German justice: you may be the victim, you may be right, but you still have to pay

This is a story about how a newcomer to Germany was given a first-hand look at rednecks in this country, and how the law is set up to protect even them.

S. is one of the nicest fellows I’ve met in a long time. Easy manner, loads of friends, always down for whatever. He arrived in Hamburg three years ago to take a job with a major German retail company. After a couple of weeks on the job he was sent to deliver some documents to work colleagues who lived in a small town just east of Hamburg.

It was a warm summer evening, so S. was driving his sporty BMW Z4 with the top down.  He drove around the town a bit trying to find his colleagues’ place, but soon got lost, so he stopped in at the local police station to ask for directions, and was soon on his way again.

That’s when things started to get twisted.

Fifteen seconds after asking for directions, a skinhead jumped in front of his car and blocked his way.  Soon a half-dozen rednecks surrounded him, swearing at him and yelling that he should just get the fuck out of town instead of driving around their place. One of them even climbed up on his hood and wouldn’t get off, another tried to wrench off his side mirror.

Feeling seriously threatened, he hit the door emergency door lock button, but the windows and the top were still down, so one guy was able to reach in and grab him by the collar.   Luckily S. was wearing a seatbelt, so he couldn’t be dragged out of the car.

With a half-dozen men – and one woman –  still braying at him to get out, he did what I think anyone in that situation would have done.  Using the gears and the wheel in a nifty swerve to knock the guy off the hood, he tore off out of there, chased by one of them in another car.

After S. finally got to his destination, his colleagues came out to look at his car.  Just then the same group arrived to hassle him again, this time with reinforcements, as a group of 10 were now threatening to beat up not only S., but his colleagues as well.

Again, he did what I’d do: got the hell out of town, jumping into his car and speeding away.

My friend was angry and upset, but didn’t pursue it further until he received a summons to give a statement with the police.

In the meantime, the man who’d been knocked off the hood had gone to hospital complaining of various ailments, and was charging him with bodily injury.  He said S. had run into him with his car as he was driving like a madman through the centre of town.

In the ensuing court case my friend, who speaks very good German, was able to convince the judge in his testimony that he could not have been driving fast or erratically through the town at the time, because he was trying to find an address in an unfamiliar town, and that’s not how one would be driving if looking for an address.

The judge also dismissed the testimony of the man who accused S. of running into him.   The man had no answer when asked why, if a car had slammed into him, he’d suffered no leg injuries.

So the judge chose not to convict my friend, but in the twisted way German justice works, he still had to pay.

His tormenters got off scot-free, but because S. failed to go to the local police that evening to report the incident, he was forced to pay a fine of €1,200.

“I was not found guilty of anything,” S. says, “No criminal record – but in the ridiculous hodge-podge and horse-trading of German law, I was still asked to pay a fine.”

S. wanted to appeal the fine, but his lawyers said all he’d do  is rack up more legal costs.  His lawyer’s bill with the fine had already climbed to more than €4,000, so he just paid it.

Another twist:

Because the case has only been shelved, and not conclusively ended, S. cannot turn around and charge his tormenters. The case against him has to be officially ended before he can proceed, so his case against the rednecks will probably never be heard.

“It’s a completely bonkers German law which lets criminals slip through the loophole, provided they make the first accusation,” he says.

56 Responses to “German justice: you may be the victim, you may be right, but you still have to pay”

  1. 1 lilalia
    May 27, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    What a strange turn of affairs. So convoluted. Just hope that S. will eventually have a better story to tell.

  2. May 27, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    This kind of story makes me angry–it’s as if the police and justice system don’t understand the victim’s mindset.

  3. 3 Khaled
    May 27, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    It pisses me off to hear of such stories. The thing that gets to me is that the fucking Krauts tell me to my face that I am being too sensitive or too complicated when I complain!!!

    FUCK ‘EM

    OK, now that I vented, a question; can the local press be notified of the incident? Papers like the TAZ and even the twisted MOPO are known to publish such stories. It could generate the kind of public pressure that can influence the courts to rethink their decision.

    I can even dig up the contacts to the local newscast here in Hamburg.

  4. 4 Frank
    May 27, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    I am German and I am totally embarrassed by that story. I feel the need to apologize to S. for this outrageous behavior of my countrymen. It is so sad that in a country where the Holocaust happened something like this is possible.
    What can you say abourt the court rule. In this country the perpetrator is sometimes more protected than the victim. That should be definitely different.

  5. 5 Khaled
    May 27, 2009 at 8:36 pm


    No need for apologies. What you can do is listen when a foreigner is complaining or feeling pissed of (which I am, most of the time anyway).

    Living here for folks of color is not a fucking easy break! When I hear of how “open” this country is makes want to hurl. OK, it is open compared to a place like Russia where queers are beat up to pieces but virtue of mere suspicion.

    However, working for a fucking boss who opnely calls his female employees “Nutten” because they will not pick the phone when tries and reaches them, is a symptom of a deeper ill. An even more disgusting symptom is when I complained to a visiting teacher his only fucking explanation is “will, you must work in a cheap place!”.

    Well, it is one of the top ten sports clubs in Hamburg and it goes by a very well known abbreviation.

