Theater of Cruelty

Germany 50 years after the student riots

1968. We are proud to dare / story is feasible. Texts about the prevailing falsehood and the Radicality of Peace / Change the World! The Life of Rudi Dutschke
Much is unclear about the role of key players in the German 68 rebellion. Therefore, a black-and-white interpretation of the era will never be correct. 


On the occasion of the 50 anniversary of the student revolt, a number of books have been published about 1968 in Germany. VG's commentator Anders Giæver notes 11. March, under the title "Genuine 68 is not celebrating fifty", that activity in Norway, on the other hand, fails because 1968 in Norway was a fairly uneventful year. "Sixty-eight" as a term was not used here in the country until the 80 century. The term is also used in Germany, although the riots did not start there this year either. The Mayo uprising in Paris is a symbol that has passed on to other countries' history writing. In Norway, much more happened at the universities of 1969 than the year before.

1968 is either idealized, demonized or ridiculed. As we now discuss this year, it is an indirect way of talking about ourselves and our own preferences: 1968 becomes a projection surface for mythological notions. We also see this tendency among Germans: If the student revolts in the 60 century are perceived as a precursor to the RAF and German terrorism in the 70 century, an enemy picture is quickly created. Therefore, it is important to distinguish between different directions in the 68 uprising.

Ohnesorg murder. One of the latest examples of the demonization of 1968 comes from Bettina Röhl (b. 1962) – RAF terrorist Ulrike Meinhof's daughter. In an interview with Der Spiegel 13. March has little positive to say about the student revolt. Most historians swallow myths, though they try to be critical, she claims.

The two most important events in the history of the extra-parliamentary opposition (APO), and what Germany associates with 1968, are the assassination of demonstrating student Benno Ohnesorg 2. June 1967 as well as the assault on rebel leader Rudi Dutschke 11. April of the following year (he survived, but died as a result of the tendon injuries eleven years later). Bettina Röhl, however, rejects both these events as mythology.

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It is in the period between the two violent episodes Dutschke has his period of brilliance. Thus, 1968 in Germany began in early summer 1967, when Ohnesorg's death led to a violent mobilization against fascism and against the right-wing German Springer press: Many believed that the media group's anger towards the student activists bore part of the responsibility for the attacks.

1968 in Germany began in early summer 1967!

The Berlin police consisted of many former SS and Wehrmacht officers, who obviously had the pleasure of beating up those who protested the shahe of Persia's Berlin visit. This fits well with the story of 1968 as a necessary anti-authoritarian rebellion against Germany's failure to settle with the Nazi era.

An unexplained farce. But in 2009, it turned out that Ohnesorg's killer, the civilian-dressed West German policeman Karl-Heinz Kurras (1927-2014) – who carried out the murder with his service weapon, a Walther PPK 7 – was also an East German Stasi agent. The GDR press mentioned the murder of Ohnesorg as one Emergency exercise – "Excursion Exercise" – and compared Kurras to the killers in the Nazi death camps (!).

Kurras lied and claimed that the gunshot had been fired in an emergency guard. He was acquitted. The whole process was a farce: The body was manipulated before the forensic examination, testimony and evidence were compromised. That Ohnesorg's killer escaped led to radicalization of the students and an escalation of student actions, with Rudi Dutschke in the lead.

But there is no evidence that Kurras acted on behalf of the GDR with the aim of provoking a tense situation in West Berlin: Stasi was also surprised by the murder – yes, one wondered if Kurras could be a double agent for West Germany. The circumstances surrounding the perhaps most important event in the German student uprising are still unclear.


Easy by Röhl. According to Röhl, the Kurras' double role destroys the left's heroic myths about the student revolt. But is this true? Kurras had been a Wehrmacht soldier and spent three years in prison after the war for anti-Soviet activity. Everything he earned extra as a stasi agent went to build his own weapon collection. He was the best shooter of the Berlin Police and won several championships. In other words, he fits well with the image of the authoritarian personality type the students fought against. When the Kurras went free, the students lost faith in the rule of law. Therefore, it becomes too easy to argue as Röhl does – that "even if Kurras had been a Nazi, it was not the Federal Republic that killed Ohnesorg, but an individual."

11. April was the 50 year since Rudi Dutschke (1940 – 1979) was shot down by right-wing extremist Josef Bachmann at Kurfürstendamm. Also this incident, Bettina Röhl tries to demythologize by claiming that it was an individual who was behind the action. But the fact is that Bachmann had been in contact with neo-Nazi environments – this was where he had received the weapon and participated in shooting exercises with other right-wing extremists. Bachmann was arrested for the assault and later committed suicide in prison.

