• Germany edition
 
Berlin's 'Peacemaker' soothes the city
Photo: YouTube

Berlin's 'Peacemaker' soothes the city

Published: 15 May 2013 07:13 GMT+02:00
Updated: 15 May 2013 07:13 GMT+02:00

Hassan Allouche's stocky frame might carry a cape with considerable dignity, but sadly he has no superhero outfit - instead, the moustachioed middle-aged man holds court daily in a café drinking tea and smoking.

He helps his clients, largely from the city's immigrant community, to calm down and understand each other - and abide by German law. Allouche claims a 99-percent success rate in solving disputes, a figure supported by the obvious respect he commands in those around him.

"I explain to people that they have to respect German rules," he said, sitting down straight after a session reconciling two families caught in an ongoing row.

The group of men who had pulled up chairs beside him in the café nodded. All admitted unashamedly that they had called on him for help in the past. "He is our grandfather," said one.

"People call on me because the police come too late," he said. By the time the authorities do arrive, Allouche has often calmed a situation down, leaving the police to tackle any legal fall-out.

This means that the Berlin cops tend to accept Allouche, he said. "I have a good relationship with the police in general but some are against me, as they think I operate outside the law," he said.

'I have stopped massacres'

Mediation is in Allouche's blood. He is the current bearer of the Friedenstifter - Peacemaker - title that his father and grandfather held before him. His brother was also involved in settling arguments, and was killed as a result.

Allouche has been at it nearly every day for 30 years, called by largely immigrant families to settle disputes over such diverse subjects as money, children and work - as well as sometimes trickier things like marriages.

The arguments are often on the brink of tumbling out of control and into violence, which is when he acts to defuse the situation. Sometimes he is not called until things are already out of hand.

Once time he arrived at a flat and knives were not only out, but being wielded, he said. Nonetheless he managed to stop anything too serious happening. "I have stopped massacres," he said.

On the day we met, his assignation had been less dramatic. A bad look exchanged between members of two families had escalated and violence was in the air - something he had managed to avoid, sending the families away as friends.

His normal approach is to talk with each rowing party separately to hear both sides of the argument before bringing them together.

While "always trying to help" is Allouche's life-calling, there are some areas in which he refuses to tread. "When I am asked to help with problems that have arisen from terrorism, weapon deals, or money laundering, I refuse."

There have been, of course, incidents in which Allouche hasn't been able to help. Particularly memorable was the murder of a 30-year-old woman by her mentally-ill husband in June 2012.

"She spoke to the police twice before she was murdered but they couldn't do anything," he said. "I wouldn't have left her alone."

'Nothing to do with religion'

He has sometimes had young couples whose parents object to their relationships stay at his house while he talks with the parents.

When this is mentioned it provokes a broad grin from a man in his thirties sitting nearby. He said he and his now wife were taken in by Allouche after his parents threw him out. The "Peacemaker" let them stay until he'd smoothed relations between the young lovers' families. "And now we've got five kids," said the man.

Although many of Allouche's mediation clients are from Muslim communities, he said what he did was not rooted in religion.

“My work is nothing to do with religion. Religion, skin colour, none of it matters," he said. And although he said he was only very rarely approached for help by Germans, he has leant his services to Albanians, Italians, Poles, and Russians.

The father-of-five's work extends into community outreach, giving lessons to the city's young men in how to behave with honour and without strife - he works with up to 30 youngsters a week talking about how to function in Germany.

Allouche, who would only admit to being between 50 and 70, was born in Lebanon to a Palestinian family and has been here for decades.

His brother moved over to Berlin too and followed the family "Peacemaker" business until he was shot in the back of the head in 2000 during an argument in Neukölln. "He got in the middle of a problem that couldn't be solved," said Allouche.

"I never get scared, though," he added, joking that fear was not a word in his vocabulary. If, like his brother, he were to be killed he "would die for Germany, the country where I live and where I work to bring peace."

