Germany: After Berlin pool closes over sexual assaults and violence from migrants, president of lifeguard association warns ‘violence against pool staff is everywhere’

Many worry that these swimming pools may need police protection to function

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: John Cody

After the Columbiabad swimming pool closed down in the German capital of Berlin, the issue of migrant violence and sexual assaults at the location has sparked a nationwide media conversation but also led to warnings that this one pool is hardly an exception.

According to German newspaper Welt, outbreaks of violence in Berlin’s open-air pools are currently particularly frequent, but lifeguards and visitors in other cities also report violence and aggressive guests. In Mannheim, there was a mass brawl in June involving more than 40 people. In the Karlsruhe district, a pool attendant was attacked by a group and beaten so badly that he ended up in the hospital.

“Violence against pool staff is everywhere,” reports Peter Harzheim, president of the Federal Association of German Pool Attendants (BDS). The vast majority of swimming pools continue to be peaceful places. However, he said that complaints about misconduct by some bathers are increasing nationwide.

As Remix News previously reported, the Columbiabad public bath in Berlin’s Neukölln borough closed after staff from the location were out “sick from stress” in such numbers that the swimming pool could no longer operate.

“The number of incidents and the behavior of some bathers are an extreme burden for our very committed employees in the pools,” said the municipal agency that runs the complex, and many others across the German capital, in a statement. “This is not sustainable in the long run.”

Then, in a letter to German newspaper Tagesspiegel, pool staff described vandalism, physical attacks and harassment from “Arab migrants and Chechens,” with the staff writing a letter describing “feces smeared on the walls,” girls having their bikinis ripped off, and physical attacks against swimmers and staff.

Harzheim warns of a dangerous development in German society.

“Where many cultural milieus clash, it can explode,” says Harzheim. When asked by Welt newspaper, the Association of Towns and Municipalities also reported isolated problems in large cities, while the German Lifesaving Society (DLRG) reports that volunteers at bathing lakes are also increasingly exposed to verbal attacks.

“They get insulted, for example, when they warn against going into the water in dangerous conditions,” says spokesman Martin Holzhause. “That’s when one or the other surely asks himself why he’s actually doing this voluntarily. “

“Pool supervisors are also trained in dealing with attacks during their training,” said the BDS president. He described a job that features poor pay, work on the weekends, and job insecurity due to the threat of pool closures.

Harzheim has been outspoken about the issues facing Germany’s beloved swimming pools for some time, especially as violence and sexual assaults have increased.

Following shocking mass brawls at Berlin swimming pools in 2022, Harzheim said he can no longer recommend that families visit pools on weekends.

While speaking to Bild TV, Harzheim said he would be “acting irresponsibly” if he attended an outdoor pool with his own three grandchildren.

Germany’s interior minister, Nancy Faeser, has backed a permanent police presence at troubled swimming pools, but critics have questioned why these swimming pools need to become a “police state” in order to function.

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