Nestled in the thick of ordinary-looking office buildings, this brothel — the largest in the city of Berlin — could pass for an IBM executive building: rectangular, brick, and altogether boring.
The general manager greeted us at the door. He managed a tired smile. His hair was long and thin, his mustache neatly trimmed, and his wrinkly skin artificially bronzed. Nothing about him was natural, not even his name: Edberg Kruneich.
It was 9:00am and “after-hours.” That's exactly how we wanted it, empty. The reception area — bright and white — was a sterile gateway from white-collar normalcy into a tacky land of contradictions.
My cameraman and producer did a full walk-through of the building. I preferred to stay in the background. They needed images to tell you the story for television. I just wanted explanations.
The brothel was constructed this year within walking distance from the World Cup soccer stadium. The Turkish owners invested 6.5 million dollars in its construction. Upscale, safe, clean, and classy — this was their goal. They failed on all accounts.
Just before starting the interview, Mr. Kruneich, an ex-high school English teacher, turned to me off camera and asked a question. “What does the Church think about what I do?” My producer was as shocked as I was. “You could probably guess,” I responded. “Because I was raised a Christian,” he continued. A surreal moment.
I replied, “Well, do you remember the Bible story? There were prostitutes back then, too. Jesus was the only one who didn't throw rocks. He understood the woman's predicament and forgave her because he loved her like no man ever had. But then, don't forget, he gave her a strong command to 'go and sin no more.'” He looked at me. I looked back. Strangeness. I saw sadness in those eyes. I tried to understand and forgive.
The lights and cameras went on, and I asked him the questions you readers suggested. I was surprised by his forthrightness after a little probing and prodding on my part.
He swore none of the women in his brothel are forced to be there, but admitted human trafficking of women into Germany was “probably real.”
He said pimps don't control any of his prostitutes, but admitted male “friends” drop off and pick up some of the women each day.
He promised me the women he employed like their job, but admitted they never stay long.
He claimed he was in no way promoting marriage infidelity, but admitted the vast majority of his clients were either married or engaged. “Single men don't come here,” were his words.
He insisted his brothel was not targeting soccer fans, but admitted they had been very “lucky” in these days. He added business is up more than 100% with an average of 500 men per evening.
He proposed that prostitution is a personal career choice, but when I asked whether he would encourage his two college-aged daughters (of which he had spoken to me proudly) to work at his brothel if they found themselves in a tight financial situation, he looked down. "No, no, no."
And there were other important questions and answers. We'll leave some of that for television and some for tomorrow's blog.
When I said my goodbyes to Mr. Kruneich, I promised him my prayers. And I asked him for prayers.
Tomorrow, I'll tell you what the women themselves have to say. I'll also fill you in on the German government's response to my questioning. The more I investigate, the more urgent the problem appears. Human trafficking is alive and well, and the legalization of prostitution is becoming one of its most convenient partners.
God bless, Father Jonathan
P.S. I'm posting a few pictures today from our trip.
Write to Father Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org.