Jessica Ware

jessica.ware@thelocal.com

twitter.com/jesscware

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Pilots' strike over, but disruption continues
Passengers in Hannover check departure boards showing cancelled Germanwings flights. Photo: DPA

Pilots' strike over, but disruption continues

UPDATE: Germanwings pilots have ended their six-hour strike which grounded 116 flights and up to 15,000 passengers of Lufthansa subsidiary Germanwings on Friday. READ  

Man narrowly escapes unwelcome drop-in
Emergency services use a crane to lift the fallen crane in Cologne. Photo: DPA

Man narrowly escapes unwelcome drop-in

A Cologne resident was pinned to his bed after a 40-metre construction crane toppled onto his home early on Friday. READ  

'Further sanctions' could hit Russia, says Merkel
Merkel looking grave at Thursday's West Balkan conference in Berlin. Photo: DPA

'Further sanctions' could hit Russia, says Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday that European leaders will discuss the worsening Ukraine crisis and possible further sanctions against Russia at a weekend summit. READ  

UK-Germany rivalries live again in Champs League
Bayern Munich captain Philipp Lahm with fellow World Cup champion Bastian Schweinsteiger. Photo: DPA

UK-Germany rivalries live again in Champs League

The 2014-15 Champions League draw yesterday brought déjà-vu for English and German clubs as old opponents found themselves facing off once again. READ  

German of the Week
Animal activist fights off murder threats
Photo: DPA

Animal activist fights off murder threats

Friedrich Mülln has been dragged through the courts and threatened with murder during his years of animal rights activism. His latest court case was in Munich this week but he tells The Local he has no plans to give up the fight. READ  

Has Merkel's Russia policy failed?
A Russian tank at a military parade in Moscow in May. Photo: DPA

Has Merkel's Russia policy failed?

A foreign policy expert in Chancellor Angela Merkel's own party said on Thursday Russia was fighting a "war" in Ukraine. Despite dozens of phone calls to President Vladimir Putin, Merkel's policy of restraint seems to have completely failed. READ  

Arson attack causes Berlin train chaos
Passengers look at messages about the damage this morning at Ostkreuz. Photo: DPA

Arson attack causes Berlin train chaos

Travellers in southeast Berlin can expect disruption on the S-Bahn until Sunday morning after an arson attack damaged a cable duct on Thursday morning, affecting services on six lines. READ  

Germany posts weaker job figures
Photo: DPA

Germany posts weaker job figures

Unemployment in Germany remained steady in August, official data showed on Thursday, as clouds continue to build over Europe's biggest economy and the eurozone as a whole. READ  

Police suspect arsonists were behind mosque fire
The facade of the Mevlana mosque was badly damaged by smoke from the fire. Photo: DPA

Police suspect arsonists were behind mosque fire

UPDATE: Investigators now believe a fire which damaged a mosque in Berlin earlier in August was started deliberately. READ  

Berlin struggles to sell former Goebbels villa
The Haus am Bogensee. Photo: DPA

Berlin struggles to sell former Goebbels villa

After two failed attempts, Berlin is trying again to sell the sprawling estate and villa once known as Joseph Goebbels' illicit love nest, but so far, nobody's buying. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: Shutterstock
Gallery
Ten of the oddest things found by German border control
Photo: Gerkan, Marg and Partners/Tegel Projekt GmbH/J. Mayer
Berlin
How will Berlin look in five years' time?
Photo: DPA
Culture
Sprechen Sie Deutsch? 10 reasons why you should
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The best of Berlin's mayor Klaus Wowereit in 14 pictures
Photo: DPA
Politics
Germany sends burgers and sausages to Kurds
Photo: Matthias Kock
National
Tribes, ties and a movie: A German's Afghan life
Photo: DPA
Gallery
10 things to do before summer in Germany is really over
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The mysteries of Berlin's abandoned theme park
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,701
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd