Rudi Dutschke

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Rudi Dutschke

Alfred Willi Rudolf Dutschke (Brandenburg an der Havel, 7 March 1940 – Århus, 24 December 1979), better known as Rudi Dutschke , was a Marxist sociologist and German politician, one of the founders of the opposition party Alliance 90 (Bündnis 90) [citation required] in western Germany. He was the best known representative of the student movement of the 1960s in West Germany (the so-called “movement of 68”). He strongly opposed the Vietnam War and very creatively promoted the desertion of American soldiers based in their barracks in Germany. He promoted the fight against all forms of authoritarianism and for female emancipation.

Rudi_Dutschke’s Biography

Beginnings and youth

He was born on March 7, 1940 in Brandenburg an der Havel. It was the fourth son of a postal official; He lived through his youth in the German Democratic Republic (GDR). He was an active member of the Evangelical Youth of Luckenwalde, from which he drew his religious socialist streak. He wanted to be a sports journalist and for that reason he entered the German Free Youth in 1956 (Freie Deutsche Jugend, or FDJ).

He married Gretchen Klotz and had three children: Polly, Hosea-Che and Rudi-Marek. In his male son he joined his admiration for the prophet Hosea and for the revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara.


The entrance of Dutschke in the FDJ was motivated by the Hungarian revolution of 1956. It bet on a democratic socialism, which at the same time distanced itself from the United States and the Soviet Union. He also rejected the policies of the Unified Socialist Party of Germany (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands or SED), which governed the GDR. In contrast to the antifascist pretensions of their state ideology, I saw the old structures and mentalities advancing both in the East and in the West. In 1957 he openly opposed the militarization of the GDR society and advocated Freedom of movement. He refused to perform military service in the National People’s Army (NVA) and encouraged others to do the same.

After his exam of selectivity in 1958, and by his industrial educational training, the authorities of the GDR prevented him from realizing his desire to study sports.

Dutschke began to move around West Berlin and repeated his selectivity exam there. At the same time he wrote sports reports, among others for the newspaper B.Z. of the Axel-Springer-Verlag publishing house. In 1961, shortly before the construction of the Berlin Wall began, he moved to West Berlin to study Sociology, Ethnology, Philosophy and History at the Free University of Berlin (Freie Universität Berlin). He was linked to this institution until his doctorate in 1973.

He began to study the existentialism of Martin Heidegger and Jean-Paul Sartre, but soon also Marxism and the history of the workers’ movements. He read the first writings of Karl Marx, the philosophers of Marxist history Georg Lukács and Ernst Bloch, the Critical Theory of (Max Horkheimer, and Herbert Marcuse). Encouraged by his friendship with Gretchen Klotz, he also read theologians such as Karl Barth and Paul Tillich. His Christian socialism became a socialism of Marxist bases. He insisted, however, on the freedom of the individual to choose, in the face of society’s relations.

Student movement

He soon joined the study with practical political commitment. Thus he began to publish the Anschlag magazine, which dealt with the critique of capitalism, the problems of the Third World and new forms of political organization. The publication was then considered an “anarchist” by the German Socialist Student Federation (SDS, or Sozialistischer Deutscher Studentenbund) because of its activist nature. In 1962 he founded with Bernd Rabehl, the Berliner Gruppe der Münchner. In 1964 they adhered to the SDS in Berlin. The following year he was elected to the Political Council and continued to print the political address.

From 1966 he organized several demonstrations with the SDS to carry out university reforms, against the Grand Coalition, the Law of State of Emergency and the Vietnam War. The growing student movement united all these ideals and was formed as part of the so-called “Extraparliamentary Opposition” (Außerparlamentarische Opposition or APO). Dutschke actually became an important and well-known leader of the APO, and on March 23, 1966, he married Gretchen Klotz. In May he helped prepare the federal congress on Vietnam in Frankfurt am Main. The main speakers were recognized professors of the “New Left” (as Marcuse and Negt) and of the left rather “traditionalist” outside the SPD.

This same year he wanted to write his thesis on Lukács with Professor Hans-Joachim Lieber, then rector of the Free University of Berlin. After clashes over the political mandate of the Allgemeine Studierendenausschuss (AStA) in Berlin and the use of university classrooms for actions against the war in Vietnam, Lieber did not prolong the Dutschke assistance contract at the Freie Universität in Berlin. This led Dutschke to discard at the moment the continuation of his academic career.

On June 2, 1967, student Benno Ohnesorg was shot by a policeman during a demonstration against the Shah of Persia, who was visiting West Berlin; This led Dutschke, the APO and the SDS to call for demonstrations throughout the country, to clarify the circumstances of the death. They also demanded the resignation of the head of the police unit and the expropriation of the Axel Springer publishing group. The students believed that Axel Springer was guilty of the death of Ohnesorg because of the propaganda coverage of his newspapers. They were targeted for the first time by established media such as the Der Spiegel, the Frankfurter Rundschau and the Die Zeit. However, only a few professors showed solidarity with the protesting students, as was the case with Dutschke’s friend, the theologian Helmut Gollwitzer.

Memorial plaque in Berlin.

Attack and death

On April 11, 1968, he was the victim of an attack, perpetrated by a right-wing youth named Josef Bachmann, who shot him three times in the head, despite the severity of his injuries, survived. Dutschke then traveled with his family to London looking for a cure, but despite the treatments he was never able to fully recover from the internal damage caused by the attack. He managed, however, to be accepted at the University of Cambridge where he was able to finish his graduation in 1970. The following year, Edward Heath’s conservative government declared him and his family as “undesirable foreigners involved in subversive activities” and expelled them from country. The family moved then to Århus, in Denmark.

On December 24, 1979, while taking a bath, he suffered an attack of epilepsy as a result of the aftermath of the attack, dying of drowning.

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