged, and most vulnerable people should be put somewhere special where they won’t bother anyone. I don’t know, maybe a camp-type thing. How do these people sleep at night? They must have to inject general anaesthetic, Michael-Jackson-style, to numb the emptiness inside them.