The sentence smeared overnight on the wall of a house in the gentrified area of Prenzlauer Berg reads “Don’t buy from Swabians,” a boycott call which harks back to Hitler’s early anti-Semitic campaign, when people were urged not to support Jewish businesses.
Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit described the graffiti as an “unspeakable action, for which there was “no justification.”
Berlin state interior minister Frank Henkel said the graffiti on Rykestraße was all the more tasteless because there is a synagogue on the street. “Graffiti of this kind is no trivial offense. The police will do everything they can to find the person responsible,” he said.
Some 200 metres away from the latest graffiti, someone has scrawled “Schwabe verpiss’ dich” (Swabians, piss off) on a container on a building site. In both cases the letters “TSH” were included, an abbreviation used online which stands for “Total Hatred of Swabians.”
In the run-up to Hitler’s take-over, Nazis called on Germans to boycott Jewish businesses, claiming Jews did not belong to the “national community.”
Swabia refers to a culturally distinct but borderless area of south-western Germany.
Anti-Swabian sentiment is particularly high in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg district, around the popular Kollwitzplatz tourist area.
In recent times, street signs there have been defaced with stickers. Kollwitzplatz became “Kollwitzspätzle” in reference to a popular Swabian dish and Wörther Straße became Wörther Gässle, the latter a more provincial name used for “street.”
Some Berliners have complained that Swabians are changing the face of the city and are forcing rents up.
At the beginning of this year, long-time Berlin resident and former Bundestag President Wolfgang Thierse sparked controversy when he commented that Swabians should “finally get that they are in Berlin now and no longer in their small town.”
He also complained that they had imported terms like Pflumendatschi, which they were using in favour of Plaumenkuchen to describe plum-based confectionery.
In a subsequent column he apologized for the outrage he had caused and said “everyone was welcome” in Berlin.
A theatre group, fresh from the success of the first run of their play “Schwabenhatz,” which focusses on anti-Swabian sentiment in the German capital, is due to stage a repeat performance in the Kulturbrauerei in Prenzlauer Berg on Tuesday.
The group said the piece aimed to explore the “essence of the Swabian.”