The Intensity of Voices from Younger Generations

Going through the Biess reading this week and reading about the protests of the Shah of Persia’s visit to West Germany, reminded me of how younger generations are generally active in their beliefs more often than passive. When the younger generation wants to be heard it will be heard at all costs. What really struck me when reading about these protests was the police response to them. While the protests were generally pretty unruly, “they threw smoke bombs, tomatoes, and balloons filled with paint at the Shah” (Biess, 196) none of these actions would warrant the response to them that would come. “One student reported that he tried to talk to a policeman but was quickly thrown to the ground and kicked in the head. When he protested, another policeman reportedly told him, “I will beat you to death if you say one more word.”” (Biess, 196) This response was one you might expect from an authoritarian government like Hitler’s, not an emerging liberal democracy like West-Germany. Just as concerningly I noticed a particular quote from police officers participating in the response, “Six policemen attacked another student, Hans-Rüdiger Minow, and dragged him across the street by his hair. Policemen reportedly called him “Jewish” and “Communist pig.”5 When the demonstrators tried to escape, police resorted to the plan of “fox hunting”—that is, the pursuit of fleeing demonstrators. In this context, police officer Karl-Heinz Kurras fired a shot that killed Benno Ohnesorg, a student of German literature.” (Biess, 196) Outside of the completely unwarranted murder committed here which is bad enough in itself, I would like to note the derogatory use of “Jewish” to one of the protestors coming from a German Police officer in the 1960’s. You would think anti-Semitic sentiments would have all but been eradicated in Germany this many years after the war, but it is clear that this was in fact not the case. In essence, the police were trying to eliminate the student movement like the Nazi’s did with the Jewish people of Europe. Last weeks discussions on German Reconciliation still strongly resonate here.

Reading Referenced:

Frank Biess, “Revolutionary Angst” German Angst: Fear and Democracy in the Federal Republic of Germany (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2020), 195-196.

2 Replies to “The Intensity of Voices from Younger Generations”

  1. I think that you make some very strong points here about how the police response to the protestors would seem to indicate a strong ideological clash between the two groups. I wonder, though, if this ideological characterization weakens a generational reading of events (a clear young people / students versus parents / the establishment binary). The article mentions how activist students tended to have good relations with their parents, and all of those lawyers who advocated for arrested protestors would have to have been at least in their late-twenties, if not older. Ulrike Meinhof was a 36 year old professional journalist when she turned to terrorism. My point is, I wonder if the ‘clash of generations’ paradigm was less of an objective description of the age of the participants, and more of an attempt to depoliticize what you rightly characterize as a highly political situation. Blaming those darn kids who will eventually grow out of it is considerably easier than societal introspection.

    1. It was really intense and disgusting how the out of hand those riots got eh. Especially reading about the antisemitic remarks that came from the police. It is quite surprising that this kind of thing was even allowed or tolerated in post war Germany. And I got similar vibes from doing the reading thinking how is this differnt at all from similar things that happened while Nazi control. And it was made clear that not everyone was entirely worried about turning back into the country they had just abolished a few years earlier.

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