• Germany's news in English
 

Berlin's 'Peacemaker' soothes the city

Published: 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)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Spectator killed in Nürburgring crash
A section of the Nürburgring's north circuit

Spectator killed in Nürburgring crash

A man has been killed and several others injured in an accident at Germany's Nürburgring racetrack. READ  

Alps Plane Crash
Germany to hold April service for crash victims
Photo: DPA

Germany to hold April service for crash victims

Germany will hold a national memorial ceremony and service on April 17 for victims of the Germanwings flight that crashed in the French Alps, killing all 150 aboard, regional authorities said on Saturday. READ  

Scientists aiming to redefine the kilogram
The world's roundest sphere. Photo: DPA

Scientists aiming to redefine the kilogram

The German Nation Metrology Institute (PTB) in Braunschweig has set itself the enormous task of finding a new formula for measuring a kilogram. READ  

Alps Plane Crash
Germanwings co-pilot 'hid illness' on crash day
Photo: DPA

Germanwings co-pilot 'hid illness' on crash day

Germanwings said on Friday that it had no knowledge of a doctor-signed sick note found by investigators at flight 4U9525 co-pilot Andreas Lubitz's flat. READ  

Varoufakis quells rumours of resignation
Yanis Varoufakis. Photo: DPA

Varoufakis quells rumours of resignation

Update: After German tabloid Bild reported that Germany's least-favourite Greek minister Yanis Varoufakis was considering resigning, the minister rejected the story on Twitter. READ  

Germany to expand disability rights
Photo: DPA

Germany to expand disability rights

A representative of the German Labour Ministry went before a UN Committee on Friday to discuss the government's plan for improved rights for disabled people. READ  

Alps Plane Crash
Germanwings captain's compassion goes viral
Photo: DPA

Germanwings captain's compassion goes viral

A Facebook post describing how a Germanwings pilot personally reassured his passengers of their safety on a flight on Wednesday has received over quarter of a million likes. READ  

Bundestag passes 'foreigner toll' for roads
Photo: DPA

Bundestag passes 'foreigner toll' for roads

The Bundestag (German parliament) passed a hugely controversial law on Friday which will charge foreigners for the use of German roads. READ  

Alps Plane Crash
Airlines agree two-person cockpit rule
Photo: DPA

Airlines agree two-person cockpit rule

The Federation of the German Air Travel Industry (BDL) confirmed on Friday afternoon that from now on two people must be in the cockpit at all times, in a bid to avoid a repeat of the Germanwings disaster. READ  

Germany urgently needs immigrants: study
Spanish immigrants in Germany. Photo: DPA

Germany urgently needs immigrants: study

A study by the Bertelsmann Institute found on Friday that Germany will need around half a million new immigrants every year until 2050 to maintain its work force. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Can the 'nightmare' of a pilot downing a plane be prevented?
National
LIVE: Co-pilot suspected of crashing plane
Pupils mourn lost classmates
National
Freed after 25 years on death row
National
Cologne Cathedral returns from space
Sponsored Article
What expat parents should ask before choosing a school
Features
Paddy's Day, Berlin style
Is your workload 'out of control'? You're not alone...
National
Why east Germans are happy to get it on on camera
National
What would you do with a 250-year-old pretzel?
Features
Just why is the German flag Schwarz, Rot, Gold?
Business & Money
Getting German workers and bosses thinking positive
National
Uplifting thoughts to get you through the last week of winter
National
Who wants the Olympics more - Hamburg or Berlin?
National
Last-minute drama of Germany's Eurovision 2015 entry
National
German photographer takes world's top prize
Features
Meet the woman getting Germans to drink more – and better – beer
Gallery
Get inspired for International Women's Day with German heroes
Sponsored Article
Expert US tax preparation for Americans in Germany
Green party proposes first-ever cannabis legalization plan
Gallery
In pictures: Germany's seven most livable cities
National
Singapore canes Germans for train graffiti
Politics
Surprise! Germans love feeling like they run the EU
Politics
Anger over plan to show women what men earn
Travel
Munich tram fans bicker over new bell
Features
Kafka: puzzling translators 100 years on
Business & Money
France or Germany: Which country really is the best country to work in?
Photo: Police
Rhineland
Student driver crashes tank into family garden.
Photo: DPA
Politics
There was a notable absence at the Anti-Semitism Commission
National
How Dresden bombing still divides Germany, 70 years on
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Take a cute break with this gallery of baby animals
International
What's keeping UK expats from voting?
Photo: DPA
National
Terror alert at a new high. Should you be worried?
Gallery
The best regional foods TTIP opponents want to protect
Photo: DPA
Features
All you ever needed to know about Pegida
Photo: Shutterstock
Culture
This cosplayer did not think his plan through
National
Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
Gallery
Top 12 German idioms
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
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

7,156
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd