Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
On April 11th, 1968 in West Berlin Rudi Dutschke, one of the leaders of the revolutionary German student movement of the 1960s, was shot in the head by an anti-communist house-painter from Saxony, Josef Bachmann.
Bachmann, four years Dutschke´s junior, didn´t know his victim. They had never met before. Bachmann found his address through the registration office and before firing three times at Dutschke even asked him to confirm whether he chose the right person.
Dutschke survived the attack but died of an epileptic seizure 11 years later at the age of 39. He drowned in his bath in the house in Denmark where he moved together with his family after being expelled from the UK by the conservative government of Edward Heath. Great Britain and Cambridge became his home after the attack. It was there that he was supposed to gain his strength again, far from the explosive atmosphere that pervaded Germany at the time.
Rudi Dutschke was the face and to the great extent also the soul of the student movement in Germany. Aiming to transform the Western societies and make them more open, more democratic, Dutschke opposed those among their movement who propagated violence as means of achieving their goal. He never supported the aggression of groups such as Red Army Fraction or the strongly radicalised smaller groups within the student movement. He was afraid that this radicalisation might not only cause harm to others but also end up in the schism within the movement itself.
Dutschke´s way of fighting the old system – the system that still had its roots in the Nazi Germany (many of the political big-whigs and even more of their helpers had pretty nasty Nazi past they never had to account for) – was a ‘long march through the institutions’. And in the end it was his method that proved truly transforming and changed Germany into what it is today.
On April 30th, 2008 part of Kochstrasse in Berlin-Kreuzberg was re-named Rudi-Dutschke-Strasse. The location is quite significant here: the Axel Springer Verlag, the biggest West German press publisher whose headquarters was built between Kochstrasse and Zimmerstrasse was the face of the conservative, reactionary side in the conflict between the “old” and the “new Germany”.
Today Rudi-Dutschke-Strasse crosses Axel-Springer-Strasse – connecting Spittelmarkt with Oranien- and Lindenstrasse – at its eastern end. Now they are neighbours for ever.
Here is an article from The Spiegel magazine in which the story of Rudi Dutschke is told in more detail.