Socialist German Student Union

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The Socialist German Student Union ( SDS ) was a political student association in West Germany and West Berlin that existed from 1946 to 1970. He was the university association of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) until the Social Democratic University Association (SHB) split off from him in May 1960 . In November 1961, the SPD leadership closed the SDS. From 1962 until its self-dissolution on March 21, 1970, this formed the only German non-party socialist university organization. He saw himself as part of the international New Left , and since 1966 also as part of the West German oneExtra-parliamentary opposition (APO), and advocated anti-authoritarian socialism . He had a major influence on the West German student movement of the 1960s . Since the assassination attempt on student leader Rudi Dutschke (April 11, 1968), this has broken down into various hostile K groups , left-wing socialist and some terrorist groups.


The student groups of the Weimar Republic , close to the SPD , had founded an association of socialist student groups in Germany and Austria in 1922 , which was renamed the Socialist Student Union of Germany and Austria in 1929 and existed until 1933. The SDS was in no continuity with him. It emerged from the amalgamation of student groups that formed anew at university locations after the Second World War and were allowed to be politically active from the summer of 1946. Some were close to the SPD and supported its course of demarcation against the KPD , such as the groups in the Hesse area; others consciously understood each other as non-partisan, such as the largest subgroup from Münster at the time. The SPD leadership around Erich Ollenhauer brokered the contacts between them and invited them to an interzonal conference of delegates in Hamburg in July 1946 . More than 90 delegates from 20 university locations took part in this founding congress from September 3 to 6, 1946. Only the group at the Humboldt University in Berlin came from the Soviet occupation zone .

Whether one should found a social democratic or non-party association was highly controversial. Ollenhauer prevented the failure of the congress by demanding a commitment to democratic socialism , but no SPD membership and by advocating organizational independence. With the adoption of a corresponding statute that gave the local member groups autonomous admission and exclusion rights, the delegates founded the SDS, which was formally independent of the SPD. The founding program, which was then unanimously adopted, called for "the free development of personality through social justice". Only the “act of convinced socialists” could realize this ideal, regardless of whether they acted “for religious, ethical or economic motives”. The political goals corresponded in part literally to the demands of the SPD chairman Kurt Schumacher , who committed the students to the SPD ideas on the second day of the congress and suggested that they join the party at a later date. After a lecture by the religious socialist Emil Fuchs , a specialist lecture for the understanding between Christianity and socialism was founded. The first SDS chairman, Heinz-Joachim Heydorn , represented ethical socialism .

Development until 1950

On January 5, 1947, the SPD demanded that the SDS statutes include the fact that only non-party members or SPD members were allowed to belong to the SDS. At the same time, she promised journalistic and political support from local SPD associations and grants for SDS members. Most of them still rejected the amendment to the statutes. The second conference of delegates in August 1947, however, decided by a majority that “membership and commitment to the KPD / SED are incompatible with democratic and liberal socialism”. What “confession” should mean was then more precisely defined. Because the SDS state advisory councils were given the sole right to exclude, SDS groups that did not want to exclude communists in general also agreed. Only the SDS state advisory board in North Rhine-Westphalia initially opposed this decision. Under pressure from the SPD and the new SDS chairman Helmut Schmidt , only the SDS group in Münster stayed. When the federal executive threatened her expulsion, the chairman resigned. The new Münster chairman excluded eleven KPD supporters and reported to the federal executive board that it had succeeded in "finally cleaning up the union by uncompromisingly excluding all dissenting elements". The process was only briefly mentioned at the delegates' conference in 1948.

Since it was founded, the SDS has called for universities to be opened up to “all those with skills”, regardless of their social situation. A program proposal adopted in 1947 called for the same admission conditions, preferential admission of socially disadvantaged applicants with the same performance and scholarships for them. Former simple Wehrmacht soldiers and emergency high school graduates should also be given priority because of lost training times. Only officers who were involved in the resistance against National Socialism and / or the rebuilding of a democracy should be allowed to study, not the others, because they would have chosen a career in the “Prussian authoritarian state”. At the intervention of Helmut Schmidt, this controversial partial exclusion was narrowly rejected. The demand to review the attitude of professors during the Nazi era was dropped as "utopian". The SDS then sought alliances with trade unions, SPD ministers of education, institutions of the SPD and (despite their internal exclusion) the KPD to meet the demands that had been decided: They should grant scholarships for socially disadvantaged students proposed by the SDS until this funding was implemented at the state level. To this end, the SPD was supposed to re-establish the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, which was banned in 1933 . This happened in the autumn of 1947. In 1948, an SDS committee for university reform also demanded complete exemption from fees, livelihood security and a study wage for all students, support courses for working non-high school graduates and support for the gifted. A progressive education tax branched off from income tax should provide the means for this.

As a result of the currency reform of 1948 , many SDS members and SDS groups lost their reserves. The delegates' conference then demanded from the SPD state governments a general freedom from schooling and hearing aid, at least for the lower income brackets. The SPD let its grants continue and granted scholarships, so that although not all poor students could continue studying, the SDS was retained. After the election of the new chairman, John van Nes Ziegler, in July 1948, the federal board moved its headquarters to Cologne. The delegates' conference of September 1949 decided to change the statutes to elect only one federal chairman instead of the previous two, and to allow his re-election. Ziegler was then re-elected with a large majority. At his endeavors, the SDS joined the Socialist Movement for the United States of Europe , founded in 1947, in the fall of 1950 , until the delegates' conference of 1952 decided to leave.

