Since September, several arson attacks against squats and other self-organised alternative spaces have taken place in the Rhine-Main region in Germany.
The first attack took place in Schwalbach, a village on the outskirts of Frankfurt, on 15th of September. The village is a home to Knotenpunkt: a self-organised housing project which is a part of a wider network of alternative spaces in Germany consisting of 136 home projects and 17 project initiatives.
According to a spokesperson for Knotenpunkt, shortly before 11pm on the day of the arson, the residents noticed that a nearby wooden barn was on fire. Despite the efforts to extinguish it and the speedy arrival of the fire brigades, the fire had spread, damaging two outbuildings and the roof of the main building. Later the police confirmed that they believe the incident to be a result of arson, but no suspects had been determined yet.
Luckily, nobody was hurt, but the project had been rendered uninhabitable, and the damages are estimated at more than 200,000 Euros: a heartbreaking outcome, especially considering that most of the project was built by residents themselves.
On 13th and 15th November, three more arson attacks against left spaces took place in Frankfurt.
First, on the night of 13th November, the shed in a garden of the autonomous residential and cultural centre Au in the Rödelheim district was set on fire by unknown parties. Fortunately, the fire was noticed quickly and the residents were able to deal with it by themselves.
About 45 minutes later, a wooden fence on another alternative project, Assenland, located just a mile away from Au, was set alight. This time, the fire had extinguished itself, as the fence was very damp following a heavy rain which occurred earlier that day.
Two days later, at night of 15th November, another fire had started at Au project, again in the garden, and again the residents were able to deal with it by themselves as it was spotted early.
The latest fire incident happened on Monday, 3rd December, in Hanau: a small city around 30km away from Frankfurt, where a building trailer used as a gazebo was set on fire at another alternative housing project Schwarze 7. The fire was noticed around 9.30pm and it was extinguished by the residents quickly after. Nobody was hurt, but the financial damage amounts to around 5000 Euros.
In the joint statement, Au, Assenland and Knotenpunkt point out that as much as nobody claimed responsibility for the fires, it is clear to them that they specifically targeted left projects and infrastructure and likely were politically motivated. Further, the statement criticises the “dangerous sentiment against left projects” expressed by some German political parties, specifically AfD, CDS and FPD. For instance, a few months ago, AfD demanded to “immediately end” the Au occupation: a successful alternative project which has been going strong for 35 years. What’s more, some CDU politicians demanded in the recent months to end the ‘lawless” state of affairs in Au. The liberals from FDP, on their part, had demanded the closure of Au and other of Frankfurt’s alternative spaces as “left-wing extremist venues”.
Photo: the front of the self-organised cultural centre and living project Au, taken from their website.