1968, The Year of Raging Reforms

By Valerie Scholz

1968, a turbulent year of worldwide student protests. In German metropolises, demonstrations are almost on the daily agenda. Pharmaceutics student Klaus Scholz is on his way from Karlsruhe to Berlin, making use of his short Easter holiday for an obligatory family visit. But this is not the sole purpose of his trip. He has come to raise his voice.

The trees lining the West-Berliner Ku’damm sway in the evening breeze. However, the wind does not carry the familiar fresh scent of spring, instead, a burnt stench is in the air. Thousands of tromping footsteps and monotonously aggressive chanting “Gestern Dutschke, morgen wir!” drowns out all other noise and rings in Klaus’ ears.

West-Berlin 1968: loud, bold and rebellious. The age of subordination and courteousness lies in the past. The gap between youth and the elderly is widening. Daringly short skirts, extravagant outfits, and deafening rock music on one side, incomprehension and conservative ideologies on the other. Young West-Berliners don’t want to fit in. They want to provoke.

Provocation for Change

German students sparked an anti-authoritarian movement all over the country, condemning any type of control, whether of familial, educational or political nature. Protests began as a response to war, grievances and injustices around the world. Students fought for a free society and a reform of the archaic system.

“The protests were meant for provocation”. New forms of demonstrating were established, “Go-ins” or “Sit-ins” included the siege of public spaces. Hand-drawn banners often declared entertaining statements instead of political slogans.

“Part of the Movement”

Klaus’ first contact with the movement occurred in the sleepy town of Karlsruhe. One day, students gathered in front of his institute. They argued and chanted phrases: “Unter den Talaren – Muff von 1000 Jahren”, referring to the still deeply enrooted fascism in institutions and the previous generation’s way of life.  

“We were demanding a self-purification”, Klaus says with a sparkle in his eyes. “Things that had been kept secret for years finally came up”. The students believed that the country ought to be cleansed of former national socialist partisans and mentality. “We were there to tidy up!”

“It felt so good to be part of something, to be part of the movement”, Klaus remembers. At each side of the city’s main road Kaiserstraße, the virtuous citizens of Karlsruhe gasped at the procession of hundreds of marching students. Some linking arms, others holding painted banners, where crooked letters formed phrases like “THE OLD NAZIS HAVE TO GO!”.

The “Revolution’s” Crash-Landing

However, protests were not peaceful everywhere. “It escalated more and more”, Klaus’ voice darkens. What started off with enthusiasm and optimism, ended in a civil-war-like situation.

Only a few days before Klaus’ trip to Berlin, the attempted assassination of Rudi Dutschke by a Hitler-sympathizer appalled Germany’s student population. Dutschke was a leading figure of the Socialist German Student Union (SDS) and stood for the student movement.

Following the assassination of peacefully protesting student Benno Ohnesorg in 1967 by a West-Berliner policeman, the attack on yet another student fueled an uncontrollable rage and desire for revenge amongst the protestors. Instead of de-escalation, police forces fought rage with violence.

Klaus gasped at the scene in front of him. The West-Berliner Ku’damm resembled a battlefield. On one side troops of policemen wearing ankle-length dark coats, their grimacing faces half covered by helmets, fists clenched around their truncheons, desperately attempting to stop the raging students. Opposing them, burning torches, raised fists and blind hatred.

The water cannons behind the police defence line spurt water that hits the front lines of protesters with the force of bricks.

Klaus had set out to Berlin with faith and pride but left with disappointment and bewilderment. “You always ran after the mass as a student”. However, witnessing the violence on both sides of the conflict in the streets of Berlin, Klaus distanced himself: “It had gone too far, I never wanted this.”

The Wake-Up Call

Despite condemning the violence, Klaus is confident that the 1968 student movement has positively affected Germany politically, socially and culturally.  

Although the riots did not bring a grand revolution, they were a “wake-up call”. They caused a break with the authoritarian past and allowed the society to move forward with increasingly more personal and sexual freedom.

