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Sour Grapes for Sweet-Toothed German Pensioner

DW staff (tt)
September 15, 2006

In order to exude more masculinity at the age when years of beer-drinking turn six-pack into bundles of soft regret, men usually go for fast cars and younger girlfriends. Some, however, become raisin thieves.

For some people, grapes are a powerful drugImage: picture-alliance / HB Verlag

Justice is blind. It pays no heed to sad puppy looks, misty eyes and wistful smiles of repentance. No judge would let an elderly bank robber go only so that he could go play with his granddaughter. It's simply not done. Justice does not care if you are a retired citizen turned criminal or a criminal turned retired citizen. Which means that elderly citizens cannot receive preferential treatment.

That is why 63-year-old retired German man was recently given a prison sentence of 4 months for stealing two bags of raisins worth 3,90 euros ($5) last December.

"At some point you have to say enough is enough," said justice Christian Kropp, who presided over the proceedings in the eastern German town of Sonderhausen. "You can't go on granting probation for ever."

A criminal history

WM 2006 - Internationale Polizeikräfte
The police is always on the lookout for raisin thievesImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

The man started stealing raisins and grapes at the age of 57. He has been convicted six times for having a sweet tooth and no self-control. Last two times, he was sentenced to four and six months on parole. Call it late midlife crisis. He could have joined a local chess club. Or started doing senior citizens yoga. Or taken up painting.

But he decided to do something radical instead, to live on the edge in the dangerous, mad world of raisin thieves. He went all out, hell-bent for breakfast. Did he have dreams of becoming the godfather of the raisin mafia? Did he really think that justice wouldn't catch up with him? That he was invincible?

"Justice would make itself unreliable if it didn't pursue such cases," read the opinion of the court.

Intolerable cruelty?

If you think that the German judiciary makes Germans appear a little too strict, then you've never read German children's books. German children get baked in an oven for stealing a pretzel and ground to bits and devoured by ducks for slitting a farmer's grain sack. That's what happened at least to two mischievous German boys in Wilhelm Busch's 19th century bestseller "Max and Moritz´," which has remained popular to this day.

Four months in a correctional facility sounds like a Caribbean holiday in comparison.