Fight against the corporations

From January 1951, the Berlin SDS expanded its internal circular to the federal organ of the SDS called Our Standpoint . From March 1951, the federal executive published the monthly bulletin enlightenment , which was conceived as a theoretical organ and was initially sent together with the federal circular, but was given its own editorial team from September 1951.

Since 1949 the SDS observed increasing activities of the student associations and warned all ministers of education and university rectors of the "resurgence of the old corporations", whose outdated "class consciousness" leads to a "serious threat to democratic convictions". In 1950, first the SDS Kiel, then other SDS groups with other student groups formed local action alliances against the "Corps". This resulted in the Ring of Political and Free Student Associations and Communities in Germany ("Ring" for short). Its statute only required a general commitment to basic democratic values. Of the constituent groups, only the SDS decided in September 1951 to expel members with striking, colored and anti-democratic connections from the SDS. Claus Arndt (SDS board member) declared the struggle against the "breeding grounds of the most antiquated nationalism and chauvinism " and their "job and office patronage" (1951/52) as well as against "every emergence of new Nazi and especially anti-Semitic tendencies in the German student body" in 1952 the main task of the SDS. This joined Erich Lüth's initiative "Peace with Israel ". These characteristics made it attractive to family members of those persecuted during the Nazi era. In 1952/53, the SDS rejected calls by anti-Semitic liaison students to show solidarity with the former Nazi filmmaker Veit Harlan , had an illegal " Paukboden " exposed by criminal complaint and fought state subsidies for connections. In response to his initiative, the SPD party congress of July 1954 also passed an incompatibility resolution for “active” (student) corporation members, which existed until 1966, despite the large number of SPD members in senior citizens' associations . However, the SDS could not oblige the "Ring" and the Association of German Student Unions to take joint action against the corporations. The Association of Christian Democratic Students (RCDS) met instead special agreements with the federal government. This broke the "Ring" in July 1955. From then on, the SDS and the RCDS remained political opponents.

Rearmament Debate

At its annual conference in 1950, the SDS discussed the Federal Government's plans for rearming the Federal Republic for the first time . Some only affirmed this within the framework of a European army, most of them strictly rejected it. Ziegler's compromise proposal found a majority: The SDS rejects West German remilitarization and sees the necessary defense against any dictatorship “in the full commitment of world democracies to secure the rights of life and the freedom of working people”. Two weeks later, SDS Federal Secretary Günther Bantzer, on behalf of the SPD, demanded that all SDS groups report suitable candidates for the police force set up at the time, which was considered to be the core of a future Bundeswehr . He added that he hoped for as few reports as possible.

In 1951, the Berlin SPD asked the SDS to approve the European Defense Community (EVG) in view of the aggression of the Soviet Union . On the other hand, the SDS Munster in particular tried to oblige the entire SDS to strict anti-militarism and accused the SPD of "older leading comrades" for forgetting history. However, he withdrew his application under pressure from the SPD and SDS executive boards. The conference of delegates in 1952 discussed a new draft resolution against remilitarization, which blamed the Soviet Union for the plans. It was not voted on in order to preserve the union peace and consensus with the SPD leadership.

At a "military conference" in June 1953, in which SDS representatives took part, the "Ring" called for a future West German "military constitution", universal conscription and the right to conscientious objection only for those who would make other "sacrifices for the community" . What ordinary Wehrmacht soldiers knew about the Nazi crimes was only marginally discussed. As a result, some SDS groups expressed their distrust of the SDS board and demanded an extraordinary conference of delegates. The federal executive led by Ulrich Lohmar stopped the current financial resources for them and demanded an independent right to make political decisions in order to deal with the anti-militarist tendency in the SDS “with rational political considerations”. The previous delegate decisions had only rejected a military contribution in the form of the EVG, not every defense army. In principle, socialists would have to be ready for military protection of their basic values ​​if necessary. He imputed an ahistorical pacifism to the anti-militarists who feared a new world war . After the uprising of June 17, 1953 and the defeat of the SPD in the second general election, this trend initially lost its influence in the SDS.

At the SDS Defense Conference (September 30 to October 3, 1953) Lohmar justified his position: Individual freedom has been realized in the Federal Republic, forms the basis for outstanding social equality and must therefore be militarily protected against the Soviet threat. In order not to obstruct German reunification , a militarily neutral zone in Europe is better than integration with the West . However, since a majority of the electorate agreed to this, the Bundeswehr was inevitable. The SPD and SDS would have to help shape the future military constitution democratically. The opposing position that remilitarization was a step towards the next war was rejected as ahistorical and apolitical. The SPD representative Fritz Erler confirmed that the SPD does not reject every West German army, but only the EVG as an obstacle to reunification. In three contest votes, the board position was just affirmed. The SDS was thus split into two almost equally large camps of opponents and supporters of remilitarization.

When a Bundestag majority for the Bundeswehr and NATO accession became foreseeable, the SDS Federal Conference decided unanimously in December 1954 to fight rearmament also with legal extra-parliamentary weapons. She also called for conscientious objection to war and military service to be permitted for political reasons. In February 1955 Lohmar signed the "German Manifesto" (January 1955) of the Paulskirchen movement for the SDS . Nevertheless, the SDS hardly took part. At the SDS conference in April 1955, Lohmar justified this with the fact that Gustav Heinemann's All-German People's Party , which was unsuccessful in elections, dominated the movement. The SDS should not bind itself to this party. As a result, the conference rejected the formation of non-partisan student committees against rearmament and instead only called on the SPD and DGB to create “a real popular movement to restore German unity”. The SDS conference in October 1955 declared the struggle against rearmament to be a “prerequisite for all socialist politics”. For the first time, the SDS explicitly called for political strikes in the event of an "impairment of the basic democratic order", which for it meant rearmament. Instead of demanding that all SDS members refuse military service, the conference decided that SDS members should only do military service if their conscience obliges them to do so. The SDS, which wanted to work on a democratic military constitution until 1953, became a radical opposition to any building of a German army. The SDS majority saw this as a restoration for society as a whole , which cannot be separated from university politics. Lohmar, on the other hand, saw the change of course as a departure from university policy tasks that question the primacy of the SPD's foreign policy. As a result, he gave up the SDS chairmanship and was replaced by Otto Fichtner .

