New Berlin Acquaintances

January, 2014

Berlin -- Over three consecutive days in December I made the acquaintance of three engaging people in Berlin. One had been a student of the painter Gerhard Richter early in Richter's teaching days; another was an American who had perched above Berlin's Teufelsberg during the Cold War, listening; the third was the widow of the charismatic revolutionary, Rudi Dutschke. Each had fascinating stories to tell.

All three will be memorable, but none more than Gretchen Dutschke, as I had no idea she was living in Berlin looking for a publisher for her late husband's collected papers. She is concerned that no one is interested. That I cannot believe; among the papers she has collected are the surveillance files on him. Surveillance organizations seem to have recorded his every speech and his every movement, as he was considered a danger to both sides in the Cold War. But some of his visions have since been vindicated.

In 2010 a German television movie told the story of Rudi and Gretchen's life together; Emily Cox played Gretchen. It was largely based on Gretchen's 1996 biography Rudi Dutschke: Wir hatten ein barbarisches, schönes Leben. The movie got mixed reviews, I have since read. Der Tagesspiegel thought it was excellent; Die Welt, a paper of the Springer publishing house, said much of the movie was falsified. That is to be expected, as many have concluded that it was the Springer empire itself that brought about the assassination attempt on Dutschke's life in 1968, from which he eventually died in 1979.