This is what happened to me at Berlin Hauptbanhof

I wrote this on the morning of the 27th of July and I am absolutely fascinated by how much has shifted in myself since then. Reading this, I feel no pain or irritation whatsoever, in fact a lot of the questions I pose below have received clear and profound answers. I will share these in a later post that I will hopefully write up today at some point.

Here is what happened on the morning of the 27th of July at the Berlin Hauptbanhof Train Station


“So I’m travelling to Stuttgart and I went to the train station SUPER early as my train was meant to leave at 6:37 in the morning. There is a special on at the moment with DB (Deutsch Bahn) which says that  you can travel with more than 1 person on a cheap ticket. Cheap being 42 eur and an additional 6 eu for every additional passenger. Essentially meaning that a ticket to Stuttgart could cost me around 13 eur. A real bargain. The guy at the information desk of DB suggested that I stand at the entrance of the ticket office with my sign which he wrote for me in German. I did that.

As I was standing there 2 police men approach. They were about to walk past and then one of them turned to me and asked me for my passport. So I asked him why he wanted my passport and he said “We’re doing a police control”, as internally annoyed as I am I give him my passport, he asks me where I’m from, I tell him “From South Africa as you can see in the passport”, he paces around for a while (I’m very aware that he’s looking for my visa for Germany), so eventually I ask the other police man if that is what he is looking for and he says yes, so I take my Swedish residence permit and Visitors permit out and hand it to him.

He radios someone and then calls someone, next thing you know, another police approaches, this time it’s a woman, she arrives “at the crime scene” – seeing as that’s what they were treating it as! And offcourse me; the criminal ,the main part of this very important and vital investigation. The woman police came to get my passport as well as my residence and visitors permit. She leaves without saying a word, so I ask where my documents are being taken to and one of the policemen turns to me and responds in German “immigration control”, so I keep quiet, realising what a silly and un-true answer this was. So later on after numerous phone calls and many many conversations in German amongst themselves, I say “excuse me, what is the confusion?” and he says to me “LISTEN, this is a police control”, “I understand that but I’m asking what the confusion is here” I re-iterate and he responds “ Look, this a a police control, just SHUT UP!”.

You see, those last 2 words at the end of the sentence are what pushed my main button, here I am standing with a  sign in German in Berlin Hauptbanhop, a tourist. Just that. A tourist.  And I am being told to “SHUT UP”  when asking what is happening concerning my paperwork, my possessions and essentially my freedom of movement. To be told to “Shut Up” when I am doing and saying nothing rude or out of the ordinary is totally out of line. Especially by someone who’s job description includes “protecting and serving civilians”. In fact even if I was being rude he had no right to tell me to “SHUT UP”.

After about half an hour, the woman police returns with my passport and permits. I am so upset at this point, that I am telling the policeman who told me to shut up, how distasteful, unnecessary, rude and power-misusing he was being. I could see him getting worked up. His colleague seemed uncomfortable, he was younger and had purer eyes. I could see that he was deliberately avoiding eye contact with me. He was new in the game and this arrogant policeman was his trainer.

I remember at one point there being a passenger needing help on something, a German word or a platform number – I’m not sure what. The arrogant man responded by saying that he was a policeman and not information personnel, there is something of thinking and truly believing that he is superior in that statement. Above me, above that passenger, above the personnel at the information desk. He was a policeman – some skewed understanding of what his role and job meant.

Offcourse I was here legally and the woman police returns with my documents and the police man says a very in-genuine and slimy  “thank you” , as he hands me my papers back I move my hand back and look him in the eye and once more express that him telling me to “SHUT UP” was just not right. The woman policeman, without knowing anything of what had happened, skews her face and says to me “What’s your problem?” in a disgusted and very matter-of-fact tone of voice , it was like a scene from a movie I would call “guilty until proven guilty”. I felt oppressed, unheard.

I eventually opened my palm and took back my documents.

They walked away speaking in German and I imagine discussing how annoying I was being and whatever else. Because they looked smug and arrogant, smirking as they spoke, turning around to make sure I saw how much they didn’t care how I felt.

I was so internally shaken that I had to have some sort of release, despite trying to fight the feeling my emotions erupted through tears, I cry when I am angry because it’s such a powerful emotion and I often don’t know how to release it either than through crying.

After my release, a woman who had been sitting with her daughter nearby “the scene of the crime” walked over to me and gave me a pack of tissues. She understood, without openly saying so, I know she was saying “I understand”.

Later on, the woman police and another older man, I think the supervisor walks past, and I wave him over to express how much I did not appreciate being spoken to as I had been when there really was no valid reason to feel that way.

Lo’ and behold this man, the more matured and fermented slime-ball he was, looked at me as I was speaking to him, as if I smelt like poop. You know? He even looked ugly. I realised in that moment that there was ABSOLUTELY NOTHING  I could say or do that would get them to understand what I meant and why I hated being told to “SHUT UP”.

I think anyone who reads my blog and who has ever met me, knows how good I am at expressing myself. I am clear. In that moment I was very clear and as unemotional as possible in expressing my distaste of being told to “SHUT UP”. He continued looking at me as if I smelt bad, looking progressively ugly. He eventually said, “I don’t understand what your problem is” (Seriously?), the woman policeman then contributes to the conversation by speaking something in German. A lot of “something” and I ask her to please speak in English because I don’t understand what she is saying and I am standing there, a part of the conversation, the very reason for the conversation.

The conversation then took a downward spiral (upon retrospection I am happy that I released when I did) , she said that it was Germany and so she would speak German, she asked me what I was doing in Germnay “anyway” and why I was here “without any money” and the male police man chipped in by saying something about my race, there it was. I had not said it, he did. I responded but didn’t put any more effort and energy as was necessary.