Debate on Germany policy

The delegates' conference in 1954 demanded that the federal government should press the four victorious powers into negotiations on reunification. A motion to no longer exclude direct talks with the GDR was limited to talks on subordinate issues under pressure from Lohmar. A narrow SDS majority rejected all contacts between West and East German universities. In response to attempts by the FDJ to make contact , Lohmar demanded the release of imprisoned students, freedom of science and opposition to the armament of the GDR, which he continued to call "SBZ". When some SDS groups decided to contact GDR universities, Lohmar pushed through the first extraordinary SDS federal conference (April 1955). Like the SPD advisor before, he assumed that the division of Germany would be implemented through the Paris Treaties , but he held fast to the goal of an all-German state free of alliances. To this end, one can only negotiate with the Soviet Union, not with the GDR authorities. Only non-political, personal and scientific contacts with GDR citizens should be promoted. This met with considerable contradiction, so that the most recently adopted “guideline” only excluded talks between the “organization” and “Stalinist organizations” that the FDJ did not mention and recommended study trips for individuals or groups to the GDR.

Several SDS groups opposed this policy. The SDS Frankfurt obtained a legal opinion and a majority decided on a counter-guideline that allowed all possible contacts to "institutions and people of the Soviet Zone". Thereupon the defeated Frankfurt minority separated from him. The SDS board accepted this group as the new Frankfurt SDS local group and gave the majority an ultimatum to accept its guideline. This gave in and announced that it would fight for a revision of the guideline at the next delegates' conference. But now Lohmar has called for the exclusion of five of its members who had previously met with FDJ representatives. They denied that these were official talks. After three months of dispute, Lohmar withdrew his exclusion proposal and the Frankfurt groups reunited. The delegates' conference in 1955 passed a new guideline with a large majority, the wording of which largely corresponded to the Frankfurt draft: at the beginning it emphasized the SDS's efforts to strengthen contacts with GDR citizens and GDR universities. Previously, the SDS left Jürgen Kraft had reminded that Stalinism had brutally persecuted and exterminated left Social Democrats and Communists, so that the SDS could not negotiate with the FDJ. The proposal to hold the next SDS conference in Leipzig was rejected.

Fight against nuclear weapons

In 1956 it became known that the federal government wanted to equip the Bundeswehr with nuclear weapons. In April 1957, Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer played down these weapons as a "further development of artillery". The Göttingen Eighteen (April 12, 1958) contradicted this . In September 1957, falcons , DGB youth, nature lovers and conscientious objectors founded the "Antimilitarist Action". The majority of the SDS showed solidarity and elected two anti-militarists to its board in addition to representatives loyal to the SPD, Wolfgang Büsch and Oswald Hüller . He also supported the SPD's demand that no storage and production of nuclear weapons be permitted in the Federal Republic. When the federal government rejected the Rapacki plan for the demilitarization of Central Europe in January 1958, the SDS took part in the extra-parliamentary movement Fight against Atomic Death , initiated by the Federal SPD . The Bundestag resolution on the atomic armament of the Bundeswehr of March 25, 1958, the SDS federal organ described Standpunkt as the downfall of Germany, which a "Bundestag majority bought by propaganda millions of the industry" had decided. The extra-parliamentary protest is the only chance to save the nation from the impending nuclear death. According to Gandhi's maxims, civil disobedience must be constantly broadened. On the 20th / 21st of December, anti-nuclear rallies at university locations organized by SDS groups took part. May 1958 more than 20,000 people, including SDS critics of the SPD such as Helmut Schmidt.

After its defeat in the state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia in 1958 , the SPD no longer addressed the issue of nuclear weapons in further state elections and withdrew commitments to SDS representatives for campaign appearances. The SPD parliamentary group called on young SPD members to join the Bundeswehr as professional soldiers. The Mannheim SDS conference in October 1958, on the other hand, demanded that the SPD parliamentary group withdraw this decision because it impermissibly obligated the party as a whole, was incompatible with its anti-nuclear position and exposed all supporters of the right to refuse military service in the SPD. The SDS also decided to give more support to the student action committees against nuclear weapons; Not doing it would be opportunism . Hüller and three other representatives from the left wing were elected to the SDS board. This made clear the growing opposition to the SPD leadership.

In January 1959, student action groups and the fight against atomic death movement jointly organized the student congress against nuclear armament in West Berlin. The magazine specifically related SDS members as Ulrike Meinhof , Erika Runge , Eckart Spoo , Horst Stern and others had prevailed in July 1958 that Congress also dealt with a threat of West German democracy as a result of nuclear armament and the Germany policy. A congress resolution called for early negotiations with the GDR government on a peace treaty and possible "forms of an interim confederation". Thereupon the SPD representatives Helmut Schmidt and Kurt Mattick left the congress in protest. The following controversy split the action groups, and student resistance to nuclear armament subsided in the summer of 1959. The SDS executive committee emphasized that the resolution did not come from it and that it had come about democratically. But he sympathized with the content: This intensified the conflict with the SPD leadership.

