Last Friday night I came home from a 3 days conference in the beautiful town of La Coruna in Galicia/Spain, and as usually a pile of unopened letters was waiting for me. One of them stand out from all the others, since it arrived in a yellow envelope. I found it suspicious right away, becaus it was not the glossy yellow paper which the shops use to send around their discount offers, but a greyish yellow which for some reason reminded me of the draft order card I received at the age of 18 from the east German army.
Further inspection showed that indeed it was a letter from my dear country, but this time not represented by the military forces, but by the states prosecutor (who has a nice red seal saying “Attention, this is a legal notice”). The letter inside was a rather short order, again reminiscent of the orders you hear at the army. The general prosecutor requested me to report to the Munich Stadelheim prison within 5 days after receipt of this letter, to start a one day coercive detention. I tried to sort out at which criminal offence they might have caught me that is serious enough to invite me to prison. The only frequent crime I use to commit from time to time is sneaking in rock concerts without having a ticket, as I recently did in London for Last Night of the Proms or in Munich for an Al-di-Meola concert. But first of all, I was never caught, and second I doubt that this would justify imprisonment.
Thanks God, the general prosecutor at least is more informative than the army was (which never gave any reasonable explanation what they needed me for in their barracks). The general prosecutor is a man who studied the laws, and from there he has the desire to explaine every decision he is taking. Therefore, on the second page of the letter he wrote that the reason for this summon was my ignorance of paying property tax to the city of Munich despite being asked to do that already 3 times. Therefore he decided that I deserve this so-called enforcement-detention in Stadelheim.
The name of Stadelheim prison has a particular sound in Germany, for its famous inmates: real bastards were detained here such as John Demianiuk, one of the last sentenced SS-guards of the German concentration camps. He was sentenced 2011 to 5 years in that prison (but died already in 2012). And perhaps his greatest master, Adolf Hitler himself was arrested in Stadelheim already in 1922 alleged for breaking the kings peace.
But many more of political courageous persons spend time or lost their life here: Hans and Sophie Scholl and other activists of the anti-nazi group White Rose were first put in custody there in 1943 and later executed. Also, the main representatives of the 1919 Bavarian Soviet Republic, Ernst Toller, Eugene Levine, Kurt Eisner and Gustav Landauer were put behind the Stadelheim bars after this political project was finished by a reactionary soldateska. So I was relieved to understand not only ordinary criminals or mass-murder spend time in this establishment, but that also highly acknowledged positive characters of our recent history were unlawfully imprisoned in Stadelheim - and I was about to follow them soon. It was hard to imagine, though, that the guards of the Stadelheim prison would open and close the heavy iron gates there with the same sense of duty for somebody who only owes 15 Euro to the municipality as for somebody who tried to overthrow the state regime. But another famous inmate of that prison, Marcel Avram convinced me that the general prosecutor nowadays (in the absence of wanna-be dictators or revolutionary masses) is much less reluctant to use a Stadelheim cell simply to press overdue taxes out of peoples pockets. Mr. Avram owns one of the most successful concert agencies in Germany, which made him a suspected income tax evader for the authorities. 1997 they put him into custody, and some of the great pop and rock stars who were promoted by his Mama Concerts Ltd. did not miss the opportunity to visit him there. Michael Jackson and Joe Cocker both showed their support for Mr.Avram and brought the jailhouse rock to Stadelheim. I like Marcel Avram a lot for the wonderful concerts he organized in Munich such as Pink or Greenday in 2010, which were always most easy to get in without purchasing a ticket, and even allowed me to guide some friends or colleagues through the fences.
So you now think that it is rediculous of the general prosecutor to offer me the same world class prison for only 15 Euro tax debt as to somebody who was convicted (but never really found guilty) of 7 million tax evation, let alone the crimes of the convicted mass morders or the braveness of the revolutionaries ? The truth is that I not even owe the tax office 15 Euro, since we already sold the apartment under question more than a year ago and it was simply a neglectance of the land registry office which did not communicate with the tax office and still keeps our name as the owner of the estate. Therefore, they continued to send tax invoices to us every 3 month, which I simply ignored for obvious irrelevance.
When I called the prosecutors office yesterday morning the clerk in charge explained to me that whatever the gouvernment or the municipality required from me, I first have to satisfy them, even if it is obvious that they are wrong. First you give us the money, than you can complain, and if your complaints are sound, we will give you the money back (there again was some Deja-vu to the time I spent at the army, where you are also requested to obey all orders, no matter how stupid they are, but wait with your complaints for later time).
I explained to the office man that I am awfully busy at the moment, and a whole day in jail would not suit me right now: Monday we are invited to a friend with Indian cusine, on Tuesday I have to attend the thesis committe meeting of one of my PhD students, on Wednesday we have a rehearsal with our band, and on Thursday we have to go to the school parents evening to sort out some issues with our son. And in general, Marina my wife is always very suspicious when I tell her I have to stay overnight somewhere else. This, in fact, was a lie, at least on this occasion. Marina, in contrary exhibited an absolutely weired excitement for the idea to see me behind the steel bars of Stadelheim, even if it is only for a day. But this would give her the possibility to visit me in jail, and bring some cake and beer to her poor imprisoned husband. For her, the perspective to visit me there was nothing more than a reference to her grandparents legendary love: While grandpa Nikolai spend 11 years of his life in Stalins labor camps, his wife Marussja followed him from town to town, always trying to live not far away from the camp, always ready to bring some extra food or even freshly cooked meals to the gates, making sure that grandpa Nikolai would survive the harshness and cold.
Marina was not very supportive when I tried to negotiate with the prosecutors office to avoid the day in prison. She even offered me to go to the school parents evening on her own, so I could nicely spent the entire Thursday and the following night in Stadelheim (and she would bring the cake and the beer around in the afternoon). I said that I would enjoy her delicious cake and the beer much more if I could consume it at home and not in a confinement cell, and that I also highly acknowledge her offer to go to the school’s parents evening alone and give me a free evening. Marina agreed at the end, but only on the condition that next weekend I dress in a grey linnen overall and work the entire day in our garden to carry away (on my shoulders) the brick stones left over ages ago.
So I called again the prosecutors office and tried to negotiate a last chance to spare the one-day imprisonment. He said: only if you come around and pay the 15 Euro debt right on his desk would they consider turning down my summons. So I went there, paid the 15 Euro in cash and instantaneously filed my complain about the invoice. Eventually, I saw a sort of new sense in my life, and the next days appeared full of sunshine and the smell of freedom. I could avoid the day in prison, and do all the things I had planned for this week: Monday we went to the excellent Indian dinner with our friend Dora, today I could attend my students thesis committe meeting, tomorrow I will go playing with our rock band – and on Thursday I HAVE A FREE EVENING (since Marina will go to the school’s parents evening alone).