Rudi Dutschke – voice of German students in the 1960s | DW Documentary

Rudi Dutschke – voice of German students in the 1960s | DW Documentary

On 11 April 1968, Rudi Dutschke, voice of West Germany’s student movement, was shot in Berlin. The political rebel died 11 years later due to his injuries.

The three shots fired at Rudi Dutschke were an attempt to kill off his dream of an all-German “socialism with a human face”. To his followers, he was “Our Rudi,” an idol for students and symbol of hope for the post-war generation. In the conservative press, he was vilified as a rabble-rouser. “Growing up, my family never saw a contradiction between Christianity and socialism,” he once wrote. Born in 1940, Dutschke grew up in Luckenwalde, a small town in eastern Germany. His mother was a devout Protestant. From an early age, Dutschke became disenchanted with the “real existing socialism” of East Germany and the Soviet Union. Although he was a member of the official East German youth movement, the FDJ, he refused to be conscripted into the East German army and declared his support for German reunification. As a result, he was denied permission to study sports journalism in East Germany. In 1960, he moved to West Berlin to study sociology. The construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 unexpectedly left him stranded. With remarkable discipline, he digested the entire body of socialist theory, going back to its roots in Marx, Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg. Struck by the discrepancy between socialist theory and the socialism he had experienced in East Germany, he decided to become a “professional revolutionary.” From then on, he saw his calling as mobilizing the world’s disadvantaged, from industrializing nations to capitalist West Germany. With his slogan “Enlightenment as Action,” he became a political rebel, spokesman of the Socialist German Student Union, media star and “Enemy of the People Number One.” The assassination attempt at point-blank range left Dutschke with serious brain damage, and the West German student movement’s most charismatic speaker was effectively silenced. It took him three years to learn to speak again. To escape attacks in the press, he and his family left Germany in search of a new home, but he was expelled from several countries and finally returned to Berlin, the city he still called his own. The new environmentalist movement reawakened his hope for the possibility of social change, but his involvement with the Greens would be short-lived. At just 39, Dutschke drowned at home in the bathtub during a seizure that resulted from injuries sustained in the 1968 assassination attempt.

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