At their pressure, the SDS board distanced itself specifically from the magazine by March 14, 1959 and withdrew a decision to visit the World Youth Festival in Vienna after the SPD threatened to expel it. At the SDS Congress for Democracy, Against Restoration and Militarism in Frankfurt am Main, planned for May 1959 , Hüller invited almost only left-wing SPD members and non-party leftists as speakers, including a GDR-friendly member of the British Labor Party . The SPD executive committee feared “Communist influence” and approved neither funding nor speakers. With the votes of the concrete faction, the congress passed a resolution that portrayed the Bundeswehr as a growing threat to German democracy and NATO as a threat to world peace and an immediate end to the arms race , disarmament, abolition of conscription and the elimination of the old officer corps for the Federal Republic demanded. Attempts by speakers Wolfgang Abendroth and Ossip K. Flechtheim to also include the GDR were narrowly rejected by the majority.


Because of the Frankfurt resolution, the SPD board invited the SDS board to a crisis discussion. On June 3, 1959, Hüller resigned and elected Günter Kallauch as his temporary successor in order to forestall a split and the resignation of local SDS groups. He distanced himself from those parts of the resolution that contradicted the SPD position and promised its leadership to ensure that positions were congruent in the future. Nonetheless, it threatened a separation from the SDS if its line could not be enforced internally. Helmut Schmidt and Egon Franke advocated the establishment of social democratic university groups and their nationwide cooperation; Willy Brandt disapproved of the compromise between the SPD and SDS board as a pointless "experiment".

Right-wing SDS groups in Berlin, Bonn, Braunschweig, Düsseldorf, Hanover, Kiel, Munich and Wilhelmshaven put pressure on the SPD leadership to break with the entire SDS board. They called for an immediate conference of delegates to elect a new board. Some wanted to exclude all groups from the SDS that did not explicitly distance themselves from the Frankfurt resolution, and did so in their regional association. The former SDS representative Johannes Reinhold demanded as an exclusion criterion that the SPD must demand a commitment to parliamentarism from all SDS groups . The SPD executive board supported communication between those SDS groups that wanted to split the association if the executive board was not re-elected. In Heidelberg, Saarbrücken, Cologne and other university locations separate social democratic university groups were formed over the course of the year, which adopted large parts of the original SDS statutes.

Waldemar von Knoeringen (SPD board member) prepared the SDS delegates' conference on July 30, 1959 with regional conferences in which almost only later SHB founders took part. The quorum required for the final dismissal of Hüller was narrowly missed, but Hüller voluntarily renounced his office. According to him, the SDS should play a progressive role without “daily political considerations” in the socialist movement and “anticipate emerging development tendencies”. He sharply criticized the draft for the SPD's new Godesberg program with reference to Wolfgang Abendroth. Jürgen Seifert (SDS board member) criticized the right wing SDS rejecting the entire politicization of the past few years, limiting the SDS to university politics and student self-administration and adopting "irrational bourgeois anti-communism " without distinction . This is an expression of the lack of theoretical work in the SDS. All attempts at infiltration from the Eastern Bloc would have to be fought sharply and Stalinist methods repulsed. However , he left contacts to reform communism open. Knoeringen then presented the conference with six conditions for further support of the SPD, including the rejection of the Frankfurt resolution and all relations with the SED and its offshoots, condemnation of the concrete faction and communism as totalitarianism , recognition of the SPD as a decisive bearer of democratic-socialist ideas and Politics, contacts with Eastern Bloc states only with the permission of the SPD. No board member disagreed. The SPD leftist Peter von Oertzen supported the remainder of the board and pleaded for the Marxists to be given a permanent place in the SDS. Oskar Negt emphasized against right-wing SDS representatives that Marxism was never a reason for exclusion in the SDS, but only membership in corporations and currently in the concrete faction. After a heated debate, Hüller was expelled, but not the rest of the board. The split in the SDS was avoided once again, but the internal contradictions were not resolved in the long term. After serious concerns, the SPD executive allowed the SDS to participate in an international student seminar on "Higher Education in the GDR" at the University of Leipzig . There was a verbal argument between the SDS participants and Walter Ulbricht , which the conservative West German press praised.

At the July conference, the SDS had unanimously decided to support criminal charges against former lawyers from the Nazi era who were once again holding offices in the Federal Republic. To this end, the SDS Karlsruhe brought the exhibition of the unpunished Nazi justice to the seat of the Federal Administrative Court . He founded an organizing committee that invited visitors to the exhibition without the approval of the SDS board. The SPD executive committee feared again that the concrete group was behind it , refused financial aid for the exhibition and demanded that the exhibition documents first be delivered to the party committees, which would then initiate “necessary” legal steps. SDS groups would have to distance themselves from the organizers. The SDS board then recommended that the local SDS groups organize the exhibition themselves and did not join the Karlsruhe committee. Although senior lawyers judged the documents to be genuine, almost all of the following criminal charges were quickly suppressed. The SPD stuck to their rejection and prevented the exhibition in West Berlin from being given public spaces. However, it did not protest against its implementation in February 1960 because the Jewish community there under Heinz Galinski supported it.

