Friday, February 20, 2009

Telling Twins Apart Takes New Meaning In Berlin Heist


The New York Times' Nicholas Kulish, who I greatly admire for his international articles, wrote about a great jewelry heist in Berlin that has the authorities confused over who to arrest. DNA evidence was found in a glove left by one of the three masked burglars and police, after capturing two of them, faced an unexpected dilemma: Both men were twins, making them genetically identical. The police have yet to decide which twin owns the glove.

Finally!- a newspaper article that can actually turn into a potential script for Hollywood! All the unoriginal minds in the movie industry are thirsting for wacky money-making plots, and since this story combines elements of Ocean's Eleven and The Parent Trap, I am confident that a news-reading producer will catch this and we will see it on the big screen faster than we can yell "Entrapment!"

The break-in happened in Germany's largest department store, KaDeWe, and there were surveillance footage of three men breaking and entering from a store window, and then leaving with jewelry and watches that are reportedly worth millions of dollars. They also did this without tripping a single alarm, which to me, was a jarring hole to have in an article about a robbery of an expensive department store. I searched around on Google, but since this only recently hit international, information was quite sparse. However, Deutsche Welle reported that authorities are quite perplexed as to how the three thieves managed to do that an suspected an inside job in the security department of KaDeWe.

Another thing I found odd in Kulish's article was that he failed to mention how the police knew where to look for the twins, Abbas and Hassan O. Once again, Deutsche Welle saves the day by reporting that the police had acted on a tip and collected evidence before arresting them.

I understand that sometimes when it comes to international reporting it is difficult/unnecessary to get all the details in a story that is meant for a broader audience. But when it comes to a jewelry heist committed by twins, I feel it's important to mention how they managed to get past security and how they were caught if they got past security. Even though it ended up being a boring answer like "authorities don't know" or "police got a tip," I was still expecting to see it in this article when I was reading it.

However, there is also an exclusion that Kulish chose to make which I completely agree with. He does not mention that the twins are Lebanese who had previously been rejected by the German authorities for asylum into the country. I found this from Der Spiegel (which I actually think is a pretty entertaining magazine) where it was reported that they belong to a Lebanese-Kurdish gang that has been tied to murders, break-ins, and knife attacks. According to Der Spiegel: "The Berliner Zeitung also reported that their extended family includes the 19-year-old offender who ran into and killed a senior citizen with a stolen BMW at Berlin's Potsdamer Platz last October."

So underneath this exciting article about a team of cat burglars lies a story about race and immigration policies in Germany. I wonder how this story looks to the typical German, a person whose nation has been previously been accused of violent xenophobia, when he reads that two of the three burglars are Lebanese men belonging to a Lebanese-Kurdish gang that has previously been linked to murders. As international readers, we are just taking in the sensational details (Jewel robbers! DNA! Twins!)– without understanding the impact that this might have to the Lebanese community in Berlin, especially since this story is probably widely-discussed. I'm interested in reading another article that might be able to shed some light on this issue, but that would have to be another story.

Or perhaps the reason why I am so interested in this is because this is happening in Germany. When I was studying in Prague, there was a Neo-Nazis march scheduled to happen in the city, or in some other town, and it was plastered all over international news websites. My reporting teacher complained in class that the only reason why this was getting attention was because of Eastern Europe used to be swarming with Nazis. She said that every country, especially America, encounters racism, but those are not as hotly reported as a Neo-Nazis march in Eastern Europe because there wasn't a world war and six million dead over our racial disagreements. She gave the KKK marches in Skokie as an example, and how the news of those would never enter the consciousness of foreigners. The Neo-Nazis story, on the hand, was what she called "sexy."

For me, I think the reason why I would be interested in the Lebanese reaction in Berlin to the jewel heist story is because I just love "fish-out-of-water" articles. But a part of me also knows that if this didn't happen in Germany, and happened instead in Indonesia and the burglars were of European-descent, I probably wouldn't be as interested.

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