Memoire Projects

2 JUNE 1967

Recollections of a Biographical Cesura

BArch, B 145 Bild-00099300 / Klau Schütz

On the historical background

On 2 June 1967 the state visit of Shah Reza Pahlavi of Persia was to be solemnly concluded in West Berlin. Students and citizens of West Berlin had already gathered in front of the Schöneberg town hall where the escorted farewell to a “Western-backed tyrant of the ‘Third World’” began, “who was exploiting his country and bloodily oppressing the population”, as Ulrich Herbert writes in his Geschichte Deutschlands im 20. Jahrhundert [History of Germany in the 20th Century].

Eventually, the situation escalated in front of the Deutsche Oper [German Opera]. First, shah claqueurs including members of the Iranian secret services went on at the demonstrators with sticks and clubs. Then – instead of protecting its citizens – West Berlin police forces joined in with them. When they, too, began beating the demonstrators with batons – numerous photos and film reels of blood-soaked students were taken within the first minutes of this excessive act of violence – an incident of police brutality beyond compare in the Federal Republic broke out on the scene. At the fringes of the riots, at around 8.30 pm policeman Karl-Heinz Kurras shot 26-year-old student Benno Ohnesorg. Ohnesorg had not only been unarmed, but was crouching defenselessly on the ground in order to protect himself from the blows dealt by the police. Kurras approached, pulled out his gun and shot Ohnesorg in the head from short distance. Kurras’ higher-up was standing by.

Systematic attempts to cover up the progression of events as well as the destruction of evidence added to the consequence that Kurras was never legally sentenced; at the same time immense prosecution efforts led to multiple arrest of protesting students.

The Historical Date

As an historical date 2 June 1967 denotes several things: For the protest movement the day constitutes a turning point that seized the entire country. At the same time, it relates the collective experience that unprovoked police attacks and even to get shot may go without legal consequences. It is in this sense that this day became an event that constituted a generation while also marking the very moment, “when the element of violence, which would from now on accompany domestic policy conflicts for more than ten years, entered the protests, which had up to that point been admittedly very civilized.” (Herbert, History of Germany in the 20th Century, p. 857). Groups such as the RAF or the „Bewegung 2. Juni” [June 2nd Movement] – the two most dominant forces of German left terrorism – justified their militancy, among other reasons, by the events of 2 June 1967.

Talking to Contemporary Witnesses

Filmmaker and author Gerd Conradt, journalist and photographer Astrid Proll, Weltfriedensdienst (WFD) [World Peace Service] staff Lutz Taufer, and author and journalist Anselm Weidner were in their early to mid-twenties at the time. They lived in different places, they did not know each other and were pursuing different plans for their lives. But after 2 June 1967 they had to take a stance toward similar issues and make decisions affecting their own lives based on a set of very similar criteria. In a public talk, presented in collaboration with Zeitraumexit on 8 April 2017 in Mannheim, Mr. Conradt, Mrs. Proll, Mr. Taufer and Mr. Weidner will give accounts of their childhood and youth in the 1950s and 1960s, talk about the APO [Extra-Parliamentary Opposition] and about what the incision of 2 June 1967 has meant to them before the background of history. Additionally, Professor Dr. Heidrun Kämper (IDS Mannheim) will give a short introduction on the historical significance of this particular date.

The event will be recorded live in full length, archived and published digitally afterwards. Completed by further dates and information on the historical context, it will be freely accessible on the internet as feature web-documentary.