    Another sickening practice you people have is the invisible scale of good Ausländer vs. bad Ausländer. Americans, Canadians, Brits, Irish, Scandinavians, Australian, New Zealanders, Scotts and the like are way up there on top of that list. They are treated differently, with more courtesy and are just more liked amongst you!

    Right there on the bottom are:

    Kanacken (ie Sandniggers) like Arabs, Turks and Persians who are not all Muslims and do not belong to the Ethnic group of Arabs.
    Neger (often referred to as Schwarzafrikaner)
    Eastern Europeans in general.

    I can not even begin to write about the stories of abuse, degradation and shear ugliness you people spew when one of us is in your midst.

    Another thing…

    When constantly broadcasting that indoctrinated piece of info about you people being “das Land der Dichter and Denker” KNOW that other nations and peoples will hold you up to such a statement. They will actually believe that most of you are either impeccable speakers or have actually acquired the virtues of differential contemplation.

    Sordid projection is not considered thinking!!

    I better stop now!

    PS. I’m Palestinian and German as well.

  6. 6 Khaled
    May 27, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    sorry for the typos everyone.

  7. May 27, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    That is bizarre, unjust, outrageous.

  8. 8 Frank
    May 27, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    Q Khaled:

    Well, i have to tell you now that I feel offended when you start your mail with my name and then include me in your complains, for example:” Another sickening practice YOU people have… or “I can not even begin to write about the stories of abuse, degradation and shear ugliness YOU people spew when one of us is in your midst”. When this is your daily experience than I am sorry to hear that and I hope it would be different but I strongly request, that you do not include me with using things like “you people do”. Stereotypes are wrong and they are always for both sides. You can never talk about a whole group of people and describe them with the same words. You can just compare individuals. There is no such thing than germans, americans, french, etc. My apology to S. doesn’t mean that I think every German is a racist. I just don’t like the fact that there were these racists. And I would hate it as much as I do now if just one single racist would live in Germany.
    I also do not understand how you can complain about a boss using the word Nutten when he refers to his employees but in the same sentence you use the f… word for him. In your message I feel the same sense of disgust about Germans you think they feel about you. You should overcome your fury because it doesn’t help you at all.
    We should all treat us as human beeings it doesn’t matter if it is a he or a she, an israeli or palestinian, black or white, young or old. Everyone has the right to be treated fair and well. That is my opinion and it should show you that I can’t accept when you include me in your statement.

  9. May 27, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    Horrible story. Makes me wish I believed in karma. Please give S. my apologies on behalf of the human race.

  10. 10 Oliver
    May 28, 2009 at 10:08 am

    Well, stumbled upon this and can’t resist do be a smart ass (= klugscheißen) a little.
    I think he was not convicted of bodily injury (= körperverletzung) due to the circumstances, which is perfectly all right. but – as he was driving in a car – the state prosecutor, who worked on this case and had to analyze the facts that are reported to him “ex officio” (= von amts wegen)by checking out the behaviour of every person involved in the incident, he probably stumbled upon this paragraph of the StGB:

    § 142
    Unerlaubtes Entfernen vom Unfallort

    or: “illicit leaving of the scene of an accident”. the paragraph states, that persons who have caused a traffic accident, or have contributed to it, have the duty to identify themselves to the victims or to other contributors. If the victim is not present or the identification is somehow not possible the one who caused the accident has to wait a certain time. If the victim doesn’t appear, he has to leave his address or to report the accident to the police. So here it was obvious that he could and perhaps should not identify himself to his attackers. But because there was “Verkehrsunfall” he should have gone to the police after completing his mission and report everything, by giving them all the facts, his personalia and so on.

    So maybe S. was convicted of § 142 StGB, which would explain a lot, while all other charges were dropped (and righly so). Maybe. Only a suggestion.

    • May 28, 2009 at 6:57 pm

      Well, this humble comment section doesn’t usually approach meltdown…

      I’d hardly call being set upon deliberately by a mob an accident, would you? Yes, it was on a road, and it did involve an automobile, but beyond that, it’s keeping way too close to the letter of the law.

      But maybe the man himself has something to weigh in on it.

  11. 12 Khaled
    May 28, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    Lieber Frank (there I said it!),

    While I will stick by my guns (relax people, this Arab ain’t got no guns!), I agree that I shouldn’t have included your name in my diatribe. Therefore, I apologize for offending you.

    Dir alles gute :o)

  12. 13 Khaled
    May 28, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    Crap that was supposed top be a smiley🙂

  13. 14 Anonymous
    May 28, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    @ Oliver

    Thanks for your mail. As far as I understand it, S. was not convicted of anything at all. No verdict was given. Neither § 142 nor anything else. The verdict was “eingestellt” in German. What sucks is that S. still had to pay a fine and even worse that this verdict prevented him from taking on the attackers due to the legal loophole. The attackers are still at large.

    The reason for the fine was horse-trading in the courtroom between the lawyers and the judge due to the German legal system. In order to reach a verdict of “eingestellt” (which itself is decided by the judge – i.e. he refused to convict S. based on S’s statement – see below), the judge, the defence AND the prosecution need to be in agreement…i.e. horsetrading. Not exactly justice in action…

    Bear in mind that he was on his own when he was attacked and he had no witnesses. He could not PROVE his version of events. The attackers were able to come up with a common story that they all said to act as each other’s “witness”. Nevertheless, his statement was so strong in court that it convinced the judge not to convict…even against the testimonies of the six German citizens who also told their version…in their mother tongue.