“When I was young, I always focused on the easygoing sides of life: sports and nice girls”, Klaus smirked. The events of 1968 woke him up too and perhaps marked his first step from the “blindly naive young man” to the reflecting adult of today.

“You have to go out there and do something” in order for change to occur. Today as a pensioner and author, Klaus has found literature to be his voice of revolution. In his novels he holds a mirror up to society, seeking to facilitate progress. Just like 50 years ago.


Feature image shows Klaus Scholz (left) and fellow students in midst of an animated discussion

The Day that Changed Greece Forever Through the Eyes of a Boy

The Day that Changed Greece Forever, Through the Eyes of a Boy

By Dimitra Karapanagiotou

“The military has taken over the governance of the country,” stated an early morning radio announcement in the year 1967. Themis Karapanagiotis was only nine years old when these words transformed the political scene of Greece and the lives of the whole nation. The 21st of April would be a day he would never forget.

On that day the people of Athens came across a bizarre sight: military tanks were positioned all around the city and in the perimeter of the parliament. Uniformed men carrying guns were on the streets and it was clear for every passer-by that democracy was now a thing from the past.

In fact, that was the beginning of the Greek military junta, the dictatorship that would last seven years and polarize the nation. The regime aimed to crush communism and bring back the traditional values that would make the country the “Greece of Greek Christians” (ΕλλάςΕλλήνωνΧριστιανών) once again.

During those years human rights were violated, suspected communists were jailed, tortured and exiled, while people all around the country lived in constant fear of a possible arrest.

This situation was obvious since the first day of the dictatorship, as Themis recalls.

“I was only nine back then so I couldn’t understand much. I remember that I went to school and they told us to go back home,” Themis says. “We were just happy not to be at school, we didn’t know how serious the situations was.”

But after going home he soon found out that something was wrong. The radio, the main source of information for rural Greece at the time, kept playing military marching music instead of the usual songs, while official state announcements kept being broadcasted every few minutes.

“Those announcements were scary and confusing. They listed all the laws and articles that were no longer valid, I couldn’t understand a thing. They kept saying all the things that were forbidden. No more than three people in a group, no going out at night, no this and no that – nothing was allowed anymore!” he exclaims with frustration.

Kimmeria however, was not just an ordinary Greek village. Known as the home of the communists and nicknamed among the locals as “Little Moscow”, the village immediately became the target of arrests.

“The police came and arrested people that were known to be communists. They didn’t say where they were taking them, not even their families knew where they were. We only found out about the exiles and all the other atrocities when the dictatorship was over, years later.”

These arrests were truly traumatizing for the young boy as many of his friends’ parents and his neighbours disappeared, but they also created a fear that was more personal.

“I lived with my grandparents back then. My grandfather was a communist, he fought during the civil war. He used to have trouble with the law and was even in exile for years before the dictatorship, so he just stayed quiet, he didn’t want to get arrested and leave us alone,” Themis says.

What he distinctly remembers from the 21st of April is the quiet. “People were numb. No one said a word, they were all afraid that someone will tell on them if they said something negative. I now understand that they must have been terrified.”

Today, Themis can still remember everything that happened during the seven years of the Greek military junta. “Growing up during that time, it changes you,” he says bitterly. “But these experiences made me believe in democracy and freedom. I could never support such a regime.”

Although the Regime of the Colonels, as it was known, ended by the year 1974, the wounds it left behind remain. “That period changed my country, it divided the people and it still does.”

In fact, the regime has supporters even today. With the economic crisis and the current political state of the country, many people idealize the regime as the only way for the country to truly recover.

Although such authoritarian beliefs are widespread across the country, Themis remains optimistic that the dark times of the dictatorship will never come to be again. “I can’t imagine how this could happen again. Things are very different now.”

 

The Red Guard in China’s Cultural Revolution – Join or be ‘Destroyed’

By Yujia Yang

Green military cap and uniform, Sam Browne belts, red armbands (always on the left arm), Little Red Book held tightly – the typical dress of the Red Guard during China’s Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976. “They were the biggest nightmare when I was 16 years old”, says Xianping Wang, 66, a retired Chinese teacher from Guiyang Shengfu Road Primary School.

