Many of the communities existing in Germany today can be seen as having their roots in the small communities such as Kommune 1 (Berlin) and Amon Düül (Munich) started towards the end of the "swinging" sixties by artists, musicians and new-left and libertarian political activists. Also influential were the squatted housing projects which came into being in the following years.
After the second world war, reconstruction of most german cities began, and priority was given to re-industrialisation and to rebuilding the inner city housing stock. By the sixties, after a period of economic boom, people were moving out to the suburbs and inner city industry was also moving out to new industrial estates. This left plenty of space and empty buildings. It meant the possibility for new usage of these sites by communal projects. In particular, West Berlin played an important role in the development of the alternative intentional community movement in the 60s, 70s and 80s. It had a special status as a western enclave inside the German Democratic Republic. It was the one part of the Federal Republic where young men did not have to do military service. This meant that many young conscientious objectors and radicals moved there. These were the people who were often interested in new forms of living such as communes and squats and who contributed to the foundation of these projects. Many wealthy and middle class people left West Berlin after the building of the Berlin Wall, so there was quite a large stock of empty property which was ideal for communal living projects. In addition, Germany had many thousands of war and post-war orphans who were becoming adults in the sixties. These young people without families were also interested in the new ways of living together. Some of them felt very marginalised by the system, placed in children's homes where they were not respected or were even abused. A number of communities gave space to these young people. This sometimes lead to problems, both within the communities and problems coming from outside. Some young commune members got into hard drugs, others became radicalised politically and joined urban guerrilla groups. A further influence on german communities of the time was the US american commune scene. This had an influence on the foundation of rural communes. Many of the land communes were more "New Age" than new left; green, spiritual pacifists rather than political activists with links to the urban guerrilla groups.
The early German commune scene - art and actionEdit
The first well known german commune in the sixties was the Kommune 1 (K1), started in Berlin in January 1967. Like the Kommune 2 (K2) which was formed a short time later, it had its origins in a communal project started by members of the "new left" german SDS (SozialistisSche Deutsche Studentenbund), some of the founders were radical artists connected to the Situationist International (Langhans, Obermeier, Kunzelmann, Teufel). During 1966, SDS members had discussed how to make a radical break with life in the nuclear family and in patriarchal, capitalist society. They came to the conclusion that a new way of life was necessary, the commune. They started a "prototype" community, which was the fore-runner to K1 and K2. Both projects existed for a couple of years only, but they had a great influence on both the development of german communes as left-wing/libertarian political projects, and on the popular perception of communes. It was the time of the "sexual revolution", and young germans saw this and communal living as part of a wider revolution which was happening around the world. In the same year, about a dozen musicians and artists started the "Amon Düül" community near Munich. They had good contacts with the Kommune 1, and there was some movement between the two groups. Indeed, the original SDS group had been a mixture of members from Berlin and Munich. There was the hope that people would begin to copy the idea of starting communes, and indeed, a sort of movement came into being, first in West Berlin, then in other parts of West Germany. The development of the german communes at this time parallels the development of the social movements of the period. Kommune 1 began in a very inward looking way, seeing the personal as political, concentrating on sexual politics. After a period the members of Kommune 1 began political actions outside the commune. Kommune 2 was started as a political commune, with the idea of taking action in society. The Wielandkommune went further, with members proposing the solution of anti-imperialist urban guerrilla warfare. (It is important to note that the late 1960s west german commune movement in West Berlin was infiltrated from the start by at least one agent provocateur working for the Berlin "Office for the Protection of the Constitution", Peter Urbach, whose role in the radicalisation of the movement toward violence has been controversially discussed). By the end of the sixties, a number of communes had started across the Federal Republic. The groups saw themselves as being part of a political movement which was revolutionising all aspects of life. Just as the radical left was being subjected to repression, so the communes were often raided and searched, not just for hash and marihuana, but also for bombs and weapons. It was a reality that some of the communes did have contacts with the urban guerrilla groups of the day (e.g. Kommune 3 Wolfsburg; High-Fish Kommune, Munich), but even those communes which were not so close to the armed groups felt the effects of the general repression being exerted against the West German left.
Kommune 1 or K1 was the first well known german commune in the 1960s. It was founded by eight men and women from the "APO" (extra-parliamentary opposition) in Berlin in January 1967. It existed for two years and had great influence on both the development and perception of communes in Germany at the end of the sixties. The members became well known for their mixture of artistic and political provocation, their long hair and their presumed promiscuity. This cliche´ image of young, political hippies was to haunt the german commune movement for many years. One of the most famous visitors to K1 was Jimi Hendrix.
Kommune 2 was a left-wing political commune in Berlin from 1967 to 1968. In August 1967, seven adults and two children moved into a 7 1/2 room appartment in Berlin-Charlottenburg, thus starting the Kommune 2. One of these was Jan-Carl Raspe, later a member of the Red Army Fraction.
Amon Düül was the name of the commune in Herrsching, near Munich, started in 1967 by about a dozen musicians and artists. It had good contact with the Kommune 1 in Berlin, but had more influence on the german rock music scene than it did on the community movement. In the early period, the commune band became famous for its improvised music performed at happenings and demonstrations. Whoever was in the commune was in the band, and enthusiasm was valued more highly than musical ability. This was one of the reasons for a split into Amon Düül 1 and the more famous rock band, Amon Düül 2.
The Wielandkommune (commune in the Wielandstrasse) was a militant left-wing commune in West Berlin, 1968 - 1969. In contrast to the other communes Kommune1 and Kommune 2 which had many communards with student and academic backgrounds, the members of the Wielandkommune saw their commune as a proletarian group, and indeed a number of its members were Rockers who came from the West Berlin working class.
The High-Fish Commune was a commune in Munich formed at the end of the 1960s. The name is a play on words, as Hai-fisch is the German for shark and you could also interpret it as meaning “stoned fish”. Two of the founders, Rainer Langhans and Uschi Obermaier had previously lived in Berlin’s Kommune1, and Obermaier had also been a member of Munich’s Amon Düül community. The High-Fish Commune is infamous as probably being the place where Fleetwood Mac guitarist, Peter Green, had a LSD trip which was to disturb him for many years to come.
Kommune 3 WolfsburgEdit
The Kommune 3 (Wolfsburg) (K3) in the Breslauer Strasse in Wolfsburg (home of Volkswagen) was started in March 1970 by Ilse Schwipper (1937 - 2007). The name Kommune 3 was a clear reference to the Kommune1 and Kommune 2 in Berlin, and the antiauthoritarian ideas of the Berlin communes were influential on the formation of the new group. The members of the commune were mostly young people, with Ilse the oldest at 34. She was seen as the head of the commune, in the sense of the brains behind it rather than its leader. She was also the only woman, living there with her 3 children. The foundation of the commune took place parallel to a campaign to support an imprisoned member of the mens commune in Morse, a village about 5 miles from Wolfsburg. There was some fluctuation in the membership of the commune, but there was always a solid core of communards. All the members came from a working class background. The group were interested in antiauthoritarian education, self-management, and "cultural revolution". They also discussed the ideas of armed struggle.
Trans Love Energies about one part of the U.S. scene.
- "Schrittweise (Geschichte der Kommunebewegung)", Uwe Kurzbein, in "Das Kommunebuch", Verlag Die Werkstatt, Göttingen, 1998.
- Kommune 1 in English Wikipedia
- Kommune 1 in German Wikipedia
- Kommune 2 in German Wikipedia
- An interview with Ilse Schwipper in "Schrittweise (Geschichte der Kommunebewegung), Uwe Kurzbein, in "Das Kommunebuch", Verlag Die Werkstatt, Göttingen, 1998.
- German Wikipedia - Ilse Schwipper
- German Wikipedia - Schmücker Prozess
- Amon Düül in English Wikipedia
- "Von der K1 zur Wielandkommune", "Bommi" Baumann, in the anthology, "Kommunen und Wohngemeinschaften", Edited by Johann August Schülein, Focus Verlag, Giessen, 1978.
- Articles in German Wikipedia about "Bommi" Baumann, Georg-von-Rauch, Peter Urbach and the "Zentralrat der umhershweifenden Haschrebellen".
- German Focus magazine article about communes
- Biography of Uschi Obermaier
- About Peter Green’s Trip (Rolling Stone forum)
- 1970 article about the threats to Rainer and Uschi (Die Zeit Online)
- German Wikipedia about the German Tupamaros Munich
- About Margit Gaier-Czenki
- Erotic text about sex in High Fish Commune
- Photos mostly at Spiegel.de