Over $1 Million Offered to Anyone Who Can Prove German City ‘Doesn’t Exist’

August 27, 2019 Updated: August 27, 2019

A German city is offering a $1.1 million prize to anyone who can prove it “does not exist.”

The cool million-euro bounty will be awarded to the winning entry in a competition to raise the profile of the city of Bielefeld by exploiting the notorious Bielefeld Conspiracy, which claims the city isn’t real.

“For those who hold to the claim ‘Bielefeld does not exist,’ there is an incentive to give us the ultimate proof—1 million Euro,” wrote Bielefeld NOW, the Twitter team for the city’s marketing department.

The conspiracy theory dates back to 1993, Newsweek reported, when college student Achim Held wrote on the Usenet group de.talk.bizarre in reference to meeting someone from Bielefeld. Held reportedly wrote, “Das gibt’s doch gar nicht,” which roughly translated means “that doesn’t exist.”

The post became a viral meme such that by 1999, city authorities put out a press release on April Fool’s Day denying the town’s non-existence.

The satirical three-part validation of the conspiracy theory asks people to consider the following:

1. Do you know anybody from Bielefeld?

2. Have you ever been to Bielefeld?

3. Do you know anybody who has ever been to Bielefeld?

Since most people will likely answer, “no,” to all three questions, this held up to be the proof that Bielefeld’s existence is merely a mirage.

According to Travel and Leisure, in a 2012 speech, Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly referenced a meeting she attended in Bielefeld, jokingly noting “…if it exists at all.”

In 2014, the city’s mayor Pit Clausen leveraged the conspiracy in tourist marketing for the 800th anniversary of Bielefeld’s founding.

“‘Bielefeld doesn’t exist’ is a great opener for a conversation,” Clausen said, according to CityMetric. “It gives me the opportunity to talk about how beautiful, how wonderful our city is; about what’s going on here and naturally beat the drum for our city so people can here, and if this opener didn’t exist we’d have to come up with one ourselves.”

In 2010, a group of students at Bielefeld University made a film titled Die Bielefeld Verschwörung (The Bielefeld Conspiracy), CityMetric reported and even published a book version of the story line.

“The conspiracy theory picked up speed and began to make the German population believe Bielefeld would not exist,” Bielefeld’s tourism page states.

 

Undated photo showing Sparrenberg Castle, a restored fortress in Bielefeld, Germany. (Courtesy of Bielefeld Marketing GmbH)

According to the contest website, “any kind of contribution is allowed” that will prove the conspiracy.

“How will you prove there is no Bielefeld? The sky’s the limit as far as your creativity is concerned. Whether you use images, videos or text – any type of post is allowed, your pearls of wisdom must just be irrefutable in order to win the #Bielefeldmillion.”

“We are excited about the creative submissions and are 99.99 percent sure that we will be able to refute any claims,” said the head of Bielefeld Marketing, Martin Knabenreich, DW reports.

The town is taking submissions until Sept. 4, including entries submitted from abroad.

“Wow! #Bielefeldmillion is going international and we are very excited! Can you take part wherever you come from? Why of course! That’s what the internet is for! Just prove that Bielefeld doesn’t exist and you could win 1 million euros. Sound good? Then go for it!”

Follow Tom on Twitter: @OZImekTOM
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