Postcard from... Hamburg


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The Independent Online

“Red Flora”, as the decaying, graffiti-smeared building in Hamburg’s fashionable Schanzenviertel district is called, was built in 1889 and once served as a music hall.

But this month its radical left wing inhabitants, who call themselves “Florists”, have been celebrating the building’s 25th birthday as Germany’s longest-surviving squat.

Red Flora was first occupied by leftists in November 1989. They have defied successive eviction attempts by developers and Hamburg’s city council, often with violent protests.

In the port city’s left-wing circles, Red Flora is seen as a bastion of radical protest which has stemmed the tide of urban gentrification. But some unpleasant revelations threaten to sour the anniversary.

City officials and federal prosecutors have conceded that a policewoman worked as a mole inside Red Flora until only last year. Iris Schneider, as was her pseudonym, not only relayed potentially subversive information to her police superiors but also worked as a journalist for Red Flora’s radio station and made close friends with many leftists. According to the Hamburg media, she also had love affairs with activists and reported the details back to her police minders. 

While being a target for police surveillance may have been considered normal to many Florists, having intimate relationships spied on Stasi-style was going too far. As Andreas Blechschmidt, one of the Red Flora veterans, put it: “In this respect, even the radical left has a right to demand some privacy.”