"There is tenderness only in the coarsest demand: that no-one shall go hungry any more" – Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia (1974: 156)
I’m currently in Berlin for much of the summer doing fieldwork for a new project on the history of the squatting scene in the city. I’m living in a flat on Bismarckstrasse in Charlottenburg about 100 metres from the Deutsche Oper. I’m also only two blocks from Krumme Strasse, the scene of one the defining events in the radicalization of the student movement in Germany in the late 1960s. I’m talking about the shooting of Benno Ohnesorg by a West Berlin police officer during demonstrations against the visit of the Shah on June 2, 1967. A sculpture by the Austrian artist Alfred Hrdlicka commemorating the event can be found in front of the Deutsche Oper while another signpost close to the spot where Ohnesorg was shot has been erected by the City of Berlin.
Historians have traditionally highlighted the significance of the shooting as the key turning point for a student movement that was forced to rethink its ability to generate workable notions of alterity, resistance and struggle. Shocking revelations regarding the shooting will undoubtedly prompt a thorough re-examination of the various protest cultures and counter-publics that emerged in its wake.
A recent discovery by archivists working in the Stasi files of the former GDR casts completely new light on the plainclothes police officer who shot Ohnesorg. As it now turns out, Ohnesorg was shot by someone who was in fact under the payroll of the Stasi. There is an excellent article in English on the Der Spiegel website which attempts to piece together the sequence of events leading up to the shooting of Ohnesorg. It also reflects on the implication that these new revelations may have for existing accounts of the 1968 generation. Whatever the case may be, trying to plot the various topographies of protest in West Germany from the late 1960s to the present will certainly require a revised geographical imagination.