On January 29, 1960, the SPD executive board decided to stop promoting the SDS federal organ Standpunkt and to recognize social democratic university groups that approved the Godesberg program as well as the SDS. This implicitly threatened to break off relations if he were to permanently reject the Godesberg program. As an internal reason, Knoeringen cited that the SDS board did not act consistently against the Hüller parliamentary group and generally criticized the SPD program negatively. Therefore, the already existing independent social democratic university groups could not be expected to reunite with the SDS. It was clear to the SPD executive that its decision would encourage rivalries and splits from the SDS. As a result of its deletion, only two issues of the standpoint appeared in 1959 . Shortly after the Godesberg party congress, the latter published a long-planned criticism by Wolfgang Abendroth of the Godesberg program, which stated that it had adapted to existing capitalism in all essential policy areas . Although his article had previously appeared in the SPD organ Vorwärts , the SPD leadership now saw it as a serious affront. A polemic by Jürgen Kraft also seemed intolerable to her: In his review of a book on Austrofascism , he criticized the social democratic belief in an automatic growing into socialism as "part of the fog that the ruling class spreads to protect their deities from intrusiveness" .

The right-wing SDS groups and the independent social democratic university groups had been working towards their own central umbrella organization since autumn 1959 and agreed on a joint approach. The Bonn "Albert Schweitzer Group in the SDS" was the first to leave the federal association on May 6, 1960, but remained in the state association, contrary to the statutes, and voted there on its exit, which then received a narrow majority. The SDS group Wilhelmshaven announced its departure on May 7th, but missed the necessary two-thirds majority and still announced that it would be co-founding a new supra-regional university association. The Lower Saxony State Delegate Conference ended its cooperation with the SDS Federal Association with the votes of local groups willing to leave and delegates not yet accepted (i.e. formally invalid). The right-wing members of the SDS Berlin resigned when their candidates did not receive a majority for its group board and then immediately founded a new regional association without legitimation, electing a regional chairman and a candidate for the chairmanship of the new federal association that was being sought. On May 8th, the SDS board called on all members not to terminate the cooperation with the SPD in order not to give rise to the feared exclusion from the party. On May 9th, 50 delegates from 12 university groups in Bonn founded the SHB, and 28 other groups then signed its charter. The split was complete.

Exclusion from the SPD

The increasing tensions between the SDS and the SPD over the general political engagement of the SDS against rearmament, nuclear armament and above all the Godesberg program intensified wing battles and intrigues in the SDS. In 1961, the SPD leadership finally passed an incompatibility resolution that expelled SDS members and sympathizers from the party. As early as May 1960, the SHB had formed as a party loyal to the split, which, however, later also became radicalized .

Consolidation of Independence (1962–1964)

The exclusion from the SPD increased the attractiveness of the SDS for socially critical students. As early as 1961, Federal Chairman Michael Schumann described the SDS as part of an international New Left , based on the British New Left and the French Nouvelle Gauche . According to political scientist Wolfgang Abendroth, for many it became the "only functioning socialist organization in the Federal Republic" until 1966. In 1964/65 it consisted of 21 university groups, the largest in West Berlin, Frankfurt am Main and Hamburg, followed by smaller ones in Kiel, Marburg, Munich and other university locations. Nevertheless, only around 750 active members obtained the SDS information sheet in 1964. Because funds from the SPD and the Federal Youth Plan were no longer available, the SDS board could only develop little central activity, so that the local associations had more influence of their own. Political discussion has taken place in the SDS since 1960, above all through its bi-monthly magazine neuekritik and annual delegate conferences. At the conference in October 1961 the federal executive declared the SDS to be “part of the international labor movement ” with the “goal of a united democratic society in which people are freed from private-sector and bureaucratic disposal and planning”. In this sense, the SDS belongs to the Western European New Left, which can be found among workers, schoolchildren and students without an independent organization. The SDS demarcated itself against real socialism in the Eastern bloc , against western anti-communism , the bureaucratization of social democracy and their identification with their own “prevailing conditions”.

This self-image largely corresponded to the left-wing socialism that the SDS and the left SPD wing had represented in the 1950s. The international contacts with similar forces in Western Europe, which were maintained until 1970, were new, including the New Left clubs in Great Britain , the Parti socialiste unifié (PSU) in France , the Partito Socialista Italiano di Unità Proletaria (PSIUP) in Italy and the Sosialistisk Folkeparti in Denmark . After breaking with the SPD, the SDS avoided its political isolation. What common political practice this New Left could pursue remained open.

In 1962, the SDS sponsor society founded the Verein Sozialistischer Bund to promote and unite the New Left and thus prepare a new Left Party. The SDS board led by Thomas von der Vring rejected the move because he saw no prospect of success, but only feared further fragmentation of the left forces and a return to the goals and forms of politics of the post-war SPD. With this, the SDS questioned the self-image of the older left-wing socialists for the first time. This was later seen as the first step towards an anti-authoritarian SDS position.

From 1961 to 1966 the SDS led intensive theoretical and strategy debates, mainly criticizing traditional workers' organizations, new forms of action and the role of the intelligentsia. Influenced by Charles Wright Mills , some like Michael Vester believed that only the intellectuals could democratize society, since the power elites and the involvement of the workers in the existing system are too strong, and independent actions by wage earners are neither to be expected nor promising. Others like Wolfgang Abendroth, on the other hand, held that socialist intellectuals had to influence factories and trade unions in order to arouse political activity among workers; this alone is effective. Abendroth emphasized that the political apathy of the workers was not a general feature of late capitalism , but a historical peculiarity of the Federal German restoration after fascism . Ossip K. Flechtheim emphasized the change of the West German parties to tax-financed extended state organs as a result of the five percent hurdle in Germany and the loss of internal party democracy. The bureaucratisation process of the SPD, which Robert Michels recognized as early as 1914, was completed today through strict, central leadership from above without the need for members to speak. SDS representatives blamed hierarchical-authoritarian structures of all left-wing parties, in which capitalist alienation was repeated and reflected, responsible for the failure of every socialist revolution. As early as 1961 Flechtheim had referred to social movements with single purpose movements in the USA, which could politicize citizens and exert a vital democratizing influence. Socialists would have to ally with non-socialist protest movements and non-governmental organizations for clearly defined individual goals . In 1963 the SDS formed a unit that was supposed to convey its action concepts to the Easter March movement, other student associations and unions. In 1965 Michael Vester summarized the triggers and perspectives of direct action based on the experiences of the civil rights movement in the USA. These debates in the SDS had practically no consequences at first, but helped to prepare its turn towards an anti-authoritarian revolt.

