Fuss over Synagogue Square in Pforzheim, Germany

Fuss over Synagogue Square in Pforzheim, Germany

by Andrzej Szubert, November 3 to 6, 2022

Translation from Polish original by Piotr Bein, authorised by Andrzej Szubert

In Pforzheim, where I live as a political refugee from Poland, anti-plandemic demonstrations started in April 2020. These were weekly, stationary protests in the market square in front of the town hall. It lasted until the beginning of June 2021. Sometimes over 300 people attended the demos, periodically 50-70, and other times even less.

In late autumn (late October to early November) 2020, “mobile” demonstrations started almost simultaneously on Mondays and Wednesdays, parallel to the Saturday market demonstrations. We started from the headquarters of Pforzheimer Zeitung (local daily), walked around the city center and ended the demonstrations by the said newspaper seat. Lasting about 1.5 hours, the “mobile” demos were not numerous, so the Ordnungsamt (the office in the town hall responsible, i.a., for registering the demos) ordered us to walk only on the sidewalks, not the roadway. Already in the winter of 2020/2021, during the mobile demos we started to make two or three stops of 10-15 minutes each, including ALWAYS at the Synagogue Square (also in the square in front of the main railway station). We always had at least one drummer.

The Wednesday demos ended at the beginning of June 2021. The Monday ones continued, but their character changed from December 2021. For over a year of Monday demos (and 7 momths of the Wednesday ones), nobody criticized us for stopping at the Synagogue Square, nor for drumming. The local media did not utter a single word about these “small” demonstrations, either.

13th of December

On December 13, 2021, the Pforzheimer Zeitung wrote sharply and critically about our Monday demos. For me it was a memorable date, also because the martial law in Poland started on that day in 1981. Photos at the beginning and end of the demonstration were taken from the newspaper headquarters. Here I am standing with my back on the edge of the sidewalk, backpack on my back, and here you can see me to the left of the road sign with a megaphone in my hand. Under the first photo, the newspaper wrote about “dozens of demonstrators” although there were about 300 of us. The reporter deliberately took pictures to capture only some of the demonstrators.

It was the first Monday demo in over a year, where we walked down the driving lanes, not on the sidewalk, at the request of the police. The police commander said to me before takeoff: on the sidewalk your demonstration will be longer than a kilometer, walk down the driving lanes. It was also the last demo to take place by the newspaper’s headquarters, where there was not enough room for us. The then head of the Ordnungsamt proposed to me to change the place where the demo begins. Subsequent Monday demos started from the theater square located next to the city center.

From December 13 on, we did not stop at the Synagogue Square anymore, since we marched in the driving lanes and not on the sidewalks. Our route passed directly next to the square, visible on the left side of this shot.

The fuss begins

Media attacks on our demos in connection with Synagogue Square began in January 2022, when thousands of people attended, and more than 20 drummers took part. The media wrote at the time that our demos reminded some people (also members of the Jewish community in Pforzheim) of parades-marches of SA, the paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party in the Third Reich. This is what Pforzheimer Zeitung and Pforzheimer Kurier (BNN) wrote.

One time, on January 31, there was an attempt to organize counter-demos in the square by the theater. Newspapers, various organizations and institutions, Pforzheim parliamentarians from the SPD, CDU and Greens, churches, trade unions, etc. urged the public to participate. The organizers of the counter-demo only made fools of themselves. Despite the massive agitation, and the media, party and institutional support, five hundred people came to their rush, according to official data. Our demo gathered five thousand people according to official data, without any media and institutional support. According to our own data there were about 8,000 of us.

Stop drumming

Nobody tried to arrange.counter-demonstrations in Pforzheim again. On the other hand, pressures were put on us not to drum, at least when passing by the Synagogue Square. Among others, the then head of the Ordnungsamt approached me about it. I explained to him that we were neither neo-Nazis nor anti-Semites, and that we were demonstrating and drumming to defend our freedom and our human and civil rights, also for members of the Jewish community in Pforzheim.

