Berlin mayor's legacy

The Culture King

busch_imago
Exiting stage left: Heinz Buschkowsky.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Heinz Buschkowsky led one of Germany’s most ethnically diverse boroughs but stoked controversy by arguing that multiculturalism had failed.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Mr. Buschkowsky, a member of the centre-left Social Democrats, ran Neukölln for 15 years.
    • He was popular with the district’s large immigrant population despite outspoken views on integration.
    • He has been accused of supporting Germany’s far-right Pegida movement.
  • Audio

    Audio

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Bearing in mind he is one of Berlin’s most colorful characters, Heinz Buschkowsky’s official farewell was less than spectacular.

The retiring mayor of the trendy and multicultural borough of Neukölln, in office for 15 years, was politely seen off by his colleagues with a bouquet and warm round of applause.

No song, dance, cream cake or brass band, as would have been fitting. Instead, district representatives quickly returned to scrutinizing the finer points of Neukölln’s planned cycle paths. Mr. Buschkowsky was left standing in a doorway fidgeting with his smart phone. Happy trails, Heinz.

Perhaps they may lay on a more glitzy leaving do on his last day. But either way, the 66-year-old had the last word in his short farewell speech: “Where Neukölln is, that’s up front.”

It was a proud statement. The transformation of Neukölln from dimly-lit working-class backwater to chic, multicultural superstardom has been remarkable. Today, the borough bustles with trendy bars, Turkish cafes, retro cinemas and the hippest of Berlin’s hipsters.

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