    Thus the decision for an “Einstellung” instead of an acquittal. The easiest course for the lawyers to take in order to avoid the technicalities of the German legal system…and more legal costs for S. But maybe not good justice.

    @ Frank and Khaled
    There are good and bad people in every country. Any foreigner in any foreign country always has to put up with narrow-minded people. The crazy legal technicalities are what this post is really about.

  14. May 28, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    Seriously, wow.
    Also: shit.

    I actually am shocked, and have a hard time to picture that in the country I live, the country I grew up in, my country. Not only that he was actually attacked by a mob, but also that he was charged, had to pay a fine and can’t sue his attackers. Thank you, Rechtsstaat.
    Especially the policeman/state attorney/whoever that placed the fine upon him. Makes me want to hurl.

    I have never, never, ever heard of something like this happening in my wider area. I have never had deeper contact with racism. Sure, there was the school Nazi (note the singular) who luckily was given a really hard time. But groups of rednecks gathering and rounding up folks?

    Maybe my area is different. I know the east is bad, but for parts I did credit many of the reports on such stuff as not representative (I hoped it to be, at least), as I know that media likes to exaggerate the negative news. Thinking of Germany as a racist country makes me sick.
    Is that how expats/immigrants/”Ausländer” fell here?

    I really am ashamed. Even more so because of this legal charade.

  15. May 28, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    Oh, and @Khaled:

    If you put it that way, I can not decline that there is some sort of scale or “rating” for “Ausländers”. Not that I approve of it, but I seriously doubt that this is an exclusively German trait. Come to think about it, I know that it isn’t. Every country likes to prefer people (with few exceptions) from their “culture”. This goes for “Westerners”, Africans, Arabs, Asians, South Americans, you name it.

    Again, not that I approve.

  16. 17 Frank
    May 28, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    Lieber Khaled:
    No problem. Alles ok.
    Dir auch alles Gute

  17. 18 Oliver
    May 28, 2009 at 8:31 pm


    the legal term “verkehrsunfall” is a very wide one, due to the abstract dangers of road traffic. even incidents in standing traffic or between pedestrians can legally be seen as “verkehrsunfall”, as long as they happen on the road or in places intented for public traffic. but there certainly must be some kind of damage to fulfill the paragraph. i guess some of those rednecks got a little bit injured, not too seriously, which is enough to let § 142 StGB come into effect. reasons for justification or excuse (legal german terms “rechtfertigung” and “entschuldigung”, quite untranslatable to me) seemed not to be there, so the paragraph “grasped”.

    i know it appears absurd considering the context, but it seems to be the result of strict juridical work. for the same reason S. was not convicted of bodily harm, because there he was justified due to self-defense (“notwehr”). but that justification didn’t work for § 142 StGB, which exists to protect the claims of private law that are usually evoked out of a traffic accident.

    i can’t really understand why the rednecks were not prosecuted: normally the prosecutor would give them hell for such nice things like attempted bodily harm, insult (which is a crime here) and some other things; and they won’t be justified by any means.

    but anyway, as onkel mo mentions the good old german “rechtsstaat”: the bloody thing works, i am sure. and according to helmut schmidt, for his part chain-smoker and former chancellor: “the rechtsstaat doesn’t have to win, the rechtsstaat doesn’t have to lose, the rechtsstaat only has to exist.”

  18. 19 Oliver
    May 28, 2009 at 8:38 pm


    seems you are right on that. in this case my prior two posts are certainly irrelevant. always good to have a criminal-law expert on board. didn’t do it for a long time.


  19. 20 Anonymous
    May 28, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    @ oliver

    You missed the earlier post, I think.

    S. was NOT convicted of anything. Your reasoning regarding 142 does not apply for this reason.

    Also you cannot have a “Verkehrsunfall” (traffic accident) in English and a case of Notwehr (self defence in the face of duress) at the same time for the same event. 142 did not apply and the fine was purely due to horse-trading I am afraid. No legal justification in statute although it is nice of you to try and defend Germany’s legal system!🙂

    No conviction was made and yet still a fine was paid? The Rechtstaat has to exist. Well this is how it gets paid! The funds go to the Regional Government although in this case it was reported that the Judge allowed the fine to go to charity…Judge’s discretion.

  20. May 29, 2009 at 10:25 am

    Maybe he can refuse to pay – of course the situation will escalate with moer and re fines, but eventually the UN commision on human rights will hear of it, and Germany will receive another nice mention, as they do in persecution of home schoolers, etc. Definitely, the papers should know about this.

  21. 22 Michele J
    May 29, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    My god, that is just so awful. I’m speechless. If you hadn’t said where this happened, my first guess would certainly not have been outside of Hamburg.

    That said, and at the risk of being accused of blaming the victim, there are some things I just don’t understand:

    – If a mob is after me as described, certainly my first instinct would be to flee, good show, but the next thing I would do is IMMEDIATELY CALL THE POLICE. Dial 110. Maybe he didn’t know the number at the time?

    – If that mob follows me and then shows up at my destination, I would FOR SURE CALL THE POLICE 110 NO JOKING AROUND THIS TIME. But hindsight is always 20/20 and you never know how you will react in an emergency situation.

