So, a Jew, a Black, a Pakistani and a President Go to Germany

Bestselling Author Visits Berlin and Doesn't Like What He Sees

Alone Among Germans: Author Tuvia Tenenbom (holding sign) takes part in a small demonstration just a few blocks away from Barack Obama’s speech at Brandenburg Tor.
Stefan Gilles
Alone Among Germans: Author Tuvia Tenenbom (holding sign) takes part in a small demonstration just a few blocks away from Barack Obama’s speech at Brandenburg Tor.

By Tuvia Tenenbom

Published June 27, 2013, issue of June 28, 2013.
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On the eve of Barack Obama’s arrival in Germany, security measures are unparalleled, media sources claim. People tell me that America’s first black president is Germany’s dream and they want to make sure the dream never ends. This, of course, might explain why residents near the Brandenburger Tor have been asked to keep their windows shut while Obama is in town. Great dreams require shut windows and, naturally, I want to be part of the dream.

And so, just ahead of Obama, I land in Germany.

I arrive at an airport in northern Germany where I meet a black man by the name of Ben.

“I’m from Africa,” he tells me.

Is he excited about the black president?

Not really, he says. “That’s all politics,” he tells me, and reality has nothing to do with it. What’s reality?

“I’m black.”

Well, I got that. Maybe it’s politically incorrect to say, but Ben’s skin is much darker than Obama’s, and so what’s his point?

“I am African, and I live here for 30 years and I can’t get nowhere,” he tells me. “I’m a taxi driver because I can’t get up on the social level because I’m black. Back in Africa I was an air traffic controller, but the Germans told me that I better forget my profession. They said to me, very openly, that this job is reserved for white Germans.”

I take a train to Berlin. It’s hot inside, the air conditioning doesn’t work properly, the windows are hermetically closed and the place is packed but for a couple of empty seats next to a bearded man with a shaved mustache. I sit down.

Hallo man, who are you?

The man looks at me, probably thinking that I’m retarded.

Where are you from, I ask.

Now he gets suspicious.

“Excuse me?”

Where are you from? Are you German?

“No, no.”

What are you?

“I’m from Pakistan.”

Where are you going?

“To Berlin.”

To see Obama?

At this point I start feeling like a CIA agent, and the Pakistani seems to concur. He does not reply.

You live in Germany?

“No. No.”

You like Germany?

“Very nice place. Nice people.”

Feel welcome?

“Yes, yes.”

Do you like the bombs that the West drops on your cities?, I ask him.


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