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Protest

Protest

Sit-ins and “go-ins”—in which lectures were virtually hijacked and turned into political discussions—as well as demonstrations, strikes, and occupied rooms and public spaces: student protests only became popular in the wake of the 1968 student movement and were seen as especially provocative. Hamburg was not a hot-bed of revolutionary activity, but the University became a symbol of the student movement when two students unfurled a banner proclaiming: “Under these robes—1,000 years of rot!”

In addition to the radical democratization of the University, the student movement called for a democratic society. It also agitated against suspensions of normal constitutional procedure, the Shah’s visit, and the Vietnam war. The movement also became a touchstone for later generations of students in Hamburg as they dealt with university and general political issues as well as their own universities’ National Socialist and colonial backgrounds.

0601

Signs of protest

Student protest has been an integral part of the University since at least the 1960s. Individual activities may be fleeting but posters, hand-outs, and even entire books continue to attest to their existence and goals. While the hand-outs collected by the Center for the History of Universität Hamburg reflect the diversity of concerns and, often, the historical backdrop, traces of paint and random words on the basement floor of the University’s Main Building are a reminder of political activism.
0602

A stirring slogan hits the mark

During the inaugural festivities for the new rector on 9 November 1967, two properly attired students unfurled a banner proclaiming: “Under these robes—1,000 years of rot!” After years of polite wrangling over student participation and improving study conditions, the bold protest was an effective shock to the system. Academic gowns were abolished, followed by the professorial autocracy they symbolized. Reforms in April 1969 turned Hamburg’s “professorial university” into Germany’s first “group university,” with participation rights for all of groups.
0603

Protests against contemporary views of a colonial past

As a port and trading city, Hamburg was the most important hub of German colonialism following Berlin. Students at the University have addressed the University’s own colonial past and the injustices associated with it since at least the 1960s. Their demands and spectacular protests have targeted, among other things, colonial memorials erected near the University as well as the University’s founder, Werner von Melle. Since 2014, a University research office has focused on the colonial period and the traces it has left in the city. This is the first project of its kind in Germany.
0604

Protest posters

Students have been making posters in the cellar of the University building Von-Melle-Park 9 for many years. Paint soaked through the material of the banners, staining the floor. Before the markings were removed during renovations, students documented these reminders of student protest culture.
Photo documentation of material remains of everyday and protest history, by: Attila Dézsi and Maren Schlingmann, 2016
0605

„Summer of Resistance”

Across Germany, students protested against student fees in the “Summer of Resistance” in 2005. Hamburg students also joined in the protests. Despite solid resistance from an overwhelming majority of students, they were unable to stop the introduction of student fees. Hamburg scrapped the fees only five years later in 2012.
„Summer of Resistance“ T-shirt, 2005
Henrik Eßler
„Summer of Resistance“ T-shirt, 2005
0606

Sustained protest

Students were disgusted when a Hamburg biologist used racial arguments in his textbook. A working group took up the controversial topic and critically assessed his claims. The result was this publication and a new University lecture series.
AG gegen Rassenkunde, Ed., Deine Knochen – Deine Wirklichkeit, 1998
0607

