It’s been just over two years since the Liebig34 was evicted. In October 2020, at the height of the pandemic, thousands of cops descended on Friedrichshain’s Nordkiez. Their mission was to evict the Liebigstraße 34, a home for 50 FLINT* (a German abbreviation for women, lesbians, intersex, non-binary, and trans* people). The anarcha-queer-feminist squat had been occupied since 1990. But the building’s owner, realty speculator Gijora Padovicz, demanded his property back. Taxpayers footed the one million euro bill — this is how “law and order” are enforced.
Contacted by reporters, he said: “If you come to this building again, I will fuck your mother, do you understand, pigs?”
What has happened in these two years? The far-right tabloid B.Z., which celebrated the eviction at the time, recently posted an update. “Renters live in fear of the property manager,” the B.Z. writes. and “garbage is piling up in the courtyard.” At Liebigstraße 34 today, the heating often doesn’t work, despite the fact that a three-bedroom apartment costs an eye-popping €1,200 a month. Many of the apartments are used by refugees, with the Berlin government paying the rent. The manager is a Chechnyan. Contacted by reporters, he said: “If you come to this building again, I will fuck your mother, do you understand, pigs?”
The B.Z., owned by the Springer company, writes that this is “hard to believe.” Is it, though? A year and a half ago, a documentary on Berlin’s public broadcaster RBB documented the links between Padovicz’s empire and dubious Chechnyan businessmen. (An accompanying article has disappeared from the RBB website but is still available at archive.org.) Padovicz’s system — renting out dilapidated properties at astronomical prices to refugees who face discrimination on the housing market— was already in place before Liebig34 was evicted. The Chechnyan property manager has used an address at a Padovicz property. He has been convicted of 17 cases of wage theft against construction workers — who were working on other Padovicz properties, of course.
When it’s renters and workers who are getting robbed, the police inevitably say they are just too busy.
The astounding thing about the B.Z. report is that the information was leaked by government employees. Why, one wonders, can’t the government do something about it? In Berlin, it is illegal to leave housing unoccupied. But as the Padovicz Watchblog documents, the speculator is known to keep properties vacant for years. Can we expect to see thousands of cops kicking down doors and enforcing the law by renting out these empty apartments? I wouldn’t hold my breath. When it’s renters and workers who are getting robbed, the police inevitably say they are just too busy. They don’t care about the law — they protect the interests of the wealthy.
As Tagesspiegel reports, the former Liebig34 is no exception. Left-wing bars like Syndikat and Meuterei were evicted around the same time, at a cost of millions. These once busy cultural spaces now stand empty. We can’t even be sure who is responsible. They are owned by shell companies, and since Germany is a paradise for money launderers, even the government has no idea who actually owns big swaths of our city. The right-wing press and the government will inevitably attack squatters as “criminals.” But as we saw yet again with the partial eviction of the Köpi, it’s actually property developers who have long records of tax evasion and wage theft.
The Liebig34, back when it was controlled by the people who lived there, cost the city exactly nothing. But thanks to the government (SPD, Greens, and Linke), the building is now being used for all kinds of illegality. In the midst of a housing crisis, we are all paying to throw even more people onto the streets. The only solution is take housing out of the hands of the mafia and put it under democratic control. This is what 59.1% of voters in Berlin wanted — but the so-called “left” government is still ignoring the democratic will of the people. Let’s hope that mayor Giffey, the white knight of the construction mafia, is soon kicked out of office.
Nathaniel Flakin’s anticapitalist guide book Revolutionary Berlin is available now from Pluto Press. 304 pages, €18.99 / £14.99.