By now, squats have become so seldom on a nationwide level, that one could count them on the fingers of one hand. Even legally self-governed house projects are often latent in danger of closing. In April 2001, a part of the former "Topf & Söhne" -area in Erfurt/Germany was taken. Since October this year, the area is under the threat of demolition. The piece of land was provisionally administered until the beginning of 2007 and later sold to the "Domicil Hausbau GmbH und Co KG" in Mühlhausen. While the provisionally administration has tolerated the squat, the new owner Mr Golla announced now, that he wants to tear down all buildings in the named area, as fast as possible. He has in mind to establish a commercial area and a residential zone instead.
The area - "J.A. Topf & Söhne"
All buildings of the squatted area shall be demolished, except for the former headquarter of the enterprise "Topf & Söhne". Here it is planned to emerge a memorial place finally, which several groups of the town in the 90s and also the squatters (since 2001) did ask for. The enterprise produced during World War 2 crematories for concentration camps such as Buchenwald and Auschwitz and is therefore a significant example for the civil industries participation in the Holocaust. The occupation of this area was linked to the readiness to carry out a critical in-depth examination of the history of the building as well as efforts to establish a memorial place.
House-to-house fighting prior to the occupation
Before the occupation of the squat, there hasn't been a left-wing self-administered centre in Erfurt for about three years. After the city-government closed the legal house-project "Korax", many promises for a new project were made. However, a suitable object was never offered. That's why the people stopped to have trust in the city-government and started to occupy empty houses. After several unfortunate tries, they were finally lucky to squat parts of the "Topf & Söhne" -area.
Squat Erfurt - a sociocultural and political project
Over the years a lot of space to live, a trailer park, concert-, party- and rehearsal rooms, an information office, a cinema, a "forfreestore", a repair shop, a fitness centre and a "kitchen for everyone" were established. Moreover the "squat" offers space for political groups and is political active. Since the squat is on the ground where the culprits of the holocaust were active, people deal with the history of the former enterprise "Topf & Söhne". The focus of the area-walkabouts or other official events lies on the voluntarily engagement of the common German population in the holocaust. At the same time it is pointed out that anti-Semitism, racism, wage work as centre of vital interests and the reference of responsibility to a higher stage in the hierarchy were the relevant reasons of the employees to stay a part of "Topf & Söhne". The people from the squat criticise the former mentioned mechanisms and try to fight national socialistic tendencies. Besides this the squatters are working for an open discussion of social structures such as sexism, homophobia and capitalism. The people who are involved in the project try to implement the aspects of their critic. However they are restricted by general social conditions. That's why it is important for us to aim for a social transformation and not only to create a consistent "niche in the system". Nevertheless the squat is an important refuge for many people, because Nazis are not tolerated here, and people who are in danger of sexual or racial harassment find support. Also people who can not afford cultural events or concerts are less excluded here. Projects like this are seldom in Thuringia. To safe this self-administered place is extremely important because there is a strong right-wing tendency, here in Thuringia.
Urban development - to pave the way for capitalism
Besides the more and more organised right-wing scene, we have to face a supersession of subcultures and minorities, away from the public. A good example for this is the law against drinking alcohol in the centre of Erfurt. This rule is mainly directed against a long-lasting meeting place of the alternative scene, behind the "Krämerbrücke", a popular tourists destination. Also the reduction of subsidies for the Erfurter "Kulturhaus" as well as other places for contemporary art, like the café Togo, "das grüne Haus", and the cinema-club "Hirschlachufer" is a sign for a policy that aims just for rentability. This policy is part of a neo-liberal ideology that made its way to Erfurt. The aim of this ideology is to create the best possible conditions for the economy and to force as many social partitions as possible to enter capitalistic congruency as possible. The foundation of this is the thought that the economy would know best how to deal with wishes. In practice, this leads to a clean and tidy city without prowling subcultures who disturb by consuming alcohol, and the cancellation of financial support for art and culture, that doesn't seem to pay off. Everything shall be controlled and become a gain for the free market.
Incorporated society as basis for an alternative project
On the opposite to this way of thinking you have the squat with all it stands for. It is a project that isn't under any kind of control and that doesn't follow any bureaucratic rules. The city claims us to establish an incorporated society to get an alternative object. But this would automatically lead to a hierarchy among the squatters and the following restrictions by law are not measurable. So we think it will have a lot of significant disadvantages and we worry about the project as it is today: self administered, poor on hierarchy and focused on the needs of its users.
We all stay!
The almost perfect location of the project and all the power and hope that we put in the build up of the rooms, are important reasons for us, to stick to the project on the former "Topf & Söhne" -area. In more than seven years, the examination of the history of the area became a vital reference point for us. For more than seven years we put our strength, fantasy and dreams in this place and created thereby a sociocultural centre with broad charisma - this all we will not quit just like that.
Support us in our fight for the squat in Erfurt!
Join the demonstration at November 22 in 2008, 13hrs in front of the central station Erfurt.
The squatters of a part of the former Topf & Söhne Area