This is what I want to say following all of this.

How am I expected NOT to walk around with a chip on my shoulder when this is the kind of treatment and comments I am met with when I am being open and simply moving through life?

Why do German people and other Europeans not need a VISA to visit places such as South Africa but I need one to be here?

Why does my financial situation concern them so much? Is it really adequate reasoning for proving that I am deserving to be anywhere?

What is the job of policeman and women? (I actually asked them this numerous times and they were unable to answer)

Why the FUCK do borders exist?

Why does power and control turn people into irresponsible, over-bearing, power-hungry monsters?

Why is it possible that ANYONE can at some point in life hold that much power over others?

Why is there constant camera surveillance, what is being watched and monitored really?

What is Facebook REALLY and TRULY about?

Why is money the ruler of our souls?

How can Africans (and other more brown people) stop feeling inferior when so much of so much is designed to make us feel inferior?

More importantly, why am I here and enduring this harshness, what are these experiences coming to me to bring forth?

 What wants to come of the combination of these unpleasant experiences?

I would like to end with this, I am free, I will always be free, there is not a single human being in this world who can take that from me, ever. I felt that so strongly when the policemen were ‘doing their job”.

I am the master of my faith.

I am the captain of my soul”

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, a lot has changed in myself since this happened, I read this and feel close to nothing, but I wanted to share this story anyway because I know that there are people out there who have endured this kind of pain and perhaps this is that little rope they need to feel that they are not alone or to begin to explore other possibilities of freedom. Because I truly believe and now KNOW that there is not a single person on this planet that can actually really take away my freedom. It is mine and that is not negotiable.


7 thoughts on “This is what happened to me at Berlin Hauptbanhof

  1. Didi this moved me to the core. Firstly, because this was clearly bullying with the intention of intimidation and humiliation .. only cowards with weak inferior intelligence are capable of such cruelty. Secondly .. you stood firm and strong, as hurt as you were .. what a heroine you are! I wish you had their names, they need the public humiliation to feel how you felt. Reading your account, I can actually feel your pain:( Please keep in your beautiful strong soul the strength and power that resists the bad people in the world. There are good souls like you, too .. they are your refuge and will restore you when evil comes a’knockin. Much love Didi

  2. Ah Didi, I too understand. What is my babylon. The place that the eye does not see. I am a suspect. From shop counters to train stations. Having been asked at train stations why I was waiting there as if I would have other illicit ideas of waiting at train stations other than getting on the damn train. It is a stereotype for ignorant minds that do not see beyond the seas they fish in. So I forgive them and count myself lucky for the awareness of other lands. That my being in their very presence frightens them and they wonder ‘but why…but how’ and hopefully makes them look beyond horizon and wonder what lies there. I sometimes feel like an eye sore to a miniscule part of the population but it is okay, atleast I give them something to ponder. Thank you for doing that just like a little victory for border crossers. Because of the arrogance of their authoritative positions pride stands in the way of reasoning and understanding. So you cannot get through to them. I admire your courage Dids.xx

  3. Didi, I feel your pain as I go through the arduous process of trying to break down the high walls that I’m encountering around visa applications- and this is happening right here in our continent! It’s frustrating, it’s seeminly unnecessary, but it’s happening, and all you have is your voice and thank you for sharing it, with the ‘authority’ with us, that is your freedom, and it’s inspiring to know that you found some power in your powerlessness.

  4. Strongs Didi, I lived your pain for 3 months when I was in Germany…just pity those people that treated you like that. Pity them for having hate in their heart and that it courses through their blood stream and poisons them. You are not to be reduced to the colour of your skin or nationality. Keep on being who you are and doing whatever it is that you want to do…you are free, they are definitely not.

    My husband lives a couple of hours from Stuttgart, if you are still around the South West, let me know so that you guys can get in touch and you can meet some real, kind, good people.

    Lots of love and blessings.

  5. Found this via Pinterest.
    Just wanted to say: you needn’t be black to face this kind of crap in Europe; although being white stands out less as long as you keep your mouth shut.
    I’m a white South-African in Holland.
    My sisters were followed by kids on the street, who shouted ‘Hey, AIDS Africans!’ at them. These girls out-white the Dutch when it comes to looks: light blonde hair and very pale skin.

    I discovered a whole different level of prejudice: people who have heard one word about history decide at random to inform me that my people are ‘bad’ because of Apartheid, thus I am bad too. Basically, I am there, minding my own business, and random people hold me accountable for Apartheid… The WTF moment was at secondary school (I’ve been here for a while) when I was sitting with my multi-racial group of friends, overhearing a Dutch guy telling his all-Dutch, all white group of friends that all Afrikaners definitely are racist….

    Anyway. Love the way you write!

  6. DIDI!!! Someone posted this link as a comment on a post by Asanda, arguing that Germans are racist. Myself a “brown”-German, don’t believe that that is entirely true, but reading your post was very moving, and being told about these experiences people are having in Germany is deeply upsetting! What I do know about Germans, especially old-Berliners, is that they are increasingly becoming xenophobic, as I believe a Middle Eastern person in your situation would have gotten similar treatment. This is so worrying and even somewhat confusing, I don’t really know what else to say. Maybe because I speak the language and am overwhelmingly German, I have only had good experiences with the police whom I have always felt protected by, especially after experiencing the abuse of power in Mozambique and now Lebanon. This story is so alike the American stop and frisk mentality – it makes me sick!
    To your questions – we live in a society that has completely lost any notion of what is truly important. Money, power, borders at the end they mean nothing. I’m so glad people like you that refuse to be ruled and participate in this nonsense exist. Bravo! I am also sorry another human being, sworn to protect, put you through this.

  7. Pingback: Opinion: Yasiin’s Freedom of Movement is Yours & Mine | thedidiness

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