    – Anon (Ian?) wrote: “Bear in mind that S. was on his own when he was attacked and he had no witnesses.” But did he not have witnesses at his destination? You write that his colleagues came out to see the car when the assholes showed up again and threatened to beat up everyone. Sounds like pretty good witnesses to me? Were they not heard at the trial?

    – If I’ve understood correctly, the case against S. “wurde gegen Bezahlung einer Geldbuße eingestellt”. So it’s not shelved indefinitely, it’s over. I’m obviously not a law expert, but I fail to see how this in itself would impact his assault charges against these jerks. I totally believe it happened as you describe, but I’m guessing he doesn’t have much of a case against them unfortunately. It’s a group of people’s word against his, he never called emergency services, etc… I mean, it’s totally unfair and I am truly sorry, but I can see how this might seem implausible to a court.

    – He was not convicted of anything, but he was most certainly *accused* of something specific initially. I’d be interested to know what it was, in German.

    – More out of curiosity: this happened 3 years ago? Was the court case just now finished and that’s what brings it up now?

    What about contacting Bild? I realize it’s sort of the lowest common denominator in Germany but I think they often do a good job with public interest stories like this.

  22. 23 Anonymous
    May 29, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    @ Michele

    If you check the story, you can see the answers to your questions.

    When S. fled, the mob gave chase. No time to call the police. When S. arrived at the colleague’s place (which was up the street from where he had been attacked), he had no time to call since moments later the gang arrived with reinforcements and started abusing him and his colleagues. Sensing danger now to himself AND his colleagues, he left.

    Maybe the law never predicted that something like this would happen. An “imperfect” storm of circumstance. A stranger in a strange land looks for a place of safety first and does not check the local legal precedents. Even the police in a foreign country do not always appear immediately reassuring. And the victim never expected the law to accuse him…

    As to the witnesses, again this is in the story:

    Of course the colleagues saw the threatening mob AFTER they chased S. but they did not see S. being attacked. It was reported that they were heard at the trial but they never saw him being attacked in the first place.

    You are right about it being S’s word against the word of the mob but that is the point of this story. To show how the system can be abused by getting a bunch of friends to back up your version of events.

    You are wrong about the verdict having no impact on the case against the mob.

    S. cannot reopen the state (as opposed to civil) case against them because of the verdict of “eingestellt”. The case against the mob was also “eingestellt” pending the outcome of the case against S. which was then itself “eingestellt”.

    It is maybe similar to Scotland’s “not proven” verdict which does not exist in most other European countries. An easy way out for lawyers who don’t want to go the whole hog?

  23. May 29, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    Yup, that’s pretty rough justice!

  24. May 30, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    This post just left me speechless. I’ve seen more “polite” forms of this in the UK.

    Hateful, all of it.

  25. May 30, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    We can’t expect everyone in society to rise to the golden rule, but when our gov’t FAILS – we’re back to lord of the flies.
    Great post

  26. May 31, 2009 at 1:49 am

    Before reading your post, I would have described “German redneck” as an oxymoron. Now, I think I’ll forget the “oxy” part of that.

  27. 28 Khaled
    June 2, 2009 at 2:17 am

    Question to all the law aficionados visiting Ian’s blog; is there a hate crimes law in Germany akin to that of the US? I know that “fremdenfeindliche Verbrechen” are persecuted as such. However, are these crimes prosecuted under a different law other than “Körperverletzung” or “schwere Körperverletzung”?

    Do these laws specifically protect/mention minorities such as people of different skin colour, orientation etc.?

    Last year the EU Equality Laws came into effect which protect against job discrimination, among other things. However, I have yet to hear anything positive being said about this in Germany. I only hear about the bureaucracy involved and so on. Where do these fit in the legal equation?

    Would love to hear from those in the know.

  28. 29 G
    June 2, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    I was sorry to read this. When I was mobbed here, my (German) husband did not want me to report it, but we never had any physical contact. I do understand the need to report these incidents, but I am so sorry that the outcome was so twisted. I do know that Germans are extremely litigious (far more so than any other group acto a study I read) and that legal insurance is a standard thing here (we certainly have it and it’s not very expensive, although we hope to never use it).

    As for not thinking Germans are racists- the person who is surprised by this must be white, Western, Christian and male.

  29. June 2, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    Germany sucks like that. I was once involved in an accident when a truck almost killed me while I was on the biker/pedestrian lane and the truck wanted to go into the driveway. My bike was smashed but because I left without waiting for the cops (I didn’t want to be late) the company told me I wasn’t entitled to compensation. It makes me sick to know that racism is involved in this “accident.”

    • June 3, 2009 at 6:38 am

      Been talking to S. in the meantime and he says the issue is not so much racism – because you run into racism everywhere, not just in Germany – but more the convoluted process of the German legal system.

  30. 32 Anon
    June 3, 2009 at 7:34 am

    G seems to come off as utterly and ridiculously racist if she sees no problem with blanket labeling “Germans” (all of them? some of them? the most recent generation? Those of German heritage living in other countries? G didn’t care to qualify the remark) as racist, sexist, and bigoted against Christians, since she can’t conceive of a non-Christian, non-white, non-male person NOT thinking of Germans as racist.

