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European Labor


Nikos Raptis

The Building

The

German word "Reichstag" means parliament. In colloquial German it also

means the parliament building. It is not an exaggeration to say that this

building, the Reichstag, is a very important part of the history of the 20th

century.

On

the evening of February 27, 1933 Putzi Hanfstaengl, a Harvard educated

German-American friend of Hitler (see ZNet Commentary of June 4, ’99) was in bed

from a heavy cold and high temperature. "In mid-evening he was awakened by

the cries of the housekeeper: the Reichstag was on fire. He shot out of bed

looked out of the window, saw the building in flames and immediately rushed to

ring up Goebbels, saying, breathlessly, that he urgently had to speak to Hitler.

When Goebbels asked what it was about, and whether he could pass on a message,

Hanfstaengl said: ‘Tell him the Reichstag is burning.’ ‘Is that meant to be a

joke?’ was Goebels reply. (Source: Kershaw, Ian, "Hitler," W.W.

Norton, N.Y., 1998, p. 457)

Hitler

and Goebbels set off at once for the blazing Reichstag. "When they arrived,

they found Hermann Goering,…already inside the building giving orders – the

first of which, characteristically, had been ‘Save the tapestries!’ The valuable

Gobelin, which were his personal property,… Goering had been president of the

Reichstag since the end of August 1932… Hitler’s first comment on arriving at

the blazing Reichstag had been: ‘Good riddance to the old shack.’ The ‘old

shack’ was, of course, hardly ancient, being exactly forty years old – but he

put its burning in excellent use." (Source: Read, Anthony & Fisher,

David, "The Fall of Berlin," W.W. Norton, N.Y., 1992, p.25,26)

On

Feb. 28 1993, the day after the fire, Hitler’s dictatorship began with the

enactment of a decree "for the Protection of the People and the State"

(in our days, "For reasons of National Security"), which dispensed

with all constitutional protection, of political, personal, and property rights.

But "the rounding up of Communist deputies and functionaries had already

been set in train during the night in raids carried out with massive brutality.

Communists were the main target. But Social Democrats, trade unionists, and left

wing intellectuals… were also among those dragged into improvised prisons,

often in the cellars of SA or SS headquarters, and savagely beaten, tortured,

and in some cases murdered." (Source: Kershaw, p.460) All these happened

only one week before the national elections. Hitler got 43.9 % of the vote and

the Left 30.6% (the Social Democrats 18.3 % and the Communists 12.3 %, in spite

of the terror).

The

man arrested as the arsonist was Marinus van der Lubbe who "came from a

Dutch working-class family, and had formerly belonged to the Communist Party

youth organization in Holland. He had eventually broken with the Communist Party

in 1931…. He was twenty-four years old, intelligent, a solitary individual,

unconnected with any political groups, but possessed of a strong sense of

injustice at the misery of the working class at the hands of the capitalist

system… he was determined to make a lone and spectacular act of defiant

protest… in order to galvanize the working class into struggle against their

repression." (Source: Kershaw, p.456-7) Others believe that the fire had

been organized by Goering and Goebbels and that van der Lubbe was a simple

minded young Dutch communist. Van der Lubbe, after a long imprisonment and a

show trial, was eventually beheaded. The Reichstag fire is the subject of

continued debate and research. "The consequences of the Reichstag fire

were, of course, always more important than the identity of whoever instigated

the blaze." (Kershaw, note 112, p.732)

The

Greek Construction Workers

After

the German government decided to move the capital of Germany from Bonn back to

Berlin it was inevitable that the Reichstag would be restored. (or rather

rebuilt). Also inevitably, the rebuilt Reichstag in 1999 should have a garage.

The contractor of the 3-level underground garage is the German construction

company ARGE ROHBAU. As usual there is one or more subcontractors. One of the

subcontractors is the Greek construction company OCTOPUS. The Greek construction

workers according to the contract should have been paid 48 German Marks (about

US $26) per hour, instead they were paid 15 German Marks (about US $8) for the

unskilled worker and 18 German Marks (about US $10) for the skilled worker.

Last

November there was a report in the Greek press (ELEFTHEROTYPIA, Nov,, 20, ’99,

p.17) that 50 Greek workers of OCTOPUS had not been paid for months by ROHBAU,

the German contractor. The Greek owner of OCTOPUS claims that the Germans owe

him about half a million US dollars. The Germans accused the Greek subcontractor

of poor workmanship. The 50 Greek workers had no money to buy food or pay for a

ticket to return to Greece. So, the hungry Greek construction workers stood

outside the gate of the Reichstag construction site, under the Berlin November

snow demanding their money. One of the workers said: "We have been working

for months under harsh conditions 11 hours a day 6 days a week. And now they

kick us out in the street." In the same street, probably on the same spot,

that Hitler stood and watched the Reichstag burning. One wonders how Hitler

would react seeing the dark-eyed and dark-haired Greeks help rebuild the

Reichstag, while the Aryan workers of his ‘Volk" went hungry and jobless?

The

story was picked up by some German papers which confirmed that the construction

workers of the Greek, Italian, and Portugese subcontractors working in Berlin

"are paid with 30% of what the German construction workers are paid. The

result is that the German construction workers are without a job." Also,

the investigative reporting of these papers revealed a confidential document of

the competent German Parliamentary Committee which cynically admits: "We

know that the foreign workers from other countries of the European Union are

paid much smaller wages, however, we cannot put an end to this practice for

reasons of cost…" (ELEFTHEROTYPIA, Dec. 4, ’99, p.8)

Meanwhile….

Back

in Greece the Albanian, Bulgarian, and Bangladeshi workers in the strawberry

fields get US $16 per DAY. Of this, about US $2 they pay to the local

"Godfather." The Bangladeshi, been dark-skined get only US $12 per

DAY, yet they pay the US $2 to the local criminal. (Source: ELEFTHEROTYPIA,

April 15, 1999, p. 50)

After

the "victory" of the US Democracy over the Soviets, etc. a wave of

Albanians, Poles, Rumanians, and citizens of the former Soviet Union with Greek

roots entered Greece as economic immigrants. It is estimated that around 800,000

Albanians are in the country, the Albanians themselves claim that there are over

a million Albanians. The other nationalities make another 2 or 3 hundred

thousand. The total is above 10% of the 10 million Greek population. So, finally

the Greeks have their very own blue-eyed and blond "niggers" to do the

hard menial work for them, at the above mentioned wages. Unfortunately these

"niggers" were followed by the inevitable Mafia parasites of

neoliberalism, who in collaboration with their local counterparts (and in many

cases with the police) little by little transform the, up to now, rather

carefree Greek society into a scared rabble of the US Anglo-Saxon variety.

Of

what I know, there were no more news in the Greek press about the fate of the 50

Greek construction workers in the rebuilding of the Reichstag. 

 

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