Wang took a deep breath and recalled her story, “One Sunday afternoon in March 1968, a small group of Red Guard broke into my house when I was having a nap with my sister and my parents were at work. A woman, a member of the Guard,spoke to my sister. She said, ‘Xianling, we are now 20 years old. Do not go to university to listen to those rubbish things. It is time to join us, like me, to devote ourselves to Chairman Mao’s revolutionary cause!’ Her tone became cold; she threatened my sister that they would confiscate our property and take me away if sherefused to join them and be one of the adherents of Mao. In fact, she was a childhood friend of my sister, even I regarded her as my second sister, but…” Wang stops and looks miserable.

The Red Guard group was first formed by China’s youth in response to Mao Zedong’s call to propagandise his ‘true’ communist ideology. It rapidly grew around the country and became a mass organisation, including farmers, literary and artistic workers and neighbourhood committees. As a political propaganda tool, the Red Guard was under protection and enjoyed the personal support of Mao; this meant they could do anything they wanted like taking away anyone they suspected of being a counterrevolutionary.

(Source: Baidu)

“The woman gave my sister no chance to answer. After she had finished, she immediately left. But the rest of members loudly read out their slogan ‘战无不胜的毛泽东思想万岁!’ (Long live the invincible Mao Zedong thought!), and started to search my house; everything was dumped on the floor, everything.” Wang continues in a trembling voice: “There was nothing we could do; my sister and I just stood there and watched. We had no idea what had happened and why they were doing this to us.” Wang still looks confused, even now. She continues: “Previously, other groupsof Red Guard just came to propagandise and tried to find out whether we had any ‘forbidden books’ like foreign literature. Normally, they just burned any books they found, and left.”

“I felt every organ of my body cease to operate as soon as I heard it, because I was indescribably scared. Since that day, I have continually had nightmares about someone taking me away.” Wang pauses for a few seconds to calm herself down. Then, she begins again, “My sister embraced me, and kept comforting me that she would not let it happen. After telling our parents what had happened, Xianling insisted that she would join the Red Guard in order to keep me safe, because she believed that the Red Guard could do anything if people disobeyed them. Of course, my parents disagreed and my father suggested that our whole family might pretend to move, while in fact only my parents would return to their old home on weekdays while my sister and I stayed at home.”

During the decade of China’s Cultural Revolution, there were also many organisations that lined up on mass against the Red Guard groups. Wang’s sister, Xianling, had entered Guizhou University in 1966, just after the Cultural Revolution had begun; she founded a student newspaper with her friends, aiming to help the public to keep hope by publishing positive articles about China’s real history, society, politics and economy. Wang says: “My sister always tells me not to give up hope for the future.”

“I read all of articles from their newspaper when I holed up in my room. I can feel the power of words that cheered me up and made me determine to do as the same as my sister did.” Wang continues with a slight smile, “After one month, we were finally able to go out because the local government suppressed the Red Guard, as some Red Guard groups were out of control. In the next few years, my sister and I wrote articles together and contributed to many newspapers not just local until Cultural Revolution truly ended in 1977. Then we became teachers because we believed that our next and future generation will have material effects on our society, so correct education is vital.”

“Although, Cultural Revolution was an extreme dark period for China, we still need to remember and reflect on it. The most beautiful rainbows come after the worst storms.”


 

Pardon Her French

By Lucy Frowijn

She leaned against a concrete wall that reached about the height of her waist and glanced over the lake with the marble tombstone in the middle. The fall had given the water a green glare. Atlanta was usually quite rowdy, but that Saturday the weather was calm and the Martin Luther King jr. memorial exuded a certain peace. Joke Barth felt herself getting emotional the same way she did years ago. “I just stood there and thought to myself: anyone who tried to make a change in this fucked up country died trying. This never should have happened.”

Joke Barth lived on the other end of the world when MLK jr. got shot in 1968. She left her Dutch roots behind as soon as she reached adulthood and moved down under together with her husband. After having lived in Australia for four years, they moved to New Zealand together with their newborn son and bought a small wooden house in Dunedin, a university city on the South-Island.