    I will assume that if G is reading Ian’s blog, that G is an expat living in Germany. If so, WHY? Why be married to a German if they are ALL so horrible? Why subject yourself to such misery? Maybe the German husband thought G’s mobbing incident should not be reported because somehow G was at fault? Why else? If Germans are so litigious, why wouldn’t the German husband want to go after the people at fault?

    Hmmmm… Maybe not ALL Germans are such bad people. Every society and culture has its bad apples. But should the entire group of people be blamed for the bad apples?

    Is there a plugin for my browser which allows me to filter out hateful, nasty trash like that so that it doesn’t ever need to hit my eyeballs?

    My reading of the original post was how it is a shame that the innocent person in this incident is now responsible for a fine, even though it seems to have been evident even to the court that he himself was wronged. Perhaps we should stick to that and avoid the racist talk.

  31. 33 G
    June 3, 2009 at 9:20 am

    Gosh, anon, I am not anonymous and I find that the most hateful people on the internet are: thanks for bearing this out.
    If you would like to read more of my opinions on racism, wander over to my (non-anonymous blog). I am going to bet that you are white and Christian, btw.I would also suggest that you either read more carefully or use a language interpreter. Also nice to know that you feel when a non-white, non-male or non-Christian is mobbed, that it’s their fault!
    Have a happy day.

  32. 34 Frank
    June 3, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    @ Anon:
    My opinion is that G’s comment wasn’t very fortunate. It reminds me a little bit of the controversy about the remarks of the future supreme court justice of the usa, sonia sotomayor for what she is getting heat. She once stated:” I would hope that a wise Latina woman, with the richness of her experiences, would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life”. In her speech, Judge Sotomayor questioned the famous notion — often invoked by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her retired Supreme Court colleague, Sandra Day O’Connor — that a wise old man and a wise old woman would reach the same conclusion when deciding cases. If you think about Sotomayor’s comment you can start to understand what she means. A latina judge, who has to find a verdict for a latina defendand coming out of the same social backround, thinks different about a certain case. But this works the other way round, too and that is the reason why her remarks where not very good in my opinion. A white judge from a poor backround thinks different than a white judge from a rich backround, the same thing with being a man or a woman. Your personal life story builds your way of thinking and your actions and here we come to understand G’s remarks. It is a fact that it is very unlikely that a white (maybe even blond and blue eyes), christian, male human being ever experienced racism. He was never confronted with it so he just didn’t normally think about it. It is not in his mind.
    The reason why I think G’s remarks were not very fortunate is the limited perspective. There is racism against white farmers in zimbabwe today, The believe of the Tutsies to be superior was a key reason for the later genocide in Ruanda, there is kind of racism in India between the different parts of the society, etc. In my opinion racism is something for small-minded loosers.It doesn’t matter where they are from. These people can’t stand their own shortcomings. They are in fear to loose the little they have because of something they don’t understand. They are looking for the easy answers and blame everyone else for their own failure in life. They are not able to do self-critisim to find the real reason for the shortcomings.
    @ Anon: You might not agree with G’s remarks. That is you right to do so. Thank god we live in a democracy and dissent is the spice which keeps us thinking about our society and lifes. But you should do that in a civilized way and you absolutely overreacted. That is all what I have to say (For these who are happy that my sermon is over i will add an Amen, no offense to the christians). Feel free to criticize my “deficient” remarks:-) and let us come back to talk in a human way!!!!

  33. 35 Oliver
    June 3, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    @ all:

    wasn’t this post about the alleged flaws (by god, are there any, hehe?) of the oh so bizarre german legal system? this racism-chitchat is way off the mark and has nothing to do with this post, except for the fact that the “incident”, which was undoubtedly racism-based, was the starting point for this whole affair. which leads us to the next point: it is for a german lawyer and jurist absolutely undesirable to let any sentiments flow into his works, examinations and verdicts. i don’t really know common law, but german law is chiefly based (thank you, romans!) on logic and mathematical procedure and precison (or at least claims to be), to keep such things as emotions etc. out of the court room. of course the often-cited “man on the street” can’t really understand the results of that kind of legal work sometimes (ask the BILD-Zeitung), but therefore it is a science, isn’t it? things have to be brought in line here, otherwise there would be chaos! of course it is hard to bear that S. as the victim had to pay in the end: but it was word against word in the court room, and i wonder how other legal systems would have dealt with that “classic” situation? you can’t really practice law from any viewpoints or attitudes, because the law itself is objective and incorruptable (or should be). so there are no “good” and “bad” guys in the court-room, when only the facts are counting.

    if there is a half-finished post of me above, i’m sorry. i submitted it too soon.

  34. June 4, 2009 at 6:39 am

    Honestly, I am confused a lot by the discussion above.

    What I see in the original story is that S. was a victim several times over: a racist attack, ignorance of the specifics of German law and judicial procedure, as well as a resolutely inflexible system that fails to understand that somebody who has moved to Germany relatively recently from another country might not be in a position to respond adequately to the situation. Heck, this could happen to somebody domestically–I bet there are some flaming queens from Cologne who wouldn’t bother to file a report if they were attacked in a redneck German village. Victims of these types of crimes often do not want to report the crimes. We know that most rapes go unreported because the victims feel powerless, and to some extent the situation is similar here.

