This German city doesn’t exist… Or does it?

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This German city doesn’t exist… Or does it?

By
19 March 2018

By | 19 March 2018

The city of Bielefeld is at the centre of a conspiracy theory claiming that it is an illusion created by aliens, or a shadowy group known only as THEM

I have three questions for you. Do you know anybody from Bielefeld? Have you ever been to Bielefeld? Do you know anybody who has ever been to Bielefeld?

Chances are you’ll answer no to all three of those questions. In which case, let me introduce you to the Bielefeld Conspiracy.

Some believe the city of Bielefeld doesn't exist, but its 330,000 residents may disagree – Shutterstock German city Group Created with Sketch. Some believe the city of Bielefeld doesn’t exist, but its 330,000 residents may disagree – Shutterstock

In reality a town in northern Germany of just over 330,000 people, Bielefeld has been the subject of a satirical conspiracy theory since 1993 when Achim Held, a student at Kiel University met someone at a party who was from the city.

Held, realising he’d never met anyone from there before, responded by saying: Das gibt’s doch gar nicht!”, meaning something along the lines of: “I don’t believe it!”. Literally translated however, the phrase means “That doesn’t exist”. He mentioned it on a message board and the idea spread through the German-speaking internet community.

The theory grew until it reached ridiculous proportions; apparently the city is an illusion created by a shadowy group known only as SIE (THEM), possibly with the help of Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, or by aliens (whose spaceship is currently disguised as the university).

It remains a popular joke on the internet in Germany, and has become so well known that Angela Merkel, when talking in 2012 about a meeting she’d had in the town hall there, added: “…if it exists at all.”

Despite working hard to build the profile of the town, the local tourist authority still receives phone calls and emails asking if the town exists; in 1999, they had to release a press statement entitled Bielefeld gibt es doch! (“Bielefeld does exist!”). They did, however, release the statement on April Fools’ Day, indicating they had their tongue planted firmly in their cheek.

Oh, and for the record, I actually have been. Or maybe I’ve been brainwashed into thinking I have…