Thus, I don’t see any reason why we should stop drumming when passing by this square. The attacks on us for drumming over there finally subsided, and for several months we were not harassed. It is only in the last few days that the attacks have intensified. All the major factions of the commune council want to force the mayor to ban any demonstrations near Synagogue Square.

We have been demonstrating for two years now on the square itself, or next to it, but suddenly it bothers someone. Naturally, we do not intend to abandon our demos nor our permanent route. In the event of a ban on marching next to this square, we will take legal action, if necessary.

A leader from rank and file

I have been leading the Monday demos for 1.5 years since the end of April 2021. Previously, the management changed hands for several months. Since spring 2020, as a regular participant, I naturally took part in the Saturday market demos every week. I also participated in all Wednesday and Monday demos starting from the Pforzheimer Zeitung headquarters. I did not intend to take over the demo leadership, as I had no leadership aspirations. From the beginning of the marketplace demo, I saw myself as a “warrior” fighting in the front line, not as a “leader”.

At the end of April 2021, when the then leader of the Monday demos announced that he was resigning, no one wanted to be his successor. I did not feel like a leader, either. He himself spoke to me: If you don’t take over the leadership of Monday demos, it’s over. Since I didn’t want the demos to end, I eventually agreed to take over the registering and leadership of them. And so it is still today.

Demos now also taka place on Wednesdays and Saturdays in Pforzheim, and on Fridays in various parts of the city or around it. During these demos, I am the deputy in the group of leaders. Nevertheless, the Monday demos remain the most important and numerous.

My position of the resistance movement leader in Pforzheim was strengthened and consolidated by the awarding of the Cross of Freedom and Solidarity by Poland’s President Duda at the beginning of 2022, and then by the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta, both for my activity in the Solidarity movement in the 1980s. I informed about it a group of my closest friends, and the news reached a local newspaper. Even more strengthening of my position came with my refusal to accept these decorations, after I translated it into German and forwarded to Phorzheimer Zeitung. Many, many co-organizers and demonstrators have told me that for them I am a role model of a freedom fighter.

Application to the mayor

On October 28 this year an editorial (i.e. an anonymous author) in the Pforzheimer Kurier, a “component” of the regional BNN newspaper, states that the heads of factions of the commune council asked the mayor to end the demos held next to the Synagogue Square. The reason for their request are our ongoing anti-government demos passing by the square.

A friend of mine sent me the link to the article. The day after its publication, on October 29, I emailed the Kurier’s publisher, the mayor (the commune council faction addressed their appeal to him), and the Ordnungsamt head. My email polemically corrected the article but remains unanswered. On November 2, I sent my counter-statement again to the same addresses (and to the chief regional editor of BNN), sayng that I was considering legal action, should publication of my corrections be refused:

Editor, Pforzheimer Kurier (BNN)
Western Karl-Friedrich-Strasse 24, 75172 Pforzheim

On October 29, 2022, I emailed a counter-statement to the editors of the Pforzheimer Kurier (attachment).
Unfortunately, my reply has not been published until now, although the article about our demonstrations in the Pforzheimer Kurier contained slander and false claims.
According to paragraph 11 of the state press law, however, the editors of the Pforzheimer Kurier are obliged to publish a counterstatement to false claims in their article. If not, I will consider legal action.

Andrzej Szubert
Applicant for the Monday demonstrations in Pforzheim

Covid deniers

An hour later, I got an email from the paper editor. Not wishing to communicate with a liar-media rep behind their backs, I sent all my correspondence with him to the closest co-organizers of our demos. In his next email, the editor informed me (a bit later than 3 hours after my email) that the Internet editorial office made changes to the online version of the article, removing from it i.a. the ugly labeling of us as “Corona-Leugner”, which is reminiscent of “Holocaust-Leugner” (Holocaust deniers) and is intended to depreciate and disavow those called so. The editor insisted and asked that I agree to “official” talks with him regarding this article and our demos. I rejected his proposals, saying that I don’t talk with reps of the media who write slander and lies about us.

