May I ask for the first names of the New Year’s Eve attackers? While the Berlin CDU is accused of exploiting the riots for its own benefit, Neukölln’s councilor for social affairs, Falko Liecke (CDU), is defending his party’s course. He is familiar with the causes of youth violence.
FOCUS online: Mr. Liecke, 45 young people who were arrested after the New Year’s Eve riots had a German passport. Is someone named Mustafa less trustworthy than someone named Falko, Kai or Frank?
Falko Liecke: That is not the question. It is important to analyze certain focal points such as the High Deck settlement (large settlement with around 6000 residents in the Berlin district of Neukölln, editor’s note): What about the perpetrator structure? And yes, the migration background is also one aspect among many.
But it is also important to know what social class the perpetrators come from, what level of education they have, whether they live in cramped living conditions or whether they have ever committed a crime. The answers to these questions are part of an honest analysis.
Your party friend, the deputy state chairman of the Berlin CDU, Frank Balzer, only asked the interior committee for the first names of the German suspects after the New Year’s Eve riots – and thus sent the signal for many: Anyone with a migration background is not a real German. He is suspected of crime.
Liecke: Nope, nobody said that. It was about finding out why these massive riots broke out? There are various influences that can lead to this. In the High Deck development, where the coach burned out, something has been building up for many years. It was a real powder keg. This also has something to do with the population structure. That must also be clearly on the table in order to find strategies to do something about it.
Falko Liecke has been a district councilor in Neukölln since 2009 and deputy chairman of the CDU Berlin. In his book “Brennpunkt Deutschland” he writes about the challenges of the focal point district and what solutions there can still be to violence, neglect and crime.
Critics now accuse the CDU of AfD methods and populism. Can you understand the outrage?
Liecke: No. One has to acknowledge that it was essentially people with a migration background who attacked rescue workers and police officers in a completely inappropriate and brutal manner. You couldn’t say: All foreigners live in Neukölln anyway. It’s clear that they were.
But conversely, many Germans with foreign names who previously thought they were well integrated in this country feel they are being put under general suspicion. See Minister of Agriculture Cem Özdemir.
Liecke: That’s the strategy of these people. That is why the problem is no longer mentioned in public. And I think that’s a big mistake. If we seriously want to tackle the problems, we must also be allowed to name them.
This has nothing to do with flat rates. In my previous work as a youth councilor, I dealt intensively with child and juvenile delinquency. And the fact is that a significant proportion of the intensive offenders have a migration background.
But these children are not born criminals.
Liecke: Exactly, something must have happened during development, in the family or on the street that turned these children into criminals. Perhaps our education system is also failing in many places. So far this has always been hidden. For years I have pointed out that we need more support – on the one hand in social work, on the other hand the police must also be present, not just with helmets and batons.
Liecke: They must also do preventive work in schools in uniform and show that the police are not the enemy. But it is seen as such. Otherwise she would not have been attacked so massively on New Year’s Eve. This also has something to do with the migration background. Mentioning this does not mean that every migrant is a criminal. The CDU is now being accused of this because the election campaign is on. Complete nonsense.
On February 12, the House of Representatives will be re-elected in Berlin. Will you and your party benefit from the riots?
Liecke: I find that terrible. There is absolutely no question that we use this for blind populism. For many years I have been dealing with parallel societies and juvenile delinquency. The High Deck settlement even got its own chapter in my book “Brennpunkt Deutschland”, which was published in 2022.
They describe this settlement as a “school of violence”. What do you mean by that?
Liecke: I mentioned the influence of the radical Al-Nur Mosque on children and young people. Girls are insulted on the street if they don’t wear a headscarf, or boys if they buy pork salami. Police officers are spat on or postmen are robbed. These are not conditions that one can accept. We have an integration problem there. The question is: what can be done about it?
You were one of the first to point out that Neukölln has an integration problem – and that the New Year’s Eve riots may also be an expression of this problem. Why can’t you say that in Berlin without risking being put in the right corner?
Liecke: That is a special Berlin phenomenon. Many politicians try to avoid such discussions.
But why actually?
Liecke: If it is not addressed, the problem does not exist. This has to do with a completely misguided integration debate. And that’s why I think it’s good that this debate is now being held nationwide. You just can’t come around the corner with the Nazi club right away.
But wasn’t that exactly what your party friend Frank Balzer provoked when he asked the first names of the German suspects? Critics see a parallel to AfD methods here.
Liecke: I have no affiliation with the AfD. I have a problem when it is said that there were 45 Germans – just because of the passport.
But according to the law, they are Germans. What difference does a foreign origin make?
Liecke: By talking about Germans, the problem is suppressed. They say: German? Well then everything is fine.
The events in Borna in Saxony, where young right-wing extremists threw firecrackers at police officers and torched a Christmas tree, have shown that this is not true. What do you and your party say about this? Why is the outrage about the riots in Neukölln so much greater?
Liecke: I don’t think these perpetrators are any less bad. I am not saying that the migration background is decisive. To a certain extent, however, Neukölln is the republic’s burning glass. What goes wrong here will also go wrong in other big cities.
In your party, however, the problem is largely reduced to origin.
Liecke: That’s right. But anyone who deals with the subject knows that this is not the crucial point. I am interested in: How can we do it differently?
Berlin’s Mayor Franziska Giffey proposes a summit on youth violence.
Liecke: Oh God, that’s more of a summit. The instruments have long been on the table.
Liecke: In Neukölln, the Child and Juvenile Crime Working Group tries to get potential offenders on their way to training, in coordination with the police, juvenile court judges and schools. This project works very well. It’s just annoying that this isn’t standard across Berlin.
You have been a city councilor in Neukölln since 2009. What is going wrong there that even the local integration officer has to concede that the perpetrators are “dumb cheeks” who may no longer be able to reach with social work?
Liecke: Unfortunately, she’s right. That’s why my credo has always been: start as early as possible, with compulsory day care in hot spots. Unfortunately, such advice was never heard. Nor does it mean that we need enough social workers in schools and leisure activities for young people because the parents’ homes don’t offer that.
People always smiled and said, yeah yeah, let them do it. Even Heinz Buschkowsky was not taken seriously by his party with these demands. That’s why we need a change of policy in Berlin after 33 years of SPD government. Otherwise we can’t do it.
Surf tip: Official statistics – Germany: Number of foreigners and people with a migration background