German railways: from commute to combat zone

The leader of the rail workers' union says conditions on German trains now resemble a "civil war." Staff are subjected to bloody attacks and harassment, with workers often locking themselves in carriages out of fear. Their traumas are further compounded by politicians talking about successful "integration."

WORLD MAY 18. 2024 08:55

German railway workers are so regularly subjected to insults, harassment, violence and even knife threats from migrants that their work is becoming unbearable, warns a German trade union representing railway workers in Thuringia.

German trains are becoming increasingly dangerous due to mass immigration, as confirmed by shocking headlines week after week and actual police statistics, according to the RMX News portal. The union warns that young asylum seekers are the main perpetrators in the growing number of cases, and for the staff in Thuringia, train work is “sometimes life-threatening.”

“I have an average of three employees sitting in my Erfurt office every week for legal advice. They were attacked, spat on, insulted, threatened or pushed,” said Steffi Recknagel, the head of the Railway and Transport Union (EVG) in Thuringia, during an interview with Focus Online.

The female union boss shared information describing the everyday crime train attendants and train drivers face, including verbal and physical violence, and even knife crime. However, she said constant verbal harassment is also taking its toll.

“The worst case was that a train attendant was threatened with a knife,” said Recknagel, while another was physically attacked from behind and “the air was knocked out of her.”

In other cases, female train workers were “slapped,” “kicked,” had their clothing pulled, and were “treated aggressively.”

In some cases, the perpetrators told these female workers they were not allowed to speak, because they are women.

The union head in that region said that while there are problematic spots across the German state, there is one particularly bad stretch between the state capital of Erfurt and Suhl. She said the “extreme” situation there is due to the presence of a refugee center in Suhl, which features mainly Syrian, Afghan, and Turkish migrants, who travel to Erfurt and back again on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, I have to say it like this: It is mostly young men from the initial reception center who misbehave completely on our trains. They always travel in groups and feel strong together.”

She told Focus that it was dangerous to intervene, and those that do are threatened. “When something happens while driving, some people now say to themselves: I’d better look away now before I’m the next victim,” Recknagel warned.

She warned that the situation on the train system is “sometimes life-threatening. Our people are afraid, very afraid. We have employees who say: If these groups are on the train, then I won’t check tickets. Then, they say they’ll stay at the front with the train driver or lock themselves in their cabin until they get to a safe station and the migrants get out.”

As with swimming pools across Germany being forced to add layers of police and security in order to prevent sexual harassment, assaults and riots, Germany’s train system has now had to follow suit. Recknagel says that while there are now more security guards being deployed to trains, overall, there are still not enough to go around. They also lack the authority to take any substantial action. “Besides, they can’t do much more than kick people out at the next train station,” he warned. Even when they are stopped by the police, they are usually merely questioned and then released. “A week later, we have the same people sitting on the train again, and the whole thing repeats itself,” said Recknagel. “Nothing happens, it just doesn’t happen.”

Train companies operating in the area have lobbied politicians to address the issue, including a blistering four-page letter from the works council sent to state Thuringia Prime Minister Bodo Ramelow (Left Party) describing the harrowing crimes facing train workers.

The letter describes the “dramatic” situation facing train workers from “people with a migration background,” and the works council notes the “everyday” nature of these attacks and insults, and not just the larger incidents that make their way into the national newspapers. German works councils are often the middleman between the unions and companies, which attempt to broker agreements while representing workers and ensuring proper labor law is followed.

The letter from the works council noted that controlling these individuals, who often refuse to buy tickets, is dangerous, and in addition to physical attacks against both male and female workers, female staff have been targeted with “sexist insults and spit on in a disgusting manner,” including incidents in which migrants pulled down their pants and exposed their genitals to these women.

Due to extreme violence between rival migrants, in one incident an entire train car was covered in blood, resulting in workers sheltering in place in other parts of the train.

“Our colleague had to continue the journey to the Suhl train station in fear of death and with a railcar that was heavily contaminated with human blood,” the shock letter reads. “We don’t need to talk at this point about the psychological consequences for our still very young colleague and the passengers, given the scenes that could have come from a civil war zone!”

The letter goes on to describe one case in which a mother of two young girls was threatened in front of her children, forcing her to flee from the train. In general, the letter describes how the husbands of some female workers are now accompanying their wives in order to protect them.

The letter directly criticizes left-wing politicians, such as Thuringia’s Prime Minister Ramelow, saying that politicians at the federal and state levels speak of “integration” and “tolerance towards migrants” when citizens are the ones facing the violence. The letter counters:

“How can you expect citizens of this country to be open to the refugee policy that is being practiced when it happens — practically every day, and not just on public transport! — that we have to witness such violence, brutalization and absolute contempt for our laws and society?”

Ramelow and other politicians have responded that they will increase police controls on the troubled rail lines and hire more security guards, and they promise to meet with union representatives every three months to monitor the situation.

The German rail union head in Thuringia, however, has her doubts, saying: “Politicians have shown understanding and promised support, but we now finally want to see the facts!” She argues it is not yet clear where the money or staff will come from to help protect train workers. She is calling for more prosecutions and more enforcement of the existing laws.

She also said that although her union’s comments may be construed as “right-wing” or “xenophobic,” she argues that there needs to be an honest discussion about issues that are clear as day for Germany’s train workers, as they are on the frontline of some of the worst violence facing public workers.

With crime soaring due to rising immigration numbers, police and security forces are stretched at all levels — not just in the train system.

Recently released statistics from the German Interior Ministry show that migrants account for a record 41 percent of all crime in Germany, with their role in violent crimes such as rape, murder and assault even higher.

The Alternative for Germany (AfD), which argues for strict migration controls into Germany, has responded to the plea for help from Germany’s rail workers, writing: “The railway and transport union in Thuringia is sounding the alarm: Train attendants and railway employees are regularly attacked, spat on, insulted, threatened or beaten.” The party argued that these workers would be safe “only with us,” if the AfD is able to gain political power.



germany, migration, train