From left to right. Elisabeth Zöller (b. 1945), one of Germany's best-known children's and youth writers, recently published a Dutschke biography for youth – a sunshine story that stylized the rebel leader into a role model for people of today. In a youth book, such idealization is understandable, but far from any necessity. Where Tagesspiegels reviewer Christian Schröder is critical of Zöller's book, which concludes that part of Kochstrasse in Berlin, near the Springer Group's offices, is renamed Rudi Dutschke-Strasse in 2008. Both the memorial and the biography become monuments of Dutschke, created by the author.

According to Schröder, Zöller should have mentioned that Dutschke's former fighting partner Frank Böckelmann (b. 1941) today publishes the journal Tumult and polemicizes Merkel and immigration policy, and that Dutschke's old friend Bernd Rabehl (b. 1938), who joined Dutschke in it socialist student union in 1965, now adviser to the right-wing publisher Götz Kubitschek. Worst is perhaps the lawyer Horst Mahler (b. 1936), who was arrested for the actions against the Springer Group in the wake of the Dutschke attack: Mahler has over time become both anti-Semite and Holocaust denial, has been imprisoned several times and is no longer allowed to practice as a lawyer.

That some of the activists from the rebel years have now become right-wing radical cannot be retroactively given – yet it is a moment that according to Schröder should have been included in Zöller's book.

A new human being. According to Dutschke himself, the anti-authoritarian uprising began in earnest with the demonstration against the prime minister's visit to Berlin in December 1964. The action meant taking the political initiative in the city – the cultural revolution had begun.

In a recently published book with a selection of Dutschke's letters and speeches, a post by the activist leader held at the International Vietnam Congress in West Berlin in February 1968. Here he argued that fascism was no longer manifested in a party or a person, but in "the daily education of the people into authoritarian personalities. It lies in the upbringing, in short, the existing system of institutions ”. The masses were passivated through the media, but allegedly could be mobilized by revolutionary socialists, such as Dutschke himself. US imperialism and Americans' growing aggression in Vietnam served as a "spiritual productive force in raising awareness of the antinomies in today's world," he said.

Karl Heinz Kurras

The students were in an intermediate position: On the one hand they were privileged, but on the other they were distant from power interests and positions. Through Foreign Parliamentary Opposition (APO) – "extra-parliamentary opposition" – they fought against the university dictatorship, against tests, bureaucracy and the stateization of society. The goal was to create a new human being, freed from the links of capital and bureaucracy.

Community University. Dutsckhe ended his Vietnam congressional speech with a pathos that today appeals less than it did 50 years ago: "The revolution of the revolutionary is thus the decisive precondition for the revolution of the masses. Live the world revolution and the society of free individuals that results! ”The students were to reject their elite status. Dutschke dreamed that society should become "a great university where all people can educate, and not just a minority, an elite to manipulate the people".

The number of students in Germany has since increased from 300 to 000 million, but it is doubtful whether Dutschke has realized his utopia for that reason. In the last interview he gave before the assassination attempt in 4,5, he described the university as "the weakest link in late capitalism". The anti-authoritarian movement also had to be created outside the university: According to the rebel leader, the unity of workers, functionaries, pupils, peasants and students was to be the decisive precondition for the revolution.

Proud widow. Gretchen Dutschke, widow of Rudi, published an 500 page biography of her husband already in 1997. It is the basis for her little book on 1968 for this year's anniversary, dedicated to her seven grandchildren. Germany's transformation into a living democracy is above all the merit of the rebel generation, she writes, and considers the 50 years that have gone by the riots as a success story: The Cultural Revolution led to greater openness and democratization.

Elisabeth Zöller

Those who now criticize the 68s and idealize the "old days" before the student uprising, should think of, for example, the concubinage clause that forbade sexual relations outside of marriage – in Norway until 1972, in Germany for another couple of years. When Gretchen joined Rudi in the dormitory in 1964, they did something strictly illegal (but fortunately the landlord had left). Is it this moral regime they want to return to, Michel Onfray and other intellectuals who are now demonizing the '68s for having rejected the old authorities and values ​​without replacing them with anything else?

Municipality 1. 12. January 1967 Municipality 1 was founded by Dieter Kunzelmann, Rainer Langhans, Fritz Teufel, Hans Magnus Enzensberger's divorced Norwegian wife Dagrun and his brother Ulrich, among others. Initially, the group lived in the apartment of Enzensberger (b. 1929), who was away. They then lived with author Uwe Johnsen for a short time, but were thrown out after the action against US Vice President Hubert Humphrey's visit to Germany. The collective then established itself at Stephanstrasse in Berlin Moabit, where it remained until it dissolved in November 1969.