From 1964 the SDS board sought alliances with other university groups for university and Germany policy goals. To this end, in May 1964 he concluded the highest agreement with the SHB, which the SPD leadership had meanwhile also rejected, with the left-wing liberal associations Humanist Student Union and Liberal Student Union of Germany as well as the Federation for German-Israeli Study Groups . On May 30, 1965, they jointly organized the nationwide Congress Democracy Before the State of Emergency against the emergency laws prepared at the time , in which they saw the "danger of a coup d'état from above". Well-known scientists and IG Metall , which maintained contact with the SDS, were involved.

Anti-authoritarian course and APO leadership role (1965–1968)

The situationists and main representatives of the Subversive Action group Dieter Kunzelmann , Frank Böckelmann (Munich), Rudi Dutschke and Bernd Rabehl (West Berlin) joined the SDS in early 1965. On February 28, 1965 Dutschke was elected to the political advisory council of the Berlin SDS. The subversives had previously carried out provocative sturgeon and leaflet actions, based themselves on the radical cultural criticism of the Frankfurt School and brought a keen interest in the anti-authoritarian traditions of the labor movement in the SDS. From August 1964, in the magazine “ schlag ” , they had discussed the connections between the capitalist world market and the anti-colonial liberation movements of the Third World and a possible solidarity with them. The “Action of the Council Socialists” of the SDS Munich was based on the work of Otto Rühle (politician, 1874) “From the bourgeois to the proletarian revolution” (1924). She wanted to promote the “ability of the working class to self-determination” and issued leaflets for May 1965 warning against “bureaucrats and apparatchiks” in the SPD, KPD and DGB . Although the action disintegrated in the summer of 1966, an SDS majority identified with the council communism of the Weimar Republic from 1967 onwards . - Since the end of the Algerian War (1962), the SDS has shown solidarity with anti-colonial struggles. The "Action for International Solidarity" organized a protest demonstration in Berlin in December 1964 against the Prime Minister of the Congo Moïse Tschombé , which spontaneously deviated from the police route and received so much publicity. The SDS later saw this as the beginning of an anti-authoritarian cultural revolution , which should question all "values ​​and norms of the established" and serve the "self-enlightenment" of those actively involved. The Berlin SDS developed the limited rule violation into a deliberate demonstration tactic, for example through a surprising, unapproved poster campaign against the Vietnam War in the spring of 1966. Dutschke saw such illegal actions as necessary support for the Viet Cong against imperialism , while the SDS federal executive board saw them as a violation of the rejected internal democratic decision-making and possible threats to existence. The conflict intensified at the Frankfurt Congress "Vietnam - Analysis of an Example" (May 1966), which the federal executive organized. Several SDS university groups prepared scientific analyzes of the US war effort in Vietnam and its support by the Federal Republic. The aim was to give the various university associations, trade unions and other groups well-founded information, to bring together the war opponents in the Federal Republic and to publicize their arguments. The SDS program of the 21st Conference of Delegates corresponded to this. However, an anti-authoritarian SDS majority rejected it in the summer of 1966 as too “traditionalist”. During the large demonstration against the Vietnam War in December 1966, the Berlin SDS took over the tactics of the Dutch Provo movement .

Under his leadership, a large part of the SDS transformed into an anti-authoritarian, undogmatic-left organization with in part anarchist features. Their relationship with the socialist states of Eastern Europe was inconsistent. According to a report by a Stasi spy in the SDS, Dutschke is said to have spoken of the GDR's “shitty socialism”. At the same time there was an Orthodox wing that continued to advocate close cooperation with East Berlin ; however, he was unable to assert himself against the anti-authoritarian faction.

From 1965 the SDS was considered to be the strategically planning and tactically operating core force of the extra-parliamentary opposition (APO) against the emergency laws. In mid-1967 the SDS reportedly had 1,600 to 1,800 members, including around 300 in Berlin, 200 in Frankfurt and 200 in Marburg. Among other things, he organized the demonstration against the Shah on June 2, 1967 in West Berlin , during which the West Berlin policeman Karl-Heinz Kurras shot and killed the student Benno Ohnesorg . This triggered nationwide student protests. At its peak in 1968, the SDS had its high phase with around 2,500 members nationwide, but it was increasingly torn apart by internal struggles for direction.

The local centers of the Marxist traditionalists were in Cologne , Marburg and Munich. Lawyers were strongly represented among the SDS members at Cologne University, and there was a strong group at the Art Academy in Munich . The number of members in Berlin was around 500 in 1968, in Frankfurt 400. The anti-authoritarian faction of the SDS concentrated in these two cities, which the traditionalists insulted as “anarcho-syndicalists” and “petty-bourgeois deviants”. The Frankfurt "leather jacket faction " of the SDS is credited with organizing the so-called bust attack on Adorno . At the end of 1969, some SDS groups of the orthodox wing joined forces to form the Association of Marxist Students , from which the Marxist Student Union Spartakus later emerged. Other SDS members, mainly from the formerly anti-authoritarian wing, later joined the K groups or became involved in various new social movements .

