"We are being labelled traitors," said an activist named Jannek, who co-founded Hipster Antifa Neukölln. "We have been threatened, they say they know where we live and our cars will be burned."
Which does sound like a little much for run-of-the-mill hipster hate. So what gives, Germany? Why so serious (about literally everything, all the time)? Well, apparently Berlin isn't quite what I thought it was, which is a socialized wunderland where no one is in debt, the government covers many expenses, and jobs in the arts are plentiful. No, things are sort of the same as they are here, with rents going up, employment rates going down, and new people moving in every day. Or, in the words of a Le Monde article I poorly filtered through Google Translate, "This indistinct mass, it is the figure of the hipster young looké and follower of style 'retro,' which has become responsible for all evils."
The Neukölln neighborhood has been a particular epicenter, with rates of foreign visitors rising 13% in the past year alone, and a recent 6,000 person march to protest ever-increasing rents. As such, people are frustrated, and some businesses put up signs warning that
long haired freaky people need not apply hipsters and tourists aren't welcome. Also, in the super fucking weird video below, for example, a local bar owner laments "All these fucking students, artists, layabouts. The complete mob called 'creative class," and goes on to complain that due to gentrification, "Dirty dog shit was turned into peaceful baby buggies." Ugh, I know, right?
Described by the Guardian as "neither a hipster nor a foreigner," Jannek explained, "The anti-foreigner thing started as a bit of a joke but now it is much more serious. This is critical, it is sneaking into mainstream thinking — it's almost being perceived as normal to dislike tourists." He also theorizes that local punks have, oddly, re-directed their anti-Nazi anger toward hipsters, which isn't really helping.
So, with a motto that roughly translates to "Luxury over poverty," the Antifa is plastering the city with stickers that read, "Everyone is welcome — party like it's 1945," and also doing reasonable things like advocating for caps on rents to protect the lower-income residents of the neighborhood.
Sounds familiar enough, if far more intense and German, so hopefully things will just simmer down on their own. In the words of one local blogger, "To lynch kiezkiller [a local euphemism for hipsters] is to lynch a little self," since everyone who lives in a city is inherently involved in its development. A tale as old as time.
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.