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Berlin Rest Stop

The core of the precarious life is the unpredictability, the uncertainty. Therefore, the installation of a HOTEL GELEM is often temporary. Nevertheless, there are regularities.

For several years, some Roma families have built temporary tent sites at rest stops in Berlin during the summer months. This year the camp is at the Waldeck-West rest stop. While a regional newspaper skews the story and writes of the "the powerless authorities" and demands police interference, some everyday life comes into beeing at the rest stop. Tents are set up between the parking bays; crockery, cushions and blankets are laid out on the blue, permanently mounted tables at the rest area, and laundry is hung out to dry on the fence.

Camping at rest areas is not allowed, but more than a ban from the rest stop may not be feared for this minor infringement of the law. A year ago, a private security guard was hired - but of course this did not drive the people away. Where were they supposed to go? They come from countries where living conditions are much worse than here, and violence against Romas is nothing new for them. In the warm seasons, they try their luck in Berlin. The climatic and also possibly the political conditions are too harsh in Berlin for permanent shantytowns reminiscent of those in France. Those who will stay in Berlin through the winter must find rooms or even simply mattresses for rent. Even the landlords put on an act, as they usually are themselves in the bottom of the social and economic order and live on little income support or pension. They pass on their apartments at exorbitant prices. Thus a strange self-organization arises under the radar of tenants or residents' protection, to which the authorities turn a blind eye, where even social workers and Roma associations have their limitations. But the resulting invisibility of poverty and misery is deceptive. The people and their fate will not be accepted, on the contrary: at the expense of these people, the majority of society only maintains self-complacency and self-righteousness. The attempt of the fifty people in Waldeck to pitch their tents here, at least for a short period of time, is hardly a real threat to the German capital with 3.5 million inhabitants. On the margins of society and in an inhospitable place on the outskirts of the city, in the middle of the freeway noise and located directly in the flight path of the airport Schönefeld, this tent camp should perhaps be less understood as a parallel society, and more as a phenomenon of the distribution of opportunities, goods and attention on the extreme edge of a globalized consumer- and communication-based society.

The HOTEL GELEM is located in a tent near the highway rest stop Waldeck West, and is surrounded by the tents of the other Roma families. It is the first rest stop on the A 117 shortly after the Berlin city limits on the way out of town. The short stretch of freeway is actually a leftover from the days of East Germany and leads to a big Ikea and Media Markt Shopping Center in the city. Without a car, there is no way leave this area.While most ride into town, a few remain here during the day. In the evening they grill and eat on the blue, firmly anchored tables next to the parking bays of the rest stop. The freeway workers brought two portable toilets and a large water tank a few days ago. This was less likely was meant as a concession to the Romas, but rather a measure to protect its own plumbing and landscaping.

Nevertheless, this is a first step towards acceptance and awareness.

Visit the HOTEL GELEM Waldeck in Berlin >>