Disintegration and Dissolution (1969–1970)

On March 21, 1970, the SDS Federal Association was finally dissolved by acclamation at a "more or less randomly thrown together (n) meeting in the Frankfurt student house". Only a few local SDS groups continued to work afterwards, for example in Heidelberg until the group there was banned on June 24, 1970, or in Cologne , where an SDS list for student parliamentary elections started in the 1971 summer semester .

Federal Chairperson

Surname Term of office
Heinz-Joachim Heydorn (British zone of occupation )
Alfred Hooge (US zone)
Helmut Schmidt
Karl Wittrock
John van Nes Ziegler
Rolf Recknagel
John van Nes Ziegler 1949-1951
Günther Bantzer 1951-1952
Ulrich Lohmar 1952-1955
Otto Fichtner 1955-1956
Johannes Reinhold 1956-1957
Wolfgang Büsch 1957-1958
Oswald Hüller 1958-1959
Günter Kallauch 1959-1960
Michael Schumann 1960-1961
Eberhard Dähne 1961-1962
Dieter Sterzel 1962-1963
Manfred Liebel 1963-1964
Helmut Schauer 1964-1966
Rhyming rich 1966-1967
Karl Dietrich Wolff 1967-1968
Acting board members
without a chairman


Time and again there were posters from the SDS steeped in history. When the Shah came to Germany in the spring of 1967, SDS members and the Confederation of Iranian Students (CIS) put up posters all over Berlin on the night of May 30th to 31st . On the poster there was a profile of the Shah with the heading "Murder".

Probably the most famous poster was a parody of a Deutsche Bundesbahn (DB) poster . Jürgen Holtfreter and Ulrich Bernhardt created a picture with the heads of Karl Marx , Friedrich Engels and Lenin and the slogan “ Everyone is talking about the weather. We are not. “The poster gained cult status and quickly hung up in many student apartments and in many other places.

On December 10, 1966, a Vietnam demonstration took place in Berlin. A Christmas tree decorated with a stars and stripes and a banner saying “philistines of all countries, unite!” Were burned.

Successor groups

The student association Die Linke.SDS , founded in May 2007, also bears the name SDS, deliberately linked to the 1968 movement, but has no organizational connection with it.

See also


  • Tilman Fichter , Siegward Lönnendonker : History of the SDS 1946-1970. With a foreword by Klaus Meschkat and a part of the picture by Klaus Mehner. (1st edition 1977) Extended and revised edition, Aisthesis, Bielefeld 2017, ISBN 978-3-8498-1259-1 .
  • Tilman Fichter, Siegward Lönnendonker: Dutschke's Germany: The Socialist German Student Union, the National Question and Criticism of the GDR from the Left - A German-political pamphlet with documents from Michael Mauke to Rudi Dutschke. Klartext, Essen 2011, ISBN 978-3-8375-0481-1 .
  • Gregor Kritidis: Left Socialist Opposition in the Adenauer Era. A contribution to the early history of the Federal Republic. Offizin, Hannover 2008, ISBN 978-3-930345-61-8 .
  • Felix Kollritsch: The Concept of the New Left in the SDS. Lines of tradition, continuities and breaks in relation to the SPD using the example of two magazines. In: The Magic of Theory - History of the New Left in West Germany. (= Work - movement - history . Issue II / 2018), pp. 54–71.
  • Uwe Rohwedder: Helmut Schmidt and the SDS. The beginnings of the Socialist German Student Union after the Second World War. Edition Temmen Bremen 2007, ISBN 978-3-86108-880-6 .
  • Siegward Lönnendonker, Bernd Rabehl, Jochen Staadt : The anti-authoritarian revolt. The Socialist German Student Union after separating from the SPD. Volume 1: 1960-1967. Westdeutscher Verlag, Opladen 2002, ISBN 3-531-13301-2 .
  • Bernd Rabehl: Enemy. The SDS in the crosshairs of the “Cold War”. Philosophischer Salon, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-9807231-0-0 .
  • Siegward Lönnendonker: Left-wing intellectual departure between “cultural revolution” and “cultural destruction”. The Socialist German Student Union (SDS) in post-war history (1946–1969). A symposium. Springer VS, Wiesbaden 1998, ISBN 3-531-13099-4 .
  • Willy Albrecht: The Socialist German Student Union (SDS). From party-conform student association to representative of the new left. JHW Dietz successor, Bonn 1994, ISBN 3-8012-4053-3 .
  • Tilman Fichter: SDS and SPD. Partiality beyond the party. Westdeutscher Verlag, Opladen 1988, ISBN 3-531-11882-X .
  • Jürgen Briem: The SDS. History of the most important student association in the FRG from 1945 to 1961. Pedagogical-extra-Buchverlag, 1976.
SDS fonts
  • New review . Journal of Socialist Theory and Politics . New Critique Publishing House, Frankfurt am Main 1960–1970.
  • Hamburg class justice without a mask: the trial against Günter Schmiedel and his background. Legal aid publishing house, Hamburg 1969.
  • The XXII. Ordinary delegates' conference of the Socialist German Student Union: Resolutions and decisions. Federal Board of the SDS, Frankfurt am Main 1967.
  • The struggle of the Vietnamese people and the global strategy of imperialism. International Vietnam Congress 17./18. February 1968 West Berlin . Editor Sibylle Plogstedt . Boarding school Research and news inst. (INFI), West Berlin 1968.
  • Neocapitalism, armaments industry, Western European labor movement: minutes of a meeting of the Socialist Federation and the Socialist German Student Association on November 6th and 7th, 1965 in Frankfurt am Main. New Critique / Limmat-Verlag, Zurich 1966.
  • College in Democracy. Memorandum of the Socialist German Student Union . Frankfurt am Main 1961.
    • Wolfgang Nitsch , Uta Gerhardt , Claus Offe , Ulrich K. Preuss : University in the Democracy. Critical contributions to the inheritance and reform of the German university . Luchterhand, Berlin 1965.
    • SDS-Hochschuldenkschrift. Socialist German Student Union. Reprint of the 2nd edition from 1965 . New Critique Publishing House, Frankfurt am Main 1972. ISBN 3-8015-0111-6 .

