It’s not every day on your year abroad that two men violently bang on your bedroom window at 7am. Well, I suppose it depends on what language you study, but for post reunification German students, we thought we were safe.
Assuming it was a few drunks, I chose to ignore the disturbance and continued getting ready for school. After another five minutes of relentless banging, however, I eventually left the flat and cautiously opened the front door to our apartment block.
I was greeted by two men wearing what looked like tracksuits bottoms and scruffy jackets. They were shouting (in German) “police, police, open up”. Whilst I have had little experience of the police back in England, I’m pretty sure they are required to wear a uniform, show an ID and maybe even a warrant before they demand entry in to someone’s home. They certainly wouldn’t bang on a girl’s window at 7am on a pitch black winter morning. Call me paranoid but somehow I felt a little suspicious.
I asked to see an ID and when I was hastily flashed a dodgy looking key ring, I immediately went to close the door. Before I got the chance to close it, however, the two men barged past me and ran in to the apartment block.
Oh my god, I thought, I have just welcomed two burglars in to a building full of families. Well, maybe not welcomed, but I had granted them entry to rob and murder all my neighbours.
I screamed and ran back in to my flat shouting for help. This prompted my flat mate, Jenny, to rush out of her room and she too demanded to see an ID. One of the men now showed us the courtesy of flashing an actual card from his wallet with ‘Polizei’ (police) printed at the top.
Yet this ‘ID’, designed in the style of a Nandos loyalty card, was far from convincing. They muttered something about refugee smugglers and, before hesitating at the suspicious sight of these panicking foreign girls, ran to an apartment upstairs.
Naturally I have slowed down the pace of the action so as to relay it to you step by step, but this whole exchange probably lasted under a minute. They were well on their way upstairs before we (two English speaking young women) even had the chance to take these German criminal masterminds down.
Locked in the safety of our own flat, Jenny and I discussed the two possible scenarios that might have just unfolded.
- The flat upstairs is genuinely housing illegal immigrants.
- Undercover, scruffily dressed police decided that an urgent raid was necessary at 7am.
- They happen to choose the only non-fluent German speaker in the whole apartment block (a young looking girl about to set off for school) to bear the brunt of the raid.
- The psychotic, foreign child who answers the door randomly starts screaming for help, slowing down the effectiveness of their raid.
- Two drunk men identify a vulnerable school girl through the window of an apartment.
- Presuming her to be a gullible idiot, they were even more thrilled when she turned out to be foreign.
- They claim to be looking for ‘illegal immigrants’, a nice touch considering this girl clearly isn’t a German national.
- When she proves to be slightly less gullible than they initially hoped, they quickly flash a fake police ID (an exact copy of the design of their Nandos loyalty cards) and opt to rob and murder the people in the flat upstairs instead.
Whilst potential theft and murder was obviously a weight on my mind, an additional worry was plaguing me all the more strongly; if I had just permitted two criminals entry in to apartment, I would inevitably have to be a witness in a court case. Do my language capabilities stretch that far? Maybe if they would allow be to read out a pre-written statement but, even then, the inevitable grammar mistakes would surely undermine the strength of my account? Would my inability to articulate myself properly in German allow two criminals to get off scot free?
Before I let my mind run away with itself, however, I realised that I would have to leave the flat now if I didn’t want to be late for school. Neither a confrontation with criminals nor an emergency police raid would be justifiable excuses for being late to school and so, despite the panic of the last 15 minutes, I set off for the train station.
To my relief/humiliation, I noticed a man wearing an actual police jacket emerge from the car parked outside our apartment. He recognised me and apologised for the disturbance, finally explaining that they suspected that someone in our flat was housing illegal immigrants. Terrified much more by the consequences of being late to school than the potential criminal activity that was being carried out in my home, I didn’t ask any further questions and rushed off to school.
So, in the end, scenario 1 held true. The good news is that no horrendous German court case is on the horizon but, on the other hand, I am a paranoid psychopath.
The funny thing is I remember words like ‘Razzia’ (raid) being on my A2 German vocab list and complaining that those type of words would never come in useful.
From unexpected police raids to unexpected niche vocabulary…nobody is safe.