    As for the comment by G–I’m a white, non-christian, male, and I am always surprised by racism. I don’t think Germans are racist and I can name a whole office full of Germans who are not racist. Not only are they not racist, they are not homophobic. After reading your comment here, I am under the distinct impression that you believe all Germans are racist and/or that one shouldn’t be surprised to find out Germans are racist (e.g. there is a presumption of guilt here)–which begs a question: if you think Germans are racist, why are you married to one and why are you living in Germany?

    I went back and reread your blog entry about being mobbled, “Last Night I was Mobbed“, and I can’t help but feel that you too were a victim of cultural misunderstanding–You behaved in a way that was wholly appropriate and understandable in the American context and would have been defensible in the American context, but because you were in the German context you misunderstood it? Maybe your husband didn’t want to report the mobbing incident to the police because he understood implicitly that you were in the wrong.

  35. 37 G
    June 4, 2009 at 6:59 am

    Adam, in the German context, I was not in the wrong. Perhaps in the Turkish context I might have been, or in the criminal one, but I was in a playground in Germany, where it is legal to be and to take photos. So, incorrect number one.
    Let’s move to the concept that I should not marry a German because I think no one should be surprised that there is racism in this country. Are you surprised? I know plenty of great Germans. I married one. Are you surprised to hear me say that to feel there is no racism in this country is a statement of great naivete? Do you really think this is a country with no racists? Why does my statement produce such hitback? Do you all want to believe that Germany is filled with enlightened people with only PC thoughts? Are you personally affronted to know that I encounter racism here on a regular basis? I meet a lot of Germans- they meet me in some cases as family- it’s here.
    As a white male, Adam, perhaps you don’t run into some forms of racism, particularly as an Anglophone. Non-Christian- do you really notice slurs and comments aimed at non-Christians ? Your sensitivity may or may not be as high as mine. I can tell you as a person who does not wear clothes that stand out, Germans have made comments in front of me that are Jew hating, whereas the Chabad rebbe, who wears clothes indicating his religion, has never heard such.
    And, btw, I think Germany is one of the best European countries in coming to terms with its deep seated Jew hatred and racism (generally through laws) – clearly Austria celebrates its own rather than attempting to deal with it.
    If you (or anyone else) thinks banging me will make me silent, think again. Germany is a civilized country (generally, now) and I will speak out as I desire.And telling me that these behaviors don’t exist, or that I am not being “tolerant” of other cultures, does not make it true.

  36. June 4, 2009 at 8:53 am

    OMG outrageous totally! Nice blog btw.

  37. June 4, 2009 at 9:28 am

    I think I have spotted an essential difference between the two of us:

    I assume people are innocent until proven guilty. People are not racist until they open their mouths and say something racist/homophobic/idiotic. I also have a high tolerance for kidding–Yes, I am a faggot. Big deal. I’m rarely offended by people who say it casually because I understand that attitudes change over time and with education. I am surprised when people are racist because deep down inside I believe that all people are created equal and that we inherently know it.

    You assume people are guilty until proven innocent. Germans are, by default, racist, until they prove themselves not. They have an advantage over Austrians because their laws acknowledge that they are racists. You are also offended by off-hand remarks, casual conversations, and things that are said in jest. You are not surprised when people make racist remarks because you believe that although all people are created equal, most people on the planet are sinners–racist, homophobic, etc… so when you hear racist expressions, it’s what you expect to hear.

    As for the playground: I don’t understand how you are certain you were in the right? Who told you that you were in the right?

  38. 40 G
    June 4, 2009 at 11:26 am

    Adam, I will go one more time, than you if you like, than I think we can take it off Ian’s board and to e-mail if you want to continue. Why was I in the right? This is in reference to the legality of taking photos. It’s legal in Germany.
    As to assuming folks are racist? I think most people are decent. I don’t think everyone will intrinsically do the evil thing just because it’s easy. So I do not give people a pass on their racist, Jew hating, homophobic comments and say- It’s just a joke. Perhaps, as a member of the patriarchy, you are good with that. I will also not allow you to trivialize my feelings by telling me that “it’s just a joke”. I am shocked that you feel that it’s ok. I don’t care what people have in their hearts. This isn’t about what people think. It’s about speech and action. I know Austria is more racist because I actually follow the news, even, painfully, translating the German language news. You should know, you recently posted the ability of an Austrian innkeeper to refuse to serve Jews, an illegal act, and to get away with it. Did you not notice the many defenders of that woman’s actions (illegal actions)? Folks can be as racist as they like in their hearts and private actions. The government is there to prevent these actions from being public ones, as when a person with a public accommodation license illegally discriminates based on ethnic origin and religion as defended by Austrian law. Not much use having protective laws when they aren’t enforced. Would you like the old signs back? And the allowance of discrimination in countries by sexual orientation? Where discrimination against Jews, homosexuals and blacks would exist because some people like it that way.
    Ian, to go back to your poor friend, Germany is a crappy country about being process rather than results oriented. I think it’s a result of the fact that there is no common law here: it is all written law and was written after WWII. It produced some good laws (great ones protecting women, children, minorities) but there just isn’t a lot of lee-way in some cases. I hope we have all learned to proactively report these incidents (which my insurance co in the US also says is tremendously important- the person who reports first gets a big advantage.)