Leaflet collection

The leaflet collection of the Center for the History of Universität Hamburg is constantly growing, and documents student protest over half a century. The constantly changing topics—from states of emergency, to nuclear power, to discrimination against homosexuals—reflect the broad spectrum of student protests
Leaflets from a range of student groups
Universität Hamburg, Arbeitsstelle für Universitätsgeschichte
Leaflets from a range of student groups, 1968–2018, facsimiles
Leaflets from a range of student groups
Universität Hamburg, Arbeitsstelle für Universitätsgeschichte
Leaflets from a range of student groups, 1968–2018, facsimiles
Leaflets from a range of student groups
Universität Hamburg, Arbeitsstelle für Universitätsgeschichte
Leaflets from a range of student groups, 1968–2018, facsimiles
Leaflets from a range of student groups
Universität Hamburg, Arbeitsstelle für Universitätsgeschichte
Leaflets from a range of student groups, 1968–2018, facsimiles
Leaflets from a range of student groups
Universität Hamburg, Arbeitsstelle für Universitätsgeschichte
Leaflets from a range of student groups, 1968–2018, facsimiles
Leaflets from a range of student groups
Universität Hamburg, Arbeitsstelle für Universitätsgeschichte
Leaflets from a range of student groups, 1968–2018, facsimiles
Leaflets from a range of student groups
Universität Hamburg, Arbeitsstelle für Universitätsgeschichte
Leaflets from a range of student groups, 1968–2018, facsimiles
Leaflets from a range of student groups
Universität Hamburg, Arbeitsstelle für Universitätsgeschichte
Leaflets from a range of student groups, 1968–2018, facsimiles
Leaflets from a range of student groups
Universität Hamburg, Arbeitsstelle für Universitätsgeschichte
Leaflets from a range of student groups, 1968–2018, facsimiles
Leaflets from a range of student groups
Universität Hamburg, Arbeitsstelle für Universitätsgeschichte
Leaflets from a range of student groups, 1968–2018, facsimiles
Leaflets from a range of student groups
Universität Hamburg, Arbeitsstelle für Universitätsgeschichte
Leaflets from a range of student groups, 1968–2018, facsimiles
Leaflets from a range of student groups
Universität Hamburg, Arbeitsstelle für Universitätsgeschichte
Leaflets from a range of student groups, 1968–2018, facsimiles
Leaflets from a range of student groups
Universität Hamburg, Arbeitsstelle für Universitätsgeschichte
Leaflets from a range of student groups, 1968–2018, facsimiles
Leaflets from a range of student groups
Universität Hamburg, Arbeitsstelle für Universitätsgeschichte
Leaflets from a range of student groups, 1968–2018, facsimiles
Leaflets from a range of student groups
Universität Hamburg, Arbeitsstelle für Universitätsgeschichte
Leaflets from a range of student groups, 1968–2018, facsimiles
Leaflets from a range of student groups
Universität Hamburg, Arbeitsstelle für Universitätsgeschichte
Leaflets from a range of student groups, 1968–2018, facsimiles
Universität Hamburg, Arbeitsstelle für Universitätsgeschichte
Leaflets from a range of student groups, 1968–2018, facsimiles
Leaflets from a range of student groups
Universität Hamburg, Arbeitsstelle für Universitätsgeschichte
Leaflets from a range of student groups, 1968–2018, facsimiles
0608

“Under these robes—1,000 years of rot!”

The best-known slogan of the student movement referred not only to decaying customs, but also to the Nazi past of some professors. Two members of the Hamburg AStA (student council) came up with the slogan. Their banner was made out of a piece of black crape, in mourning for Berlin student Benno Ohnesorg, who had been shot.
Banner made of black material with the title „Unter den Talaren – Muff von 1000 Jahren“
Gert Hinnerk Behlmer
Banner made of black material with letters made from sticking plaster, 1967
0609

Student demands

Overflowing lecture halls, out-of-date libraries, and excessive failure rates in exams were only some of the issues criticized by AStA. It also demanded greater say for students in the committees. The newspapers reported the student complaints made at the rector’s ceremony in 1967.
Hamburger Abendblatt, 10 November 1967
0610

A university transformed

After persistent student protests, the University undertook reforms in 1969. Where once only for professors, now all groups from across the University—professors, researchers, students, and technical and administrative staff—are represented in autonomous bodies to determine the path the University will take.
Universität Hamburg act (Gesetz über die Universität Hamburg), 25 April 1969
0611

Set aside

The “rot” banner and the ceremony it interrupted marked the end of the era of academic robes in Hamburg. That day, 9 November 1967, was the last time they were worn officially. The official professorial vestments, the traditional symbol of academic honor, were now seen as antiquated.
Academic robes owned by Werner Ehrlicher
Universität Hamburg, Universitätsarchiv, Plessing/Scheiblich
Academic robes owned by Werner Ehrlicher, no date
0612

Legendary photograph

As the professors filed into the Audimax, two dapper students stepped in front of the procession. The protest had been meticulously planned and they unfurled their banner unimpeded and led the unsuspecting dignitaries into the hall. The photo, as well as their slogan, came to symbolize the student movement of 1968.
Photo series on student protests, 9 November 1967
0613

