Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Dutschke, Rudi (1940–1979)

Leader of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, West Germany) Sozialistischer Deutscher Studenenbund (SDS, German Socialist Students Federation) and arguably the most prominent figure in the German New Left during the 1960s. Born on 7 March 1940 in Schoenfeld, later part of the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany), Rudi Dutschke turned against Soviet-style Stalinism and toward Marxist socialism as a consequence of the 1953 East Berlin Uprising and the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. In 1960 Dutschke escaped East Germany to West Berlin, where he took up studies at the Free University. There he cofounded SDS and became head of its West Berlin chapter.

By 1965 Dutschke had achieved a reputation as a charismatic speaker and radical thinker. He campaigned against the authoritarianism of universities, U.S. involvement in Vietnam, the conservative German press, and the Establishment. He termed democracy in West Germany a hoax. After a student was shot dead by police during demonstrations against a visit by the Shah of Iran to West Germany in 1967, Dutschke took center stage in the increasingly radical German student movement. On 11 April 1968 he was shot and seriously wounded by a neo-Nazi fanatic in West Berlin.

Dutschke spent the rest of 1968 and 1969 recovering. In 1970 he enrolled at Cambridge University but was deported in 1971 because of his radicalism. He then went to Denmark, where he taught sociology at the University of Aarhus. By the late 1970s his radicalism had faded somewhat, and he became drawn to the environmental politics of the Green Party. Never fully recovered from the wounds he suffered during the 1968 assassination attempt, Dutschke lost consciousness in his bathtub and drowned on 24 December 1979 in Aarhus, Denmark.

Michael D. Richards


Further Reading
Fulbrook, Mary. The Divided Nation: A History of Germany, 1918–1990. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.
 

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