Several weeks ago, there was a small tremor in the German capital: four blocks of city street were renamed Rudi-Dutschke-Strasse, a gesture that honored the memory of a charismatic student leader and formally inscribed it into the urban landscape. It is no coincidence that this little strip of downtown street–once adjacent to the Berlin Wall–is also the address of Germany’s pugnacious left-wing daily, Die Tageszeitung (The Daily News), known to everyone in Germany simply as the taz, which will be celebrating its thirtieth birthday later this year, just as the hoopla attending the fortieth anniversary of the student uprising dies down.
The campaign to name a street after the icon of West Germany’s 1967-69 student movement was pure Tageszeitung. The initiative was born in the paper’s editorial offices in 2004, and it prevailed only after fierce legal battles and a bitterly contested neighborhood referendum, which involved antagonists not entirely dissimilar to those of four decades earlier: Christian Democrats vigorously against, Greens and assorted lefties for.
“Dutschke was the symbol of ’68, which had an enormous impact on modernizing and liberalizing the postwar Federal Republic,” explains editor in chief Bascha Mika from a sun-drenched picnic bench atop the taz‘s five-story home, a handsome turn-of-the-century, red-brick structure. “The student movement broke with the stuffy, conservative postwar ’50s and, critically, the way Germans thought about the Nazi past.” Although the taz‘s 200-person staff today contains a handful of grizzled ’68 veterans who marched alongside Dutschke, its ranks reflect the many protest movements that followed the ’60s: the women’s, the environmental, the Third World and the peace campaigns, among others. And there’s plenty of new blood at today’s taz, too, from the generation that was in diapers when West Germans occupied the streets in the 1980s to protest Pershing II missiles.
It is also no coincidence that Rudi-Dutschke-Strasse runs from the taz to the base of a soaring glass-encased high-rise, the headquarters of the conservative Springer publishing empire, the arch-nemesis of the rebel students as well as German progressives ever since (and of taz readers, by definition). The student partisans of ’68 held the shrill Springer newspapers responsible for demonizing Dutschke and the movement. In April 1968, on one of West Berlin’s main streets, a right-wing extremist from Munich, with copies of Springer papers vilifying Dutschke on his person, pulled a pistol and shot him point-blank in the head and chest, critically wounding him. The shooting sparked riots and the siege of Springer facilities across the country. In West Berlin, rocks and Molotov cocktails rained on the Springerhaus; its delivery trucks were upended and set afire.