Life in New Zealand was not easy. Joke‘s husband lived his own life, she had a three-year-old son to take care of and although she worked full time, she could barely get by financially. She could only afford about three sets of clothes that she washed immediately as she got home every night, hoping that they would be dry the next morning for her to wear them again.

New Zealand and Australia, at the time, were known for their strict immigration policy. Joke explains how, while they were willing to give you a chance, as an immigrant you had to prove yourself and work in order to survive. “If you didn’t work you didn’t have any money and if you didn’t have any money you could sleep under the bridge. They didn’t care” she says.

“I remember being at work one day and receiving a phone call from the crèche because my son had caught the measles. The doctor said it could take weeks for him to recover and I panicked because not being able to work meant not getting any salary”, she says.

Despite the difficulty, Joke felt more at home than ever. She found a job at an engineering firm where she became the only woman in an all-man’s company, and the men took her in as if she was family. She did everything from administration to accountancy and was particularly fond of “Mr. Bennets”, her boss, whom everyone mainly saw as a grumpy old man. “We would joke around together. He’d make a mistake and say ‘Oh, aren’t I stupid?’ and I’d reply: ‘Well, Mr. Bennets, there’s no substitute for brains.” she says, clearly warmed by the memory of the man.

Joke explains how, while Australia and New Zealand might have been strict when it came to immigrants, it was never a matter of discrimination.

Dunedin was known for people of Scottish descent and Maori people, the indigenous people of New Zealand, to live together in harmony. Every year during ANZAC day (New Zealand’s and Australia’s equivalent of liberation day) everyone would participate in the parade, no matter what their origin, or skin color was.

Joke explains that it was precisely this peace-loving attitude that existed in New Zealand that led to astonishment about what was happening in the United States at the time. “New Zealand may have been on the other side of the world but its people weren’t retarded. They were completely up to date on what was happening in America”, she says.

When Martin Luther King jr. was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, media coverage in New Zealand exploded. Joke explains how television coverage would just go on and on. Normally it ended at about 11 PM but this time it went on all night. She explains how the next morning her colleagues couldn’t stop talking about it either: “People were flabbergasted.”

But the matter also got very personal for Joke. She herself had moved to a country where she was a foreigner and while life was tough, she was welcomed with open arms. “I felt the pain right in my soul and I remember thinking: who the bloody hell do these people think they are?”

Joke went to the memorial in Atlanta years later: “I had to. It touched me so much back in 1968.” And so she stood there leaning against that concrete wall and commemorated those who died trying to make a change.

“In my work as a life coach I meet many different people on a daily basis, invite them into my home and advise them on how to turn their lives around. But I don’t judge people on their background” she says.

And that open-minded attitude takes on a special shape when combined with Joke‘s typically down-under bluntness as she said: “Why would you give a shit where people are from or what skin color they have?”


(Person on feature image: Joke Barth, 28)

language barrier netherlands

Crossing the Language Barrier in the Netherlands

By Juliane Glahn

Internationals coming to the Netherlands are struggling to integrate into Dutch society until they learn the language. But improving language skills is hard if there is no one to practice with.

“I felt really isolated before I learned the language,” Samantha MacKenzie (24) says.

Originally from Canada, she moved to the Netherlands two years ago to be with her boyfriend. Living in a small village where most of the population is older and unable to speak English, she could barely communicate with others. Often MacKenzie relied on her partner to help her with everyday tasks such as grocery shopping. “It was a big loss of independence for me.”

Ashley Richardson (33), a migrant from the U.S., agrees that learning Dutch helped her integrate more into her country of choice. “You can get away with English in places like Amsterdam or other international places such as Groningen,” she says. But in order to form connections with citizens, speaking Dutch is important.

Even though the two are constantly surrounded by Dutch and learned it through language courses at the University of Groningen, native speakers’ desire to be helpful often got in their way of practicing. “A lot of Dutch people speak really good English,” Richardson says.

MacKenzie always tries to speak Dutch, but “if I hesitate at all, then everyone switches to English.”