  39. June 4, 2009 at 11:58 am

    “As for not thinking Germans are racists- the person who is surprised by this must be white, Western, Christian and male.”

    G, I am Filipina, brown-skinned, living in deep, deep East Germany. I will have to tell you that being Jewish, you probably pass off as white. I’ve been meowed at, been asked to speak in Chinese sing-song, assumed to have come to Germany as an uneducated mail order bride. I was a career-woman born to a middle class family in a third world country, and because of this, my mother in law assumed that I wasn’t taught not to flush my sanitary napkins in the toilet bowl. I found this quite insulting. My father in law used the word “negger” unironically and I had to laugh uncomfortably at the joke.

    The thing is, I don’t think Germans are racist. Like in any other country, people who are uneducated have little or no idea how to deal with foreigners. I think that it all boils down to that. Even Wessies dismiss the Ossis as uneducated hicks. And the case here seems that way, uneducated hicks in hicktown chasing away the poor dude, and the justice system screwed him over again. I don’t think that the German government dealt with S. differently because of his race. If he were German, he would have also been screwed the same way.

    Please stick to the topic. The way S. was treated by the system was nice icing to his shitcake. Let’s not read more into the situation, since it was clearly presented and explained.

  40. June 4, 2009 at 11:58 am

    I’m surprised to hear that you are shocked at my attitude. Based on everything you’ve said, you already knew and expected it.

    I’ll report myself to the local authorities at my earliest possible convenience.

  41. 43 Frank
    June 4, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Sorry, but i don’t understand the discussion anymore. Maybe it is because I am German and I can’t detect the nunances in the used language. My gf is american and I experience situations in which she is offended by comments or actions but I, with my german backround, am not, because I know how people talk to each other here. I can understand that G, with her jewish backround, is more sensitive what is going on in Germany. It is an example that it is about how you grew up and what you experienced in life. I don’t know if she is from a family, which survived the Holocaust but I assume that it was part of her growing up to be confronted with what happened to jewish people during the past and what it means to be jewish in this context. So she definetely has a higher sensitivity for antisemitism. That is normal it is her heritage. I do not understand at all why her remarks caused such a controversy. I would love to understand. I am German, white, male, christian.

  42. 44 G
    June 4, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    Frank- I don’t know why my comments are exciting such controversy either. I am guessing that it is because some people wish to pretend that racism does not exist if they have not noticed it themselves.
    Cathy- do you call the behavior that you have encountered not racist? perhaps some people are afraid of using that term or want to have it defined in a way that I don’t understand? I also don’t laugh at comments such as your father-in-law’s. I am sorry that you felt you needed to. I also don’t think the German government dealt differently with S. because of his race and I have never intimated that I thought an official policy of the German government was racist. In fact, I think I have said the opposite.

    For those who feel the need to report themselves, perhaps look in one’s heart to see where such vehemence as to the invalidity of others experiences lie, or why one should feel the necessity to be part of a hateful process or allow the normalization of hate speech or to validate hate speech by pretending that it is humorous. And take it to my e-mail, if anyone wishes to get more personal. I’m starting to feel that I am taking over Ian’s post, invalidating his premise, and being personally attacked in an open forum. We know each other- I don’t find the level of vitriol I’m seeing as appropriate- perhaps you have some personal experience that is producing this?

  43. June 7, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    Ok. I don’t really want to participate in the “rough-and-tumble”, is Ian put it, but I’d like to add something from an observer’s point of view (maybe to mediate a little).

    G, I think the problem (or rather, misunderstanding) is not caused by what you said, but how you said it.
    You said “As for not thinking Germans are racists…” – this can be easily read as “THE Germans” or “ALL Germans”, and I think that is what most people understood. I did, too, I have to admit, and yes, I felt somewhat offended. But I didn’t feel the need to react on that, because I do not know you and was aware that I might misunderstand you; and I have learned to give it some time before answering to something offending in writing.
    Which was a good choice.

    Because, what you meant (as I understand what what you wrote afterwards) could have been written as “As for thinking there is no racism in Germany…”. To which I fully agree.

  44. June 7, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    Oh, I just notice that I should clarify my last sentence. I agree, to your whole statement, not to that there was “no racism in Germany”.
    Just to make sure😉

  45. June 10, 2009 at 8:57 am

    Somehow I had to think of a few lines from M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder, at the show trial at the end:

    The “judge” declares: “Du hast da was von Recht gesprochen. Wir sollen Recht werden. Hier sitzen lauter Sachverständiger in Rechtsfragen. Von 6 Wochen Tegel bis 15 Jahre Brandenburg. Wir werden schon dafür sorgen, dass dir dein Recht wird. Bekommst sogar einen Verteidiger. Geht alles nach Recht und Ordnung.”

    Quoted here in the context of German justice.

  46. 50 Volker
    July 11, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    if you injure somebody with your car, you have to report it. That simple. Had he done so, he would have got away without a fine. Besides – the other part of the story is still open. So why do you make such a fuss about it?

    • July 12, 2009 at 7:25 am

      The thing is, the “injury” was a bogus claim. The guy wasn’t injured. He attacked the car. Who do you think has had the greater injustice done to him, the guy who attacked the car, or the driver?

