BERLIN : Effort is part of tradition in which the shops play an active role in the society.

On a freezing Saturday last month, a group of people were setting up microphones and handing out bright colored whistles in Berlin's old Jewish quarter.

They were preparing for a protest against neo-Nazi marchers who were enroute to the neighborhood.

Jorg Braunsdorf, a bookseller, rubbed his hands together to keep warm, as local singer did a sound check.

One man worried that the cold would keep fellow protesters away, but Mr. Braunsdorf was reassuring.

''It's also cold for them,'' referring to the marchers who carry, among other banners, a German flag from the early 1930s.

When right-wing extremists first marched in fall 2016 through the central Berlin's neighborhood where Mr. Braunsdorf's independent bookshop, Tucholsky Bookstore is, he and many of the customers were shocked and appalled.

When they marched again last spring, Mr. Braunsdorf decided it was time to act.

TAKE THE PUBLIC SPACE : First, he emailed everyone on his bookstore distribution list. Then he set up folding chairs among his store's shelves of contemporary novels -

Children's books and an extensive collection of the writings of the German-Jewish writer Kurt Tucholsky.

Forty people attended an after-hours meeting. Along with a half-dozen of them Mr. Braunsdorf co-founded the Residents' Initiative for Civil Courage.

By last summer, when a third march through the neighborhood was announced, the group was ready :

They had teamed up with ''Berlin Against Nazis,'' a city-funded organization that targets racism and anti-Semitism.

A friend of Mr. Braunsdorf's designed colorful posters and fliers, and together they set up three protest stations along the marchers along the marchers route.

Between 200 and 300 neighbors showed up with the soup spoons, banging on pots and pans, to protest the march.

''We wanted to take back the public space,'' Mr. Braunsdorf recalled on a recent afternoon, between answering one customer's question about the literary structure of a young adult thriller and warmly recommending a new novel to another.

''At a certain point, you just have to do something.''


Post a Comment

Grace A Comment!