Web links

Commons : Socialist German Student Union  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Willy Albrecht: The Socialist German Student Union (SDS). Bonn 1994, p. 13.
  2. ^ Willy Albrecht: The Socialist German Student Union (SDS). Bonn 1994, pp. 32-45.
  3. ^ Willy Albrecht: The Socialist German Student Union (SDS). Bonn 1994, pp. 59-67.
  4. ^ Willy Albrecht: The Socialist German Student Union (SDS). Bonn 1994, pp. 108-111.
  5. ^ Willy Albrecht: The Socialist German Student Union (SDS). Bonn 1994, pp. 73-80.
  6. ^ Willy Albrecht: The Socialist German Student Union (SDS). Bonn 1994, p. 107.
  7. Felix Kollritsch: The concept of the New Left in the SDS. Lines of tradition, continuities and breaks in relation to the SPD using the example of two magazines. In: The Magic of Theory - History of the New Left in West Germany. (= Work - movement - history . Issue II / 2018), pp. 54–71.
  8. ^ Willy Albrecht: The Socialist German Student Union (SDS). Bonn 1994, pp. 85-90 and 97-99
  9. ^ Willy Albrecht: The Socialist German Student Union (SDS). Bonn 1994, pp. 117-121.
  10. ^ Willy Albrecht: The Socialist German Student Union (SDS). Bonn 1994, pp. 198-202 and footnote 178
  11. ^ Willy Albrecht: The Socialist German Student Union (SDS). Bonn 1994, pp. 181-185.
  12. ^ Tilman Fichter: SDS and SPD. Opladen 1988, pp. 188-193.
  13. ^ Willy Albrecht: The Socialist German Student Union (SDS). Bonn 1994, pp. 186-192.
  14. ^ Willy Albrecht: The Socialist German Student Union (SDS). Bonn 1994, pp. 221-225.
  15. ^ Willy Albrecht: The Socialist German Student Union (SDS). Bonn 1994, pp. 208-213.
  16. ^ Willy Albrecht: The Socialist German Student Union (SDS). Bonn 1994, pp. 213-221.
  17. ^ Willy Albrecht: The Socialist German Student Union (SDS). Bonn 1994, pp. 246-253.
  18. ^ Willy Albrecht: The Socialist German Student Union (SDS). Bonn 1994, pp. 310-314.
  19. ^ Willy Albrecht: The Socialist German Student Union (SDS). Bonn 1994, pp. 318-322.
  20. ^ Willy Albrecht: The Socialist German Student Union. Opladen 1994, pp. 322-329.
  21. ^ Willy Albrecht: The Socialist German Student Union. Opladen 1994, pp. 330-334.
  22. ^ Willy Albrecht: The Socialist German Student Union. Opladen 1994, pp. 334-339.
  23. ^ Willy Albrecht: The Socialist German Student Union. Opladen 1994, pp. 340-355.
  24. ^ Willy Albrecht: The Socialist German Student Union. Opladen 1994, pp. 356-359.
  25. ^ Willy Albrecht: The Socialist German Student Union. Opladen 1994, pp. 360-364.
  26. ^ Willy Albrecht: The Socialist German Student Union. Opladen 1994, pp. 373-375.
  27. Felix Kollritsch: The concept of the New Left in the SDS. Lines of tradition, continuities and breaks in relation to the SPD using the example of two magazines. In: The Magic of Theory - History of the New Left in West Germany. (= Work - movement - history . Issue II / 2018), pp. 54–71, especially p. 56.
  28. Hans Martin Bock: History of the 'left radicalism' in Germany. One try. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1976, pp. 194f. and p. 327, footnotes 113 and 117.
  29. Hans Martin Bock: History of 'left radicalism' in Germany , Frankfurt am Main 1976, p. 196.
  30. Hans Martin Bock: History of 'left radicalism' in Germany , Frankfurt am Main 1976, pp. 196–198.
  31. Hans Martin Bock: History of 'left radicalism' in Germany , Frankfurt am Main 1976, pp. 198–205.
  32. Hans Martin Bock: History of 'left radicalism' in Germany , Frankfurt am Main 1976, p. 206.
  33. Hans Martin Bock: History of 'left radicalism' in Germany , Frankfurt am Main 1976, pp. 207–212.
  34. Claus Gennrich: Germany's revolutionaries. The SDS, core force of the extra-parliamentary revolution. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. March 30, 1968.
  35. Who is the SDS? In: Welt am Sonntag. June 17, 1967, p. 4.
  36. Tanja Stelzer: The imposition of the meat. In: Der Tagesspiegel. December 7, 2003, accessed August 30, 2019 .
  37. all table information based on Willy Albrecht: The SDS. Bonn 1994, pp. 497-500, as well as Tilman Fichter, Siegward Lönnendonker: Brief history of the SDS . Essen 2007, pp. 241–244.
  39. From the Free University to the Critical University - History of the Crisis at the Free University of Berlin. Winter semester 1966. ( Publications on ( Memento from February 23, 2005 in the Internet Archive ))
    Gretchen Dutschke: Rudi Dutschke and the student revolution (I). In: Der Spiegel. 34/1996. (
  40. Via Linke.SDS