  47. 52 Keith
    July 19, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    I am a Canadian living in Hamburg for some years now. I went across the street one morning to the Penny Market to grab some morning, still quite early, a little bit before 9AM.

    Not very busy, no traffic or pedestrians really around. I crossed the street and at the halfway point realized there was a van parked the wrong way, directly on the corner, of the intersecting street, and that the driver started to pull out just then. I made direct eye contact with the driver and still, to my shock (I am not a morning person), I somehow still managed to be put over his hood as he -kept on going-.

    I was carrying 6 one-litre bottles of water in one hand, and a bag of groceries in the other, and was knocked to the ground. Nothing too major mind you, I grew up as a skateboarder in Canada and it take’s a lot for me to classify something as a serious hit.

    I stood up, expecting, as in a normal scenario in the first world I am accustomed to, the driver to stop, come out, and start apologizing profusely. No chance, the prick looks me in the eyes, and basically gives a smirk like “you dummy you should stay out of the way”. He then starts to roll away, so naturally I get a bit upset at this point and begin swearing like a sailor and rapping on his window.

    That get’s his attention, and he stop’s and get’s out. I am incensed at this point because of his terrible lack of response, to the point where I forget to even try in German. It doesn’t come to a physical altercation but apparently he is so offended that he calls the polizei on his handy.

    I then realize that he is the plumber from one door over from my flat. His 3 co-workers come out, just in time for the sounds of the polizei rushing with sirens on to the scene.

    The driver tell’s the polizei I was a madman, and ran up and started kicking his vehicle for no apparent reason – some kind of crazy grocery terrorist I guess. Because there is a pre-existing tiny scratch on his car door (which I don’t really know how could be a result of my ‘kicking’ his car), and also his 3 idiot blue worker-suit’ed underlings (this typical German workmans outfit that make’s them all seem like Lego men) lie and say they were witnesses to all of this.

    My German is failing due to the lack of coffee, early time of day, and overall shock at this unreal situation unfolding. My woman is 20 meters away at the flat probably in the bathroom getting ready for work – I really did not at that point want the embarrassment to get her mixed up with a bunch of lying plumbers and over-eager junior polizei “inspector clousseaus” – so I walked with the cop to the flat and retrieved my passport, and simply said ‘schatz the poizei is here with me but no worries no big deal’.

    The result: because of the confusion level and language difficulties, I did not have the sense to immediately file a complaint against the driver for assault with a vehicle. The case was sent to that städtsanwaltschaft, and after a visit to the Winterhude police station with my German woman, we found a very sympathetic officer who was clearly more experienced than the morning shift bozos who clearly must have been getting some discount plumbing work recently.

    The städtsanwaltschaft threw it out, but then shortly thereafter the plumber took it to civil court, claiming 3 days of rental car costs, repainting of the vehice door (remember: the only visible defect was a pre-existing scratch which was so small it could very easily be buffed out) etc. etc. totalling 1400 EUR. Guess what, never hire a lawyer just because he’s a neighbour – I lost the case and had to pay.

    Extremely, very, bitter about the legal processes here. Never mind I still live in the same location (a dream flat by Hamburg standards), and have to see this evil creep of a plumber daily, I really feel sympathetic to your friend with the beamer-mobbing story – I am a white, clean cut Canadian, and still got treated like dirt by my ‘neighbour’ and the original police on the scene (kudos to the intelligent one at the station though!). I know of the latent racism here, just get any taxi driver of color rolling on the topic here and you can quickly learn it’s not all quite right. Imagine if I was of ethnicity, somehow my grocery-trip would have been intercepted by the SWAT team!🙂

  48. 54 Khaled
    August 2, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    Germans, generally speaking, tend to feel that since you are a foreigner, you are a stupid turd coming to live off their “Sozialhilfe”.

    Let me throw a suggestion into the room; shouldn’t there be a course advising/councilling foreigners on

    a) legal status in this country and
    b) rights in case of a similar altercations/conflicts like the ones mentioned above?

    The mood in this culture is becoming more gloomy to all non-Europeans and especially towards non-Whites and it is time a movement starts where all those regarded as a minority are no longer treated as underdogs. I was not brought by their forefathers as a means of entertainment nor were I created to clean up their mess and misses in life.

    Enough is definitely enough!!!

    To my knowledge, the few political and social movements existing in this nation are driven by African-Germans and leftist parties and organizations. However, obviously they are not reaching enough people since attacks on foreigners are increasing and becoming more violent (hence the Dresden killing of the Egyptian pharmacist).

    Increasingly, German media is turning into a diluted version of a neo-conservative mouthpiece focusing primarily on Casting Shows, sexual encounters and celebrity news.

    P.S. Hi Ian, are you back? Watch your inbox!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

The banner photograph shows the town of Britannia Beach, BC, Canada, where I grew up. It's home. But I don't live there anymore.

My email

britbeach / at / yahoo dot ca

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 591 other followers

SUBSCRIBE! Or I’ll post again.

This blog is best consumed with a glass of wine and often a grain of salt. Take a random look:


This blog has been visited

  • 561,680 times.

A few reasons why I sometimes get homesick





More Photos

1oo% Blogthings-free since January, 2007

and one last factoid about me: according to these people, i can type per minute

OK, that wasn’t the last thing on the sidebar, but this is:

%d bloggers like this: