‘Shoot Swabians’: Berlin berates its bourgeois invaders

Status as Germany’s capital of cool under threat after influx from provincial backwater

Berlin

Their dialect is famous for being unintelligible to most Germans.

Stereotypically, they are hard workers, miserly, and fastidious doorstep polishers, and they have flooded the trendiest part of Berlin with yuppie residents since the fall of the city’s infamous Wall over two decades ago.

The newcomers hail from a wealthy region in Germany’s south-west called Swabia. But their presence in the capital has now provoked a furious outburst from one of the country’s leading politicians, who has accused them of importing nauseating provincialism to metropolitan Berlin.

The broadside against Berlin’s Swabian community has been delivered by German parliamentary vice president, Wolfgang Thierse, a 69-year-old east-Berliner who has lived in the city’s now upmarket and Swabian-dominated Prenzlauer Berg district for over 40 years.

In an interview with the city’s Morgenpost newspaper this week, Mr Thierse bemoaned the presence of so many well-heeled Swabians in his borough and claimed he felt like an “endangered species” because 90 per cent of his neighbours came from Germany’s south west.

Denouncing their alleged provincialism, which many feel is epitomised by their fondness for scrubbing of their doorsteps on a regular basis, Mr Thierse insisted: “I wish the Swabians would realise that they are in Berlin and not in some small town where residents are organised to clean the streets. They come here because it is so colourful, exciting and lively, but when they’ve been here for a bit they want to make it just like back home,” he added.

Mr Thierse’s remarks have reopened a long-running and largely tongue-in-cheek row about Berlin’s Swabians which started over two years ago. Cheap rents in Prenzlauer Berg attracted thousands of young Swabians after 1990. They bought properties, started businesses and are now responsible for one of the highest birth rates in Germany. Yet they are also blamed for the gentrification of what was until recently held to be Berlin’s “coolest” district.

Anti-Swabian campaigners have gone on the offensive, covering parts of Prenzlauer Berg – nicknamed “Schwabylon” - with “Shoot Swabians” and “Swabians Out” stickers. Doctored road signs even show workmen digging graves for Swabians.

Today however, Swabia returned fire. “Without the Swabians, the quality of life in Berlin would be very difficult to sustain,” remarked Günther Oettinger, the European Union’s Swabian energy commissioner in a reference to the subsidies southern Germany pays to help balance impoverished Berlin’s budget.

Mr Thierse replied: “I am surprised that the Swabians have reacted with such seriousness. Berliners have a better sense of humour.”

Natives: Famous Swabians

Albert Einstein The world’s most famous theoretical physicist, below, was born in Ulm, in Württemberg, Germany, in 1879, and often referred to himself as “the valiant Swabian” in his youth. The phrase was a quote from the poem by Ludwig Uhland, which had the line: “But the valiant Swabian is  not afraid.”

Jürgen Klinsmann The German football manager and former player admits he enjoys baking “Swabian pretzels”. “That’s a kind of a roll from the region where I come,” he said.

Erwin Rommel The Second World War Nazi Field Marshall, otherwise known as the Desert Fox, hailed from Swabia – as was evident from his surname Rommel, a common Swabian name.

Gottlieb Daimler The engineer, industrialist and automobile pioneer, who founded the company that would later make Mercedes-Benz cars, was also a Swabian.

Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
News
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
tv
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Central London - £45,000-£55,000 + bonus

£45000 - £55000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: The focus of this is to deve...

Application Support - Enterprise Java, SQL, Oracle, SQL Server

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A well-established financial soft...

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape