My idea to submit a short story documenting the day of a student planning to attend the 2nd June demonstration came from the intense emotion I felt upon first hearing this story, to learn about how the police reacted and that an unarmed protestor was shot. In a decade that saw ever increasing numbers of demonstrations in what can be called a culture revolution, activists that led their respective groups and parties became overnight celebrities for those aspiring to make change in a similar way. Fellow demonstrators and activists would send fan mail to leaders of groups such as K1, with the groups also circulating revolutionary stickers and badges. As the protests were student led and therefore assembled of young people, other young, impressionable Germans rallied together with their peers in swathes to take to the streets and make their voices heard. This story tells of one of those young students demonstrating for the first time, the doubts that he has and the emotions that course through him at such a time. None of the protestors could have imagined what was to transpire on this day and certainly not how the Springer media would perceive them in the months afterwards.
Alexander Sedlmaier & Stephan Malinowski (2011) ‘1968’ – A Catalyst of Consumer Society, Cultural and Social History, 8:2, 255-274
Der Baader Meinhof Komplex
They say that you can always hear the calm before a storm, and today West Berlin certainly feels that way; student organisations have been planning their protest of the Shah of Iran for months and the day has finally come for us to take action. I am yet to think of a suitable lie that I can tell to Mother and Father before I leave tonight. Despite being an adult they police whom I talk to because they are ‘afraid that I’m running in the wrong crowd’. What do they know anyway? They sat back did nothing when this country was overrun by a fascist government. I cannot say the same for my friends, but I’m glad there was someone in my Romance lecture distributing these paper bags – Mother would have a heart attack if she saw my face in the newspaper tomorrow and I know that I would never hear the end of it. I don’t know his name but he must be a member of the SDS.
Normally the city is alive and bustling, even during working hours, but today the tension in the air is almost palpable. The walk to the stationary store this afternoon made me feel quite claustrophobic; it’s an overcast and rather muggy day, and people seem to already have battened down the hatches in lieu of the demonstration. If I am already feeling anxious about tonight I hope that I don’t get too scared to go again. My friends keep telling me how great an experience it is, being together with like-minded people protesting for change, and that my first demonstration will be one of the best parts of my life, especially one which I’m so passionate about. They call this Shah the ‘King of Kings’ yet Westerners don’t even realise the oppression, torture and hunger that exists in his Kingdom. I want everyone to know exactly what he is and who he is: a murderer. I’ve made a sign that reads ‘Mörder raus aus West Berlin’ and hopefully the film cameras show it. As long as I have my paper bag nobody will know that it’s me.
My heart has been in my mouth since I started writing this diary entry, there are just too many emotions enveloping me right now to get through it: I’m anxious of getting in trouble; ashamed for lying to my parents; scared of being hurt. Demonstrations are usually peaceful, right? But today something just feels wrong, like an impending sense of doom or desolation. My friends are expecting me to show; yet I’m feeling nervous again. Timo told me to imagine that I could be protesting beside someone famous, Rudi Dutschke, perhaps, and how incredible a sensation it would be to feel like I’m making a difference in this world! Personally I don’t believe someone like that would show up to something small like this – he’s got bigger demonstrations to worry about – however, it would be so cool just to see him, even from a distance. He inspires all of us to be free-thinking, to not believe in the capitalist agenda coming from the Grand Coalition, and to fight for the change we wish to see in our world. Timo said he saw him across the street not too long ago. To think that he had the courage to go and talk to him about his work! If he is protesting tonight I would be too timid to say hello, too shy to get the words out, but I digress.
At least if he sees me I have my paper bag…