[sixties-l] Germans Yawn at '70s Photo of a Violent Fischer

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: 01/05/01

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    Germans Yawn at '70s Photo of a Violent Fischer
    Peter Finn Washington Post Service
    Friday, January 5, 2001
    The newsmagazine Stern published five photographs Thursday of Foreign 
    Minister Joschka Fischer assaulting a police officer during his days as a 
    militant in the 1970s in Frankfurt.
    The photos from a squatters' riot in 1973 show Mr. Fischer, wearing a 
    motorcycle helmet, punching and apparently about to kick the policeman 
    after he was knocked to the ground - felled, it appears, by a violent blow 
    from Mr. Fischer.
    The photos emerged just before Mr. Fischer, 52, was scheduled to provide 
    testimony at the trial of an old comrade from his stone-throwing days who 
    is charged with kidnapping and involvement in the murder of three people 
    when the international terrorist Carlos the Jackal took 70 people hostage 
    at a meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in Vienna 
    in 1975.
    While there was an almost obligatory call for Mr. Fischer's resignation 
    from a member of the opposition, the photos for the most part elicited 
    barely a mumble and even some surprising sympathy from leading conservative 
    voices in the country.
    "Maybe we're all so damn liberal now that we enjoy it," Mr. Fischer's 
    longtime associate, Hubert Kleinert, said of the street fighter who rose to 
    become foreign minister.
    The subdued reaction codified Mr. Fischer's fascinating journey - from 
    anti-war radical and dropout near the threshold of the terrorism that 
    scarred Germany in the 1970s to the man who now leads the Greens party and 
    championed Germany's return to warfare for the first time in 50 years when 
    it participated in the bombing of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo war.
    "The envious try to use photographic evidence to prove that the high and 
    mighty Mr. Fischer once had more than platonic leanings towards militancy," 
    the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper said.  "They are not serving up 
    anything new."
    And the mass-circulation Bild said that "Fischer was never a terrorist; 
    rather, like many in 1968, a militant demonstrator. Today, his diplomatic 
    achievements alone count - not photos from a past, which was violent and 
    filled with hatred on both sides."
    Mr. Fischer will testify in the trial of Han-Joachim Klein, 52, who went 
    underground for 23 years after the Vienna attack. The foreign minister is 
    expected to discuss the forces that led him to terrorism.
    Mr. Klein was shot in the stomach during the kidnapping but managed to flee 
    to Algiers with the Carlos gang and their hostages, who were released after 
    a ransom was paid.
    Mr. Klein, who renounced violence in a 1976 letter to Der Spiegel magazine, 
    denies shooting anyone. He was extradited to Germany in 1999 from France, 
    where he lived for more than 20 years under a false name.
    At the start of his trial, Mr. Klein said that "Joschka Fischer was my role 
    model," and Mr. Klein's lawyer asked the foreign minister to appear.
    On Thursday in Berlin, Mr. Fischer, in an apology, said that using violence 
    had been a "big mistake."
    "We were convinced that we wanted to and had to disturb the constitutional 
    order," he said. Mr. Fischer said he later went through a "painful internal 
    process" of distancing himself from that scene, adding that his career with 
    the Greens party showed his commitment to German democracy and its postwar 
    Born the son of a butcher in southwest Germany, Mr. Fischer dropped out of 
    school and wound his way through a series of odd jobs before joining the 
    student protest movement in Frankfurt in the late 1960s.
    His easy charisma and fiery oratory soon made him a leader of the 
    protesters. And as a member of the anarchist Putzgruppen (cleaning groups), 
    he was a street tough in confrontations with the police.
    "This is my biography," Mr. Fischer said in a rare interview in the current 
    issue of Stern about this period in his life. "This is me, Joschka Fischer. 
    Without my biography I would be someone else today, and I would not like 
    that at all."
    But the milieu in which Mr. Fischer moved also spawned the Red Army 
    Faction, a ruthless terrorist group.
    "Fischer and his buddies were a millimeter from terrorism," said Michael 
    Schwelien, author of a critical biography of the foreign minister. "That 
    was a period of time when the Red Army Faction was discussing things in 
    pubs, in semi-public, in backrooms where Fischer was. And a lot of people 
    were undecided about terrorism. For some it was just another aspect of the 
    struggle against the state."
    "Yes, I was militant," said Mr. Fischer in Stern. "But I always rejected 
    the armed struggle and fought it hard politically. We took over houses, and 
    when the police came to kick us out, we fought back. We threw stones. We 
    were beat up, but we fought back. I have never denied this."
    The conservative Christian Democrat Union party said Mr. Fischer's 
    admission meant he was not fit for high office.
    "Whoever behaved like that is no representative of a violence-free civil 
    society," said Wolfgang Bosbach, the party's deputy parliamentary leader, 
    in an interview Thursday with the Berliner Morgenpost
    newspaper. "One cannot be foreign minister of Germany with such an attitude."
    Mr. Fischer, however, denied that he ever took up a weapon. And 
    specifically he denied that he had thrown firebombs that left two policemen 
    seriously injured during riots after the suicide of the terrorist leader 
    Ulrike Meinhoff in 1976, as one biographer claimed in a book called "We are 
    the Mad Ones."
    Also, he denied having known that his car would be used by Mr.  Klein to 
    allegedly transport the murder weapon used to kill Heinz Herbert Karry, the 
    economics minister of the state of Hesse, in 1981.
    "If I had known that he was going to use it to drive around with weapons, I 
    wouldn't have given him the car," said Mr. Fischer.
    And Schwelien, a critic of the minister's ideological transformations, 
    agreed that Mr. Fischer would never have sanctioned murder. "That story of 
    his involvement was always far-fetched," said Mr. Schwelien.
    By 1976, Mr. Fischer said he was disillusioned with the radical movement 
    and its terrorist offspring, and he publicly renounced violence at an 
    "anti-repression congress" that year.
    Also, he told Stern, he was deeply affected by the involvement of German 
    terrorists in a 1976 plane hijacking.
    Mr. Fischer is now the most popular politician in Germany, the suited and 
    slimmed down (he was once very over weight) face of the Berlin leadership. 
    "He is simply the most fascinating figure in postwar Germany," Mr. 
    Schwelien said.
    And, in a final twist, Mr. Fischer's life is coming to the movies, courtesy 
    of a Hollywood production, reportedly starring Al Pacino in the title role.

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