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The Bielefeld Conspiracy (also known as Die Bielefeld Verschwörung in German) is a fake conspiracy theory created by German internet users. The theory states that the German city of Bielefeld is not actually real, but made up by a secret organization known as SIE (THEY or THEM), who is conspiring with the government. A poster will ask other users have ever been to Bielefeld, know anyone from Bielefeld, or know anyone who has been to Bielfeld. Most of the time, users will respond ‘no’ to all three questions, suggesting that city isn’t real at all. Anyone who responds ‘yes’ to the questions is simply dismissed as being a part of the conspiracy.
The story was first posted to the newsgroup de.talk.bizarre on Usenet, a worldwide distributed Internet discussion system, on May 16th, 1994, by University of Kiel student Achim Held. According to a 2004 interview with Held, he and a friend came up with the story while at a student party. Held said that the theory was only intended to be a joke, and never expected anyone to take it seriously, or that it would become so popular.
Popularity and Response
Though it is difficult to track the spread behind it, it is clear that the story spread quickly through the internet. Within a matter of weeks, the story had spread virally throughout the German-speaking internet community. Meanwhile, the actual city of Bielefeld scrambled to prove the story was false. When asked about the meme, the city’s press office director stated: “Should I be honest? I hate it like the plague!” In 1999, the city of Bielfeld released a press statement entitled Bielefeld gibt es doch! (Bielefeld is real!), stating that city was undoubtably real. However, the press statement was unknowingly released on April Fool’s Day, leading more people to believe that the city was fake. To this day, the mayor’s office still receives phone calls and email’s arguing that the city isn’t real.
In 2009, a film depicting the background behind the fictional conspiracy was made by students at Bielefeld University. The movie, entitled “Die Bielefeld Verschwörung”, was a low budget action/thriller, financed by the university itself and several local sponsors from the city of Bielefeld. The cast and crew were almost entirely made up of students, professors, and employees from the university, aside from actress Julia Kahl and the camera man, Alexander Böke.
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