Feathers fly at mass pillow fight in Berlin

A mass pillow fight erupted in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate on Sunday with the aim of breaking the world record for pillow-wielding participants. In the festive atmosphere, even city police got a piece of the action.

Feathers fly at mass pillow fight in Berlin
Photo: Catherine Sonja Bradshaw

When the tail-end of the capital’s grand boulevard Unter den Linden broke into pillow-fighting anarchy around 4 pm, handfuls of tourists and passersby were engulfed in a blizzard unlike any they might have experienced this winter.

The normally prim and orderly Pariser Platz, home to museums and embassies, was nearly unrecognizable as pillows flew and feathers filled the air.

“This is complete chaos, I love it!” exclaimed Taichi Nagai, a visitor from Japan who had unwittingly walked straight into the action.

The event was organized with the goal of breaking the record for the largest pillow fight in history, currently held by a group in Somerset, England, which gathered 3,707 participants in 2008.

Though official numbers for Sunday’s Kissenschlacht have not yet been released, more than 12,000 people responded to a Facebook event created by the pillow fight’s organizers, a group called the Flashmob Berlin/Brandenburg.


Click here for more feathery photos.

The term “flash mob,” in common use for about a decade, broadly refers to a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, carry out a coordinated act for the purpose of satire or simple entertainment, and then suddenly disperse.

In that sense, Sunday’s flash mob was a smash hit, drawing spontaneous participation from people of all ages and nationalities.

But there was no sudden dispersal. Though the fighting needed to last for only a minute to qualify for the record, it went on for over an hour.

“We showed up armed with our pillows, a little before 4 pm,” recounted Curtis Sorrells, a student visiting from Washington, D.C. “It was getting pretty full and then right at the hour, everyone kind of just busted loose, hitting each other, and the feathers started flying. It’s crazy out here. So much fun.”

Not everyone shared in the revelry, though.

One taxi driver, caught in the crowd at the fateful hour, tried to turn his car around to escape the pillow-fighting mob.

But he was shown no mercy. His car was clobbered, engulfed in feathers and fluff, and his windshield wipers did little to clear his field of view.

Police officer Matthias Brandau, surveying the action from a distance, laughed it off and said there was little he and his fellow officers could, or needed, to do.

“What do you mean, ‘maintain security?’” he responded to a question about safety. “They’re fighting with pillows out here. Nothing in the law says that’s something one can’t do.”

“These pillow fights kind of just crop up here every couple of years. It’s something the people enjoy,” he added.

Officer Brandau then excused himself, and went to pose with his fellow officers for a photo.

His reaction indicated that Berlin’s flash mob enthusiasts, whether they broke the pillow-fighting record or not, will have no trouble organizing like-minded events in the future.

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German police under fire for using tracing app to find witnesses

German police drew criticism Tuesday for using an app to trace contacts from bars and restaurants in the fight against the pandemic as part of an investigation.

A barcode used for the Luca check-in app to trace possible Covid contacts at a Stuttgart restaurant.
A barcode used for the Luca check-in app to trace possible Covid contacts at a Stuttgart restaurant. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

The case stemming from November last year began after the fatal fall of a man while leaving a restaurant in the western city of Mainz.

Police seeking possible witnesses made use of data from an app known as Luca, which was designed for patrons to register time spent in restaurants and taverns to track the possible spread of coronavirus.

Luca records the length of time spent at an establishment along with the patron’s full name, address and telephone number – all subject to Germany’s strict data protection laws.

However the police and local prosecutors in the case in Mainz successfully appealed to the municipal health authorities to gain access to information about 21 people who visited the restaurant at the same time as the man who died.

After an outcry, prosecutors apologised to the people involved and the local data protection authority has opened an inquiry into the affair.

“We condemn the abuse of Luca data collected to protect against infections,” said the company that developed the Luca app, culture4life, in a statement.

It added that it had received frequent requests for its data from the authorities which it routinely rejected.

Konstantin von Notz, a senior politician from the Greens, junior partners in the federal coalition, warned that abuse of the app could undermine public trust.

“We must not allow faith in digital apps, which are an important tool in the fight against Covid-19, to disappear,” he told Tuesday’s edition of Handelsblatt business daily.