The main concept behind this short story was to introduce the idea of the student movement in Germany, in particular in the year 1968, to an audience that may not have had much prior exposure to it. Telling the story from the point of view of a student who is, initially, almost entirely ignorant of the situation allows the reader to discover the movement piece by piece. Furthermore, using the perspective of a student hopefully allows the reader to become more immersed in the potential thoughts and feelings of the members of the student movement. In addition to an introduction to the student movement, two important figures, Peter-Ernst Eiffe and Rudi Dutschke are introduced through the story, leading the reader to question who they are. However, the story does not provide all the answers to this question, hopefully prompting a motivation for further research. The format of a short story rather than a non-fiction format makes the basic ideas of this topic more accessible to those who find non-fiction text difficult to read and, therefore, would ideally provoke an interest in this period and its events and figures, as well as possibly even history more generally, for such a person.
Abadi, Eskandar, 50 Years Ago: How the Shah of Iran’s Visit Impacted German History, Deutsche Welle, 2017 <http://www.dw.com/en/50-years-ago-how-the-shah-of-irans-visit-impacted-german-history/a-39096262> [accessed 6/4/2018]
Brandt, Doris, Rebell mit Filzstift, Zeit Online, 2016 <http://www.zeit.de/hamburg/stadtleben/2016-02/graffiti-hamburg-peter-ernst-eiffe-street-art> [accessed 5/4/2018]
Klimke, Martin and Scharloth, Joachim, ed., 1968 in Europe: A History of Protest and Activism, 1956-1977, (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008)
Schaefer, Louisa, ’68 Movement Brought Lasting Changes to German Society, Deutsche Welle, 2008 <http://www.dw.com/en/68-movement-brought-lasting-changes-to-german-society/a-3257581> [accessed 7/4/2018]
Schuett, Peter, Eiffe für alle, Zeit Online, 1995 <http://www.zeit.de/1995/12/Wer_hat_in_Deutschland_die_ersten_Graffiti_gesprueht> [accessed 5/4/2018]
BBC World Service, The Shooting of Rudi Dutschke, 2013, accessed online at <http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p017g5jw> [accessed 6/4/2018]
1st APRIL 1968
When Julian Grüneberg arrived in Hamburg in the dead of night, there was little to suggest the state of affairs that he was soon to encounter. The streets were quiet, with nothing to see but the glow of car headlights and from an occasional upstairs window. He had never been to this city before and it was somewhat a mystery to him, just waiting to be uncovered. He had lived in a boring little village all of his life where everyone was stuck in their own ways and a bit isolated from the rest of the world. He was twenty now though and finally getting out. He stared out of the window of the taxi, looking up at the night sky, when something caught his eye through the darkness. It was a moving figure, facing the wall of a large building, seemingly writing something on it. Julian thought nothing more of this rather peculiar sight on that first night but, little did he know, that this figure was to become someone who would help to turn his world upside down.
2nd APRIL 1968
The next morning, Julian strolled down the pavement in wonder. The big city was so different to where he was from, and he was trying to take it all in the best he could. He was overwhelmed with excitement for his new life here as a university student. As he continued to explore, he turned onto the road leading to the central train station. However, he stopped in his tracks because he noticed some strange marks, all similar looking, on various items in the street, like the phone box just ahead of him and several of the traffic signs. As he got closer, he realised that they were words, most of which seemed like complete nonsense to him. There was one thing that kept cropping up though, the name Peter-Ernst Eiffe. This meant absolutely nothing to Julian, who had hardly ever left his village, let alone engaged with any graffiti of this kind before. He wondered who this Eiffe was and what he aimed to do by scrawling on different objects in the street. He felt sure that somebody would know and made a mental note to ask around at the university once he had found his way there, feeling relieved that he had already found a conversation starter to use.
Having taken a very long way in order to see as many of the sights as possible, Julian finally made it to the university. The lecture theatre was packed with students, most of whom were about his age. He squeezed his way through and found a seat next to a man who introduced himself as Jonas Wald. Jonas seemed friendly enough, so Julian decided to ask him a bit about Hamburg.
“Are you from around here?” asked Julian.
“Yes, Hamburg born and bred!” replied Jonas, seemingly keen to engage in conversation.
“I was walking around earlier, and I noticed some strange writing,” said Julian. “Do you happen to know who that guy Peter-Ernst Eiffe is?”
