Hunger strike

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The hunger strike is a form of passive resistance . An individual or a group refuses to eat with the conscious risk of being harmed, perhaps even dying.

During the dry hunger strike , the intake of fluids is also refused.

The hunger strike was practiced as a form of political resistance around the world. Like any strike action , the political hunger strike is a public demonstration with a specific goal. This is what distinguishes the hunger strike from fasting .


From three to four weeks onwards, refusal to eat can lead to serious, sometimes permanent damage to health and even death , see hunger metabolism .

Some people on hunger strikes have survived 50 to 70 days. Bobby Sands , a member of the IRA , died after 66 days during the 1981 hunger strike . Holger Meins , a member of the Red Army Faction, died after 57 days in 1974.

Occasionally, the hunger strike is broken by force-feeding through a gastric tube.


A hunger striker's tent in public

Political hunger strike

Mahatma Gandhi in India refused to eat for weeks several times in the 1930s and 1940s in order to prevent his people from engaging in a civil war, which in fact never broke out.

Louis Lecoin (1888–1971) went on a hunger strike on June 1, 1961 in his fight for legalization of conscientious objection , which began in 1958 and was supported by Albert Camus . This was soon supported by the major press (especially the satirical newspaper Canard enchaîné ). On the 22nd day he broke off the fast because Prime Minister Georges Pompidou gave in, but the government gave in to the threat of another hunger strike two years later, and finally in December 1963 a law was passed and the detainees were released. In 1964 he withdrew his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in favor of Martin Luther King .

In 1967 Fritz Teufel protested his arrest at the demonstration on June 2, 1967 in West Berlin with a political hunger strike.

The imprisoned members of the left-wing extremist terrorist organization Red Army Fraction began using the hunger strike in West Germany in 1972 on a massive scale as a political means to improve their prison conditions. The judiciary responded to a number of requests, but the most important request to amalgamate all RAF prisoners was never granted. The RAF prisoners carried out a total of ten collective hunger strikes up to 1994, as a result of which two prisoners died. Especially the death of Holger Meins in 1974 was described by the RAF as martyrdom and contributed to the creation of a second generation.

The Tübingen teacher Hartmut Gründler used the pressure of the hunger strike ( juice fasting , water fasting ) several times between 1975 and 1977 to protest in Wyhl , Tübingen and Kassel against alleged "misinformation" in nuclear energy policy, especially with regard to final disposal .

Hunger strike by refugees

During the refugee protests in Germany in 2013, over 70 people went on hunger strike in Munich. The asylum seekers' camp was evacuated by the police after 8 days to prevent serious health incidents. In October 2013, over 20 refugees went on a dry hunger strike in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. They are calling for the asylum legislation to be changed, for the abolition of the residence requirement and for their asylum applications to be recognized.

In Nuremberg, six refugees went on a dry hunger strike for five days against the refugee policy and the delay in proceedings by the BAMF .

Hunger strike against plant and mine closings

In Germany there were several hunger strikes in connection with the closure of various hard coal mines in the 1960s, which, although they caused a lot of media coverage, could not prevent the closings. The closure of the potash mines in the former GDR could not be averted by the miners' hunger strikes in the 1990s.

Hunger strike against detention conditions

According to the organizer, more than 550 prisoners from a total of 49 German prisons have been on a week-long hunger strike because of alleged harassment against prison inmates. In solidarity with them, a few prison inmates from Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Spain also refused to eat for a week. Independent confirmation of these figures is not available.

In 2011, five people in custody in prison in Celle went on a 37-day hunger strike for better accommodation conditions. In doing so, they referred to a decision of the Federal Constitutional Court from May 2011, according to which preventive detention is to be separated from the penal system.

On April 17, 2012, 1,600 Palestinian prisoners, including the Shikma Prison in Ashkelon, went on a large-scale hunger strike in Israeli prisons for better conditions. They called for the lifting of restrictions on family visits, more educational opportunities, the abolition of solitary confinement and administrative detention, which can be extended indefinitely without charge. This strike was only ended after a concession from the prison administration after up to 70 days. A few months earlier, individuals had gone on hunger strikes against their administrative detention .

Positions on force-feeding

Article 6 of the World Medical Association's 1975 Tokyo Declaration clearly states that doctors are not allowed to participate in activities to force- feed inmates. Because such coercive measures would prevent the right of self-determination - in this case the right to strike - of those affected.

In the 1992 Malta Declaration, the World Medical Association renewed its call on the medical profession not to support force-feeding. The “Declaration on Hunger Strikers” was revised in 1996 and 2006 and the wording was tightened due to the increased use of force-feeding in the US internment camp in Guantánamo .

Doctors in the German-speaking area are bound by this declaration through their membership in the German Medical Association , the Austrian Medical Association and the Association of Swiss Doctors (FMH). Nevertheless, there is discussion in the German-speaking area about the force-feeding of asylum seekers on hunger strikes.

Dry hunger strike

By refusing to drink fluids, the dry hunger strike is an extremely aggravated form of hunger strike. The survival time without water is only a few days. The result is dying of thirst . Due to the short period of time until death, the dry hunger strike puts the addressee of the strike under the greatest moral pressure.

The loss of water in the body ( dehydration ) leads to unconsciousness and death. Symptoms are speech disorders, unsteady gait, weakness, low blood pressure, confusion ( delirium ), calcium deficiency , kidney failure . The cause of death is multiple organ failure . Timely renewed drinking or infusion of fluids prevents death, but the kidneys and brain can be permanently damaged after an advanced dry hunger strike. Improper hydration can also lead to cerebral disorders.


Web links

Commons : Hunger Strike  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: hunger strike  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. Hunger strike camp in Munich cleared despite resistance. Focus online, June 30, 2013, accessed July 7, 2013 .
  2. Police want to prevent "group suicide" of the refugees. (No longer available online.) Rbb online, October 18, 2013, archived from the original on October 20, 2013 ; Retrieved October 20, 2013 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  3. ^ Dry hunger strike by refugees in the Nuremberg evening newspaper, September 22, 2015
  4. Hunger strike in German prisons See also the prison archive ( memento of the original from January 20, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  5. ^ People in preventive detention end five-week hunger strike in: Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung of September 7, 2011
  6. Palestinian prisoners end hunger strike as agreement reached with Israeli officials , Ha-Aretz on May 14, 2012.
  7. Tagesschau (online) ( Memento from May 5, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  8. TIME (online)
  9. The World Medical Association Declaration of Tokyo ( Memento of the original from December 4, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  10. ^ WMA Declaration of Malta on Hunger Strikers , on