The idea behind the collective was that the nuclear family had to be blown up, because here the oppression and restriction of freedom arose. Gretchen Dutschke did not like Kunzelmann, who wanted to abolish both privacy and private property rights in the community, but who in fact took advantage of the situation to have several mistresses at the same time. This was bad for Dutschke, and he and Gretchen established a more traditional relationship.

The collective was behind a number of actions. 5. April 1967 Several members were arrested for planning a bomb attack on the US vice president – but when it appeared that the intention was to attack the vice president with pudding, yogurt and flour, they were quickly released. Authorities and the media were laughed at by this "pudding attack". After the demonstrations that followed the killing of Ohnesorg, Fritz Teufel sat in jail for six months and did not release until December 1967.

The Socialist Student Union excluded May 1 in May 1967. After Rainer Langhans met Ushi Obermaier in September 1968, the action group became more and more a media phenomenon. Jimi Hendrix visited the municipality, and Obermaier fell in love with him. She now became a well-paid photo model. Substance abuse took over and the collective was shut down in 1969 after being rocked by rockers.

Those who criticize the 68 and idealize "old days" should think of the concubine paragraph that banned sexual relations outside of marriage.

Kunzelmann and Langhans. Dieter Kunzelmann (b. 1939) continued as an activist. Among other things, he was sentenced to prison sentence for throwing eggs on the service car of Berlin's then Mayor Eberhard Diepgen (CDU) in 1993. During the court proceedings in 1995, Diepgen met in court as a witness, after which Kunzelmann slapped an egg in his head with the words "Happy Easter, your Santa!", Which gave the activist a few months extra behind the walls.

Rainer Langhans (b. 1940) now lives in Munich, in a harem of four women – a kind of tantric yoga collective he believes is the future of aging 68-era women, since there are far more women than men his age. Langhans' autobiography from 2008, I am bin's ("That's me"), is out on his website Unlike Dutschke, Langhans wanted to create an inner revolution, not just an outer one. While Dutschke believed the contradiction between man and woman would be resolved through the abolition of the contradiction between labor and capital, Langhans experimented with new ways of living here and now. Langhans says that he and Kunzelmann complemented each other: Kunzelmann was the extrovert who initiated the actions, while the introverted Langhans interpreted them and put them into perspective. Langhans wanted to abolish art and create a unity of art and life. “The artists sometimes allow people to experience a human feeling, so that they can better continue their inhuman lives. We tried to make our whole life into art, so to live. "

After the dissolution of Kommune 1, Langhans moved to Munich and continued with collective and LSD experiments there. Among other things, he tripped with Fleetwood Mac guitarist Peter Green, who shortly after stopped playing and was hospitalized with schizophrenia diagnosis. The band later blamed Langhan's and Green's visit to the Munich collective.

Gretchen Dutschke

Agent with unclear role. After the attack on Dutschke, the students gathered in the large auditorium (Audimax) at the Freie Universität and then went to the Springer Group headquarters in Kreuzberg, something Orientering reported on (see previous issue of New Time). Also present was a certain Peter Urbach, who handed out Molotov cocktails and taught the protesters to overturn cars. It was later revealed that Urbach was an agent of the West German Security Police (Verfassungsschutz). After the revelation, he disappeared abroad never to return. The West German authorities clearly wanted to provoke violent actions which they could then crack down on.

The circumstances surrounding Urbach's affiliate business have not yet been clarified. He was a plumber and gained access to Kommune 1, where he came in contact with Teufel, Langhans and Kunzelmann. He later collaborated with the Rote Army Fraction (RAF). In practice, Urbach's agent role had come a day after the arrest of Andreas Baader 4. April 1970: It was he who gave the tip that led to the arrest. Urbach then disappeared from the picture and lived in California for 40 years, until his death in 2011. The strategy behind his weapons deliveries is still unclear, and it is possible that he partly acted on his own.

Not black and white. We still do not know enough about the role of intelligence services in the student revolt. But both Kurras' and especially Urbach's activities show how well Rainer Fassbinder's settlement with the terrorism in the film The third generation (1979) is. Here, terrorist leader August Brem is also a secret agent. The unresolved dual role of key players in the German 68 rebellion is just one of many reasons why one should remain too good at writing history of the era on the basis of a simplified black and white model.

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Eivind Tjønneland
Eivind Tjønneland
Historian of ideas and author. Regular critic in MODERN TIMES. (Former professor of literature at the University of Bergen.)

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