“Of course,” responded Jonas. “It’s hard to miss his graffiti around here. He’s a massive inspiration to the cause.”
Julian wondered what cause Jonas was talking about but, just as he was about to ask, the lecturer walked in and the students fell silent. The lecture was interesting, but he was even more curious now and found it difficult to concentrate. He hadn’t found the answer to a single one of the questions he came to Hamburg with, just added to the already long list.
5th APRIL 1968
It turned out that the cause was a massive wave of student protest against all kinds of things, from the Vietnam War to how long students like them were able to take to complete their studies. Julian couldn’t believe that he had missed so much in his little village and had barely heard about any of the massive protests that had taken place all over the country. According to Jonas, who he had taken to spending time with after that first lecture, the protests had really escalated since a man called Benno Ohnesorg had been killed at the mere age of 26 by a police officer during a protest in Berlin the year before. As for Eiffe, he was essentially just another man who believed in the movement, but he shared it with the city by writing it down. Jonas took Julian to see some of his more exciting slogans. His favourite read:
Sei keine Pfeife wähl Eiffe
Neue, lebensnahe vernünftige
Politik mit Eiffe und seiner
He liked this one especially because it made him feel like he was part of a community as he read it, Eiffe’s ‘Jungen Mannschaft’. As Julian read more of the slogans, he began to really take to Eiffe’s tongue and cheek attitude towards the society in which he lived. His words were funny, but they also communicated some incredibly important messages, the perfect combination. He was learning more about the student movement’s ideas from them and, unbeknownst to him on that particular day, paving the way for him to become an avid protestor himself. Very soon to come was an event that would spark the flame of his motivation to take a stand and join the fight.
11th APRIL 1968
On the front pages of the newspapers, a face was staring back at the passers-by. It was Rudi Dutschke, figurehead of the student movement. He had been shot in the street whilst on his way to the pharmacy to buy medicine for his son. Julian wondered how someone could be so cruel as to try to take someone’s life whilst they were committing such an innocent and caring act; it made him incredibly angry. He perceived the tragic event as an attack on Dutschke expressing his opinions, something that, in Julian’s own opinion, he should have been able to do openly and freely without consequence.
30th APRIL 1968
Julian’s anger had only grown as the right-wing press showed how little respect they had by siding against Dutschke in their coverage of the attack. He knew now that he belonged in the student movement, peacefully fighting violence like that against Dutschke but also all over the world. To the relief of all the students, Dutschke survived, and his shooting had provided brand new fuel for the struggle to instigate change in society.
Eiffe’s slogans were still etched in the back of Julian’s mind. However, they now held a new meaning for him. They were no longer just funny words that sparked his curiosity but almost a code to live by. He could not believe how much his outlook on life had already changed in just a few weeks. For the first time in all of his life, he truly felt like he had a purpose and a sense of direction for his future.
30th MAY 1968
The students in Hamburg had protested Dutschke’s shooting admirally for the weeks after it occurred and, before long, Eiffe also did something big. Jonas nabbed Julian as he was walking through the university.
“Did you hear the news?” asked Jonas.
“No, what is it?” questioned Julian.
“It’s Eiffe,” Jonas replied. “He’s only gone and driven his car into the main hall of the train station!”
“That man never fails to disappoint me,” laughed Julian.
Julian found out later that day that Eiffe had been arrested after his stunt but not before he had made his mark on Hamburg’s main train station. He thought back to his very first day in Hamburg when Eiffe had been nothing more to him than some words scrawled around the city. So much had changed since then. Not much was left of the boy from the little village who came to the city with big dreams. He certainly still had aspirations but the focus of these had sharply altered over those couple of months; the movement and people within it were what really mattered to him at this point.
28th JULY 1968
It was almost the summer break and Julian was packing to go home and visit his family. He was trying to work out how he was going to explain to them all that had happened and what it was really like to live out of the village in 1968. The world was ever changing, protest was always in the air and the most bizarre but important events were happening all the time. Since Eiffe’s arrest, there had been no new slogans, but Julian didn’t need them anymore, he had found all the motivation he needed from within the community of students that he was a part of and he knew that that would last. He grabbed his bag, jumped in the back of the taxi and started the journey home under the light of the midday sun. His future was bright now and he could not wait to see what it had to offer.