Berlin public transport operator pokes fun at coronavirus conspiracy theories

From Bill Gates to cell phone radiation, Berlin's public transport provider humorously shed light on a growing number of conspiracy theories about the coronavirus circulating around Germany.

Berlin public transport operator pokes fun at coronavirus conspiracy theories
A tram in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Playing on conspiracy theories which have circulated around Germany about the coronavirus in the last weeks, Berlin transport provider BVG published a tweet poking fun at the various myths. 

Their jokes included:

  • “Don’t be afraid of 5G, there's not even 3G with us,” they wrote, making light of the poor reception within many trains and the theory about cell phone radiation spreading the virus.

  • “Brandenburger Tore (English: Gates) are stuck to the Fenstern (English: Windows),” they said, describing the target of many conspiracy theorists’, Microsoft founder Bill Gates.  

  • People, avoid Kotti [referring to the U-Bahn station Kottbusser Tor, known for being a crime and drug dealing hotspot]. Everybody injects [impfen] themselves there. The verb ‘impfen’ means both inject and vaccinate in German.

  • Watch out for the kiosk sellers. They want to implant potato chips.

The BVG is famed for its satirical sense of humour. In December, they applied for UNESCO World Heritage status, humorously portraying in a parody video that their historically slow and antiquated service qualifies them as a landmark.

READ ALSO: 'Nope, no joke': Berlin Transport Authority applies for UNESCO World Heritage Status

Growing conspiracy theories and protests

The growth of conspiracy theories in Germany, however, has not been seen as a laughing matter by the many politicians and scientists who have spoken out against the spread of misinformation.

On Tuesday, Charite virologist Christian Drosten criticised millions of YouTube videos, which are “full of nonsense” – even by “apparent experts”.

“The idea that the pandemic was deliberately brought about in order to control the people, and that Bill Gates or other supposedly sinister powers are behind it, reaches far into the middle of society,” Thuringian Minister of the Interior Georg Maier (of the centre-left Social Democrats, or SPD) told the news magazine Der Spiegel last week.

In many German cities there have been demonstrations in recent days against the measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus – with demonstrators made up of conspiracy theorists, right-wing radicals, anti-Semites and anti-vaccination activists.

READ ALSO: Germany concerned coronavirus protests may lead to radicalisation

Some participants have included well-known figures such as Berlin chef Attila Hildmann, who made a call out to join them on his Telegram channel.

Many of the rallies have not been registered, and have turned violent, resulting in attacks on journalists and police.

There have been a number of theses, rumours and fake news spreading throughout social media outlets.

A chat bot was recently launched to clean up WhatsApp's corona rumor mill – the artificial intelligence answers users' questions about the coronavirus crisis and double checks widespread false information.


conspiracy theories – (die) Verschwörungstheorien

an increase – (eine) Zunahme

rumours – (die) Gerüchte

fake news – (die) Falschmeldungen, or simply (die) Fake News

We're aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.



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‘People liked the silence’: How Berlin’s club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Berlin's clubs are suffering from staff shortages, a lack of guests... and neighbours who've grown used to the silence, representatives for the scene say.

'People liked the silence': How Berlin's club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Some operators from Berlin’s club scene are bracing themselves for a difficult autumn. For months now, people have been allowed to dance again and life has returned to normal in the dark corners of Berlin’s famous nightlife scene.

But the clubs have far from recovered from the pandemic. They face staff shortages, rising prices and the prospect of a return to Covid restrictions in the autumn.

“We go into the autumn with huge fear, because the omens are totally unfavorable,” said association head Pamela Schobeß.

Spring and summer went anything but smoothly, she said. “There has been an oversupply of events. People aren’t going out as much, and some are still afraid to move around indoors.”

Money is also an issue. “A lot of people are afraid of rising energy prices.”

The industry lost workers during the pandemic and it’s hard to convince them to come back with the outlook for the autumn looking so gloomy, Schobeß says.

Her colleague Robin Schellenberg tells a similar story. People have switched to various other jobs and would even rather work on a supermarket checkout, which may have been considered less sexy in the past. Now, he says, some have learned to love not having to work nights.


Schellenberg runs the Klunkerkranich, a small club on a parking garage deck in Neukölln. Because a number of things have become more expensive, they have also had to increase their admission prices.

His impression is that people are going out less often and are deciding more spontaneously. In addition, people in the neighborhood are now more sensitive to noise. “Many people found the silence very enticing,” he said.

Some in the industry wonder what will happen next. Will club admission have to become much more expensive? Will that exclude people who can no longer afford it? And what happens if Covid infection numbers rise sharply?

If masks become mandatory indoors in October, Schobeß believes that would be bad for the clubs. “Even if we don’t get shut down by the state, we’ll actually have to close down independently ourselves,” she reckons.

Masks take all the joy out of the experience, she says. People have drinks in their hands and are “jumping around and dancing” and then security guards have to tell them “please put your mask on.”

The federal government is considering whether states should be able to make masks mandatory indoors starting in October. Exceptions should be possible, such as at cultural and sporting events, for people who have been tested, recently vaccinated and recently recovered.

In the event that Covid numbers soar, the states could then be allowed to tighten the rules and eliminate all exemptions.

READ ALSO: German court declares techno to be music