The banner bearers

Detlef Albers and Gert Hinnerk Behlmer, the creators of the “rot” banner, were both studying law. They were not subject to any disciplinary action that could have ended their academic careers in 1967. Thirty years later, in the place where they first unfurled their legendary banner, they used it again to help raise funds for new seating in the Audimax.
Enrollment card for Gert Hinnerk Behlmer
Universität Hamburg, Universitätsarchiv
Enrollment card for Gert Hinnerk Behlmer, 1964 – 1971, facsimile
Enrollment card for Dirk Albers
Universität Hamburg, Universitätsarchiv
Enrollment card for Dirk Albers, 1964 – 1971, facsimile
0614

One celebration—Two invitations

The University was not alone in sending invitations to the ceremony on 9 November 1967. While the professors wanted to hold their ceremony in the traditional form, AStA (the student council) planned a public discussion about studying conditions and university reform.
0615

University founder cut to pieces

In 1977, students stole the bust of Werner von Melle. Using the slogan “von Melle’s head for Zimbabwe,” they cut the bronze statue into small pieces with an oxyacetylene torch and saws as part of a public protest. The eye was auctioned, and the remaining pieces were sold for a “solidarity price” of five German marks.
All photographs from: Sozialistische Studenten Gruppe Hamburg, Ed., Von Melle – Imperialistenidol in Sachen Kolonialpolitik und Unterdrückung, 1977
0616

For the liberation movement in Africa

The funds raised from the sale of the bust fragments were sent to the freedom movement in Zimbabwe. The poster uses the colors and shapes of the flag of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), which was fighting against white minority rule.
Communist League of West Germany (KBW) poster “Solidarity with armed resistance to free the people of Zimbabwe”
Universität Hamburg, Arbeitsstelle für Universitätsgeschichte, Plessing/Scheiblich
Communist League of West Germany (KBW) poster “Solidarity with armed resistance to free the people of Zimbabwe”, 1977
0617

Historic remnants

The bust of Werner von Melle that sits in the Main Building foyer today is a replica, made in 1979. It was financed by donations after leftist radical students destroyed the original (made in 1924) as part of an anti-colonialist protest. Two fragments were found for this exhibition.
Fragments of the original Werner von Melle bust
Krista Sager; Warburg-Archiv, Warburg-Haus Hamburg, Plessing/Scheiblich
Fragments of the original Werner von Melle bust, 1977
0618

Werner von Melle—colonialist bogeyman

The Socialist Student Group (SSG) of the Communist League of West Germany (KBW) justified their destruction of the bust of von Melle in a brochure. In it, they blamed the University founder for establishing the Colonial Institute, and contributing to the exploitation of the colonies.
Socialist Student Group Hamburg, Ed., Von Melle – Imperialistenidol in Sachen Kolonialpolitik und Unterdrückung, 1977
0619

Colonial monument in front of the university

Germany lost its colonies after the First World War. However, many Germans hoped the country would soon regain them. That is why the University senate welcomed the construction of monuments for two colonial officers. The two sculptures were brought back from Africa in 1922 and 1935 and displayed at the Main Building.
Celebration at the Hermann von Wissmann monument, ca. 1923; Hans Dominik monument in front of the Main Building, 1939
0620

Damaged and reconstructed

Damage sustained during the war meant the Wissmann monument had to be removed in 1945. There seemed to be no concerns about re-erecting it in 1949. This aerial view taken in 1955 shows both monuments in their previous places: the Wissmann monument on the east side of the Main Building, and the Dominik monument, which had remained intact, on the west.
0621

Criticism of colonialism

Students have been critical of the University’s colonial past since the 1960s, and had been demanding the removal of the colonial monuments since 1961. In a staged event, they uprooted the Wissmann monument from its pedestal. The film shows their first unsuccessful attempt and success a short while later.
Film excerpt Landfriedensbruch – Protokoll einer Denkmals-Entweihung by Theo Gallehr and Rolf Schübel, 1967
0622

Forgotten and rediscovered

By 1968, the colonial monuments in front of the University were removed once and for all. They disappeared into the Hamburg Observatory, where they were stored for many years, and almost forgotten. Since then, the Wissmann statue in particular has become a treasured museum piece symbolizing the colonial era.
Wissmann and Dominik monuments, deconstructed, 2018