I don’t know if Andrej Holm is evil or not. He is your new state secretary for housing, and he used to be in the Stasi. For a bit. In 1989, when he was 18, he trained for the Stasi’s military unit and then the Berlin Wall fell. Released from his internship, young Holm went on his way, and became a famous sociologist who specialized in urban development at the Humboldt University. He wrote a lot about how Berlin was being socially segregated and he was in the lefty Hausbesetzer movement and was briefly arrested by the cops but was released without charge. He was also the academic TV shows called when they wanted someone to criticize gentrification. He’s an activist and a bit controversial, but up till now he was just another voice in the media’s parliament of birds.
And then a month ago the Linke party decided to appoint him as state secretary for housing – a job where he has influence in government – and R2G had its first “scandal”. It turned out that whether or not you think Holm’s Stasi months should stop him from having a job in the government depended a lot on what you think of his ideas about housing policy, which is, as he puts it in this interview, that Berlin doesn’t necessarily have to be an orgy for profiteers, and that if you’re going to have legislation you have to make it effective – if you ban rent caps and holiday flats, then you have to make it work and you also have to stop hedge funds from buying up property and leaving it empty.
Meanwhile, the damaging bickering about his past goes on: the Tagesspiegel keeps printing op-eds against Holm often written by members of the conservative opposition parties, the CDU and the FDP, and the support he has gotten has come from fellow academics and campaigns like the “Berliner rents referendum” – who all want him to stay on because they think he’s someone they actually believe would try to stop the city from being strangled.
Of course, as always with these things, Holm helped the people who hate him by trying to dodge it and he ended up getting caught in a muddle of half-truths about what he actually did and what he thought when he was doing it (in 2005 he had to fill in a questionnaire for the Humboldt when he took the job there, and put that his training wasn’t full-time when it was). He says he just didn’t know; the Stasi victims’ association and the CDU say he was obviously lying so he wouldn’t lose the job. Who knows? The CDU says this means the entire new Berlin government is completely morally compromised. But then, maybe they should have thought of a way of stopping people in the city being fucked over by Hausverwaltungen all the time while they were in power.