‘Arabs… Chechens’: German Swimming Baths Terrorised by ‘Migration Background’ Men

11 June 2023, Berlin: Visitors swim in the swimmer's pool at the Kreuzberg - Prinzenb
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Even the heat wave passing over Europe isn’t enough to keep the popular public baths open, as authorities react to a rising tide of violence, allegedly by migrant men, by simply closing the tax-funded facilities down.

Violence at swimming baths, allegedly the work of “macho immigrants”, is once again headline news in Germany, with national newspapers complaining of “Coronavirus lockdown” like scenes with public baths, sometimes expensively recently refurbished at public expense, shut down to avoid violence. Several baths, notably the Columbia baths in Berlin as well as others in that city, and some in other cities including Mannheim and Karlsruhe have been impacted.

Die Welt laments “surrender to a comparatively small group of violent men” with the closures and reports the contents of an “urgent letter” written by employees to their management laying out the issues.

14 July 2023, Berlin: At the closed entrance of the Columbiabad in Neukölln hangs a sign with the inscription “The bath remains closed for operational reasons until further notice!”. Photo by Viola Lopes/picture alliance via Getty Images

The letter, the paper says, claims that violence at the public baths is the work of “mobs” of “young people from Arab families, some of them Chechens”. The assessment appears to concur with the remarks of a top German police officer last summer, who said of those committing pool attacks that year: “most of them with a migration background”.

German news magazine Focus cites the remarks of the chairman of the Federal Association of Master Swimmers (BDS-ev) Peter Harzheim, which represents the nation’s professional lifeguards and pool operators, who said rather than shutting down pools police officers should instead be deployed to keep the peace.

Harzheim articulated the experience of his members on the ground that while the majority of pools nationwide remained safe, and that while all were welcome to swim, everyone should obey the “rules and customs” of Germany. The problems emerged, he said, from the presence of “different cultural classes… including many young men with a migration background” and “macho immigrants”.

As for the victims of this violence, Die Tageszeitung reports that: “employees, women, minorities, especially trans and queer people” take the brunt, with “verbal attacks, bullying, and spitting common”. In one cited example, a “girl’s” bathing top was torn off, and staff attacked.

The claims of the pool employees and the subsequent debate on the matter have sparked some criticism from the left. Local Berlin left-wing, Antifa-affiliated representative Ferat Koçak rejected immigration had anything to do with the violence, insisting it was actually caused by some communities being “left behind” in society, and “too little investment in education and youth work, unemployment”.

Present plans under discussion to combat the violence in the German government include compulsory photographic identification for swimmers with enforceable bans for bad behaviour, and establishing a temporary police station at swimming baths, Welt reports.

While the violence in public pools is resurgent this summer, it is by no means a new phenomenon in Germany and received widespread attention during the Europe migrant crisis of the last decade. As far back as 2013, leaflets were issued in Arabic, Pashto, and Somali at German baths instructing bathers now to grope women at the pool.

In 2016 pools saw sex attacks on young people and even rapes of very young children, and swimming baths closed after groups of allegedly migrant men masturbated and defecated into pools. A leaked police report that year reported “offences of rape and sexual abuse of children in bathing establishments is significant” and experiencing a “huge increase”, and that the “perpetrators are for the most part immigrants”.

Attacks continued in the following years, with young children often the victim. In 2019, a German feminist magazine broke the taboo on talking about migrant crime in Germany and reported: “Women are massively harassed by migrants. Swimming champions are abused. In addition, there is a high degree of violence and the lack of any respect! An outdoor swimming pool should be a place of recreation and not a place of horror!”.

The culture clash described presents a problem for Germany’s progressive credentials, with it trying to push the equality envelope this year with a senate ruling that topless bathing should be available to all. The ruling found that because men are permitted to swim wearing just trunks, the same privilege should be afforded to women and “non-binary” people too.


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