On November 3, I sent a criticism of a slightly corrected article. The same person replied that Kurier editors would not publish my polemics:

Dear Mr. Szubert

Thank you for the new email. After consultation with the editor-in-chief, I can give you the following feedback: The editors see the criteria for a reply as not being met here. If you are bothered by the statements we have quoted from the groups, please contact the groups. On our part, I once again offer that we would be happy to present your position in further reporting on the subject. To this end, we can also meet at the editorial office on Friday, should you wish to. For example, at 11:30 or 12:00 a.m.

Also, there is still the idea that we once discussed with Frau Wolf to accompany a demo on your side and to explain who you are and why you are demonstrating. This offer is still valid.

Kind regards

Again, rather insistently, he asked to talk to me. Naturally, I rejected his proposition:

Dear Mr Ronge

As your editorial team refuses to publish my counterstatement, further email exchanges between us have become unnecessary. Regarding your proposal to meet in the editorial office, I repeat again: I am not ready to talk to the representative of a newspaper whose editorial office spreads slander and lies about us. And to your last suggestion, let me say this: my name is Andrzej Szubert and not Frau Wolf. That’s why I’m still the applicant and leader of the Monday demos.

Kind regards

With that, I ended the conversation with the Pforzheim daily’s editor. I wonder if there is any point in launching a court case. The newspaper could prepare another article with a few excerpts from my objections and would say that in the first article it only quoted the factions criticizing our demonstrations, and in the next one it quoted from my polemics “objectively and impartially”.
Anyway, I think that just forcing a corrupt newspaper to remove the “Corona-Leugner” insult from the article’s online version was a success. The Kurier will now be more careful when writing about our demonstrations.

Frau Wolf

“Frau Wolf” was first spotted at our demos in mid-December 2021, i.e. very late as our demos started in April 2020. In January 2022 we needed a new person as my deputy to register the demos in the Ordnungsamt, bacause the predecessor was fired for advertising his political organization. Unfortunately, nobody was interested, as the registering person risked being responsible for the course of demonstrations. Given strict restrictions and thousands of demonstrators (up to 8,000 at the end of January 2022), the chance of being held liable for any riots was significant.

It was then that this “Frau Wolf”, supported by one of the councilors of the controlled opposition party, volunteered as my deputy registrant. From February onwards, she began to sow intrigues, trying to set at logger-heads a few of the most important people for our resistance movement. In mid-August, she was purged from the organizational circle. She tried to win me over to trust her, by insinuating cooperation with the secret police of one of my most trusted co-organizers, making herself all the more suspicious to me. Since then, she has simply faded out of sight.

Radical right add-on

The article stated that sometimes members of the “Identitäre Bewegung” attend our demos. It is a loose union of young people classified by the security agency as belonging to the radical right. In Pforzheim they are organised in the “Revolte Pforzheim” movement that is spied on by the security services. The fact that they sometimes join us breeds a regular campaign against our demos.

I have registered the forthcoming Monday marches by the Synagogue Square on November 7 and November 14, and the Ordnungsamt approved them without any reservations, as it did the coming Saturday, stationary demo in Synagogue Square, in which I am the deputy co-registrant.

Finally, two videos from our march last Monday — a long version and a short one.

Symbol abused?

Struggling for impartiality Pforzheimer Kurier’s author of another article about our demos asks, whether the drummer could have missed on the drum a sticker qualified by German authorities as ethnic hate speech. The photo for the article was taken by my e-“interlocutor”. Evidently, he is delegated to spy on our demonstrations.

The defendant, our drummer Sanny claims she did not notice the sticker. In fact, many of our drummers got rented drums in winter. One wretch would bring them and charge for the rental. Sanny may indeed have overlooked the sticker. Moreover, to classify these stickers as hate speech is a colossal nonsense and an exaggeration. But that’s the way Germans are enslaved. I add that in the morning I went to the court hearing. Unfortunately, Sanna’s lawyer decided that it would be better if no one sat in the audience, as judges are often irritated by such presence, especially in political cases. I asked Sanna and her husband if I should go to the trial as an observer. They replied: better not.

I still don’t know how the hearing went.

The fight for freedom goes on!

The media vilify and fight us, as do ex officio all major factions of the municipal council) and the judiciary. There are attempts to break us up from the inside.

We don’t give up, though. The fight for freedom continues!

By piotrbein