• Germany's news in English

Michael Jackson shrine may have to beat it

AFP · 31 Jul 2015, 09:02

Published: 31 Jul 2015 09:02 GMT+02:00
Updated: 31 Jul 2015 09:02 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Rival factions enamoured with the King of Pop beyond the grave are locked in a bitter battle over who tends best to the American singer's memory, in a spat that has at times even turned violent.

Authorities in the southern city of Munich, where Jackson was a frequent guest at the plush Bayerischer Hof hotel, say the memorial may have to go to keep the peace.

A letter this month from the Bavarian state culture ministry in the tone of an exasperated parent warned that "if peaceful coexistence between the different groups of fans behind the Michael Jackson memorial is not possible, the memorial will unfortunately have to disappear".

Just opposite the hotel's entrance is a statue of Renaissance composer Orlando di Lasso that Jackson devotees have commandeered as a shrine for the eccentric entertainer.

Its pedestal is smothered in pictures documenting Jackson's startling physical transformation over his four-decade career, flags from the fans' countries of origin, flowerpots and fresh bouquets with lovingly drawn cards.

One of the top-selling recording artists of all time, Jackson died aged 50 on June 25th, 2009 from a lethal overdose of sedatives as he was readying to give a series of concerts in London.

The superstar was a frequent visitor to Germany, where he had one of his largest and most devoted fan bases.

In one of his more perplexing public appearances, the pop icon held his youngest son Prince Michael II out of the window of a Berlin hotel in 2002 in front of hundreds of fans.

Nevertheless, the outpouring of emotion set off by Jackson's passing continues unabated in Germany six years on, and the mood has grown increasingly fraught, even hysterical.

"We tolerated this memorial until now, but have heard from the police about disputes among fans and there have even been criminal complaints," a spokesman for Bavaria's culture ministry, Henning Giessen, told AFP.

One such complaint, for bodily harm, was filed by the president and founder of the Munich-based fan club MJ's Legacy, Nena Snezana Akhtar.

She accuses a rival Jackson enthusiast of throwing a glass votive candle-holder at her. Berlin's daily Tagesspiegel called it a "guerrilla war" fuelled by "a lot of Prosecco".

"For some time, a group of four people has come together to rally against our work," said Akhtar, who makes a daily pilgrimage to the shrine to tend to it.

"They remove our decorations, take down our posters and crush the flowers we plant."

Michael's message

Not surprisingly, the opposing camp, which runs a Facebook page called MJ Memorial Munich, tells a different story.

"The organisation MJ's Legacy thinks that it has exclusive permission from the city to decorate and maintain the memorial," said one member, Bettina Alder.

"(Akhtar) is doing everything she can to get us out of here but a lot of fans (from MJ Memorial Munich) don't agree and want to keep coming."

Until now, attempts to mediate between the warring sides have proved fruitless.

Although the memorial never received formal approval by the Munich or Bavarian state authorities, no one has moved to dismantle it.

Story continues below…

Over the years it has become a kind of quirky landmark and a must-see stop for foreign tourists.

But if the police are called again to break up a dispute, the memorial will likely have to vanish.

"If that happens, I'll be very, very sad," said Mila Bulj, a pensioner and member of MJ's Legacy, tears welling up in her eyes.

"We can continue getting together and accepting money for our charity work, but I would miss the memorial so much."

Beyond maintaining the shrine, the group does fundraising for causes that were close to Jackson's heart, such as child cancer patients.

Inspired by the singer's much-espoused dream of a world at peace, one fan who gave his name as Elmmi admitted that the shrine had perhaps caused more strife than it was worth.

"It's not that important to have posters or a monument to remember him by, especially when they cause problems," he said. "The important thing is to keep spreading Michael's message."

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Couple accused of torturing, murdering women go on trial
The so-called 'house of horrors' in Höxter where the couple allegedly tortured and killed women. Photo: DPA.

A couple accused of luring women to their village home with personal ads started trial on Wednesday over charges that they tortured and killed at least two of their victims.

After July attacks, govt drafts new video surveillance law
Photo: DPA

The Interior Ministry is drafting a law which will enable public spaces to be filmed for surveillance purposes as a reaction to deadly attacks in July, according to a newspaper report.

Eurowings union threatens cabin crew strike for Thursday
Photo: DPA.

A union representing cabin crews on Lufthansa's budget airline Eurowings has announced that strikes will start as of Thursday if ongoing contract negotiations continue to falter.

Merkel: murky internet giants distort perception of reality
Angela Merkel. Photo: DPA.

Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Tuesday for internet giants to make public their closely-guarded algorithms, claiming that they are not giving people diverse enough information.

Pegida leader 'paid court costs with group's money'
Pegida leader Lutz Bachmann. Photo: DPA.

The leader of the anti-Islam movement reportedly used money from Pegida's coffers to pay for two personal court cases, German media reported this week.

Anger as Berlin scraps Turkey concert on Armenia genocide
The Dresden Symphony Orchestra. Photo: DPA

Germany's foreign ministry Tuesday scrapped a planned symphony performance on the Armenian "genocide" in its Istanbul consulate, sparking accusations that it was caving in to Turkish pressure.

Obama to visit Berlin in last presidential trip to Germany
President Barack Obama and Chancellor Angela Merkel during a Berlin trip in 2013. Photo: DPA.

The White House announced on Tuesday that US President Barack Obama will be paying one last unexpected visit to the German capital - his last before he leaves office.

Hostility towards minorities 'widespread in Bavaria'
A village in southern Bavaria. Photo: DPA.

Hate and hostility towards groups deemed to be different are not just sentiments felt by fringe extremists, a new report on Bavaria shows.

Hated RB Leipzig emerge as shock challengers to Bayern
RB Leipzig. Photo: DPA

RB Leipzig's remarkable unbeaten start to the Bundesliga season has seen them suddenly emerge at the head of the pack chasing reigning champions and league leaders Bayern Munich.

Munich taxi driver in hospital after attack by British tourists
Photo: DPA

A taxi driver had to be hospitalized in Munich on Monday evening after three British tourists refused to pay their fare and then attacked him.

Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd