Beyond History Blog

Attempt on Rudi Dutschke’s life, symbolic figure of the German 1968 movement

Andrea Bentschneider - 11. April 2018 - General, Germany, Historical Events, History, Knowledge, Personalities

Rudi Dutschke was probably the most known face and voice of the German student protests in 1967 and 1968. On 11 April 1968, he was shot three times in Berlin by the 23 year old laborer Josef Bachmann. Dutschke suffered severe brain damage and survived only just. Eleven years later, on 24 December 1979, he died of the long-term effects: He drowned in a bath tub after an epileptic seizure. The neo-Nazi Bachmann was sentenced to a seven year detention, but killed himself in prison in 1970.

The assassination caused demonstrations and street riots in 27 German cities for several days in 1968. They were aimed especially at Springer. The media company had stirred up hatred against Dutschke and therefore prepared the ground for the attempt on his life as the protesters saw it.


Even though the 1968 movement was not able to achieve its political objectives like ending the Vietnam War or preventing the emergency laws in Germany, it marks an important point in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany. Living in Germany today would be quite different without it.

The protesters were a generation that had very much benefited from a period of economic prosperity. The movement initiated a change of values, authorities and rules were suddenly questioned. This was true not only for politics and universities but also for sexuality, family and child-raising. 1968 therefore initiated an opening of the society and also called for a new, radical treatment of the Nazi past. This gave rise to conflicts not only on the streets and at the universities but also within families. The Nazi past of the own parents was addressed and discussed, often in an accusing tone. Of course, the older generation also had problems with the attitude, the behavior and not least with the appearance of the young folk. Until today, we also associate 1968 to fashion, music, sex and drugs.

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