Especially in grocery stores, cashiers are quick to address customers in English if they notice the person is not a native speaker.

This is a phenomenon that Maarten Sijpkes (52) vowed to counter. Many internationals come to his stand ‘Stropiewafel’ at the Vismarkt in Groningen, where he sells the popular traditional Dutch treat. When non-natives order in Dutch, he responds in Dutch as much as possible. “You learn through speaking,” Sijpkes says. He doesn’t want to stop people from learning the language but rather encourage them.

He even teaches his customers who don’t speak any Dutch some words: When two girls approach his stand and ask for a “waffle” in English, he tells them the proper pronunciation of the sweet. The rest of the exchange between the three is bilingual. “Geniet,” Sijpkes says while handing over the stroopwafels, “enjoy.”

“More and more internationals are trying to speak Dutch to me,” he says, adding, “here they can at least learn a few basic words.”


 

Red light Groningen

Window of Opportunity | Business in Red Light Groningen

by William Macmaster

 

While some cities, such as Utrecht, have removed them due to safety concerns, Red Light Districts can be found in nearly every major Dutch city, including Groningen, where it’s business as usual.

Down a narrow road off of one of Groningen’s most bustling streets, Folkingestraat, tourists may not have realised it was even there. In comparison to the likes of Amsterdam, it is a very modest set-up, with 30 to 40 windows, some of which are being renovated, where you will find girls working night and day.

On the street, “maintenance” men are looking after the day to day operations. One of these maintenance people, TJ (50), openly spoke about the situation. For TJ, who operates a significant section of the Red-Light District, his windows are a family business that he inherited from his parents.

He explained how the girls hail from South America or Eastern Europe and claimed they all asked him to work, with no coercion on his part. If he didn’t accept, “they would go just somewhere else… Everywhere is safe in Holland, so it doesn’t matter.” When asked if he thinks he is helping the girls, smiling slightly, TJ said, “Of course,” but he refused to talk about money.

Businesses in close proximity have no concerns either. Redmar Schoen, the assistant manager of popular fries outlet Frietwinkel, situated on the corner of the Red Light District, explained that they “don’t really notice it. Sometimes the girls come and buy fries or some shady guys, but during the day, no, and I don’t think it bothers tourists.”

Public opinion in the city, however, seems split.

“The women get treated badly, so for that reason, I don’t agree with it. I’m not sure if they really know what they get themselves into and don’t make a lot of money,” explained Simon Rapp (27). While Ella Gapp (18) said, “I like it because it’s easier for people who are struggling to make money. I don’t think it’s nice to have sex for money, but I understand why people do it.”

For the municipality, it’s a moot point.

“There’s no question about ending the Red-Light District.” The mayor’s Press Spokesperson, Niko Bwett, explained, “It fits well and there are hardly any problems, so why should we? It’s like anything else, also with taxes, it’s just a business, it’s a part of city life, it’s no question of morality.”

Regardless of social opinion, sex sells, so while taxes are paid, and other businesses aren’t affected, it’s here to stay.


*None of the workers were willing to comment.

Wilde times arrive in Groningen

Wilde Times Arrive in Groningen

By Clémence Waller

 

Torment, hedonism, vice and a damned soul, all hidden behind an agelessly beautiful and fragile facade. This is the perfectly sinful recipe which is destined to be revealed to the world as Groningen prepares to rip the veil off a new play, Dorian, premiering at the end of September.

Fans of The Picture of Dorian Gray will immerse themselves in a modern new retelling of the grim tale and will be swept up in the infamous debauchery of the titular character. Though, theatre-goers beware, for they might find that the mirror may reveal their darkest most hidden secrets and desires for all to see.

To celebrate the upcoming play, Van der Velde bookshop, in association with the Theater Company Noord Nederlands Toneel (NNT), hosted a Wilde livestream on September 20th in their store with a panel of guests stars such as University of Groningen Oscar Wilde Specialist Kees de Vries, and the playwright of Dorian, Robbert van Heuven. They discussed a variety of subjects ranging from Oscar Wilde’s personal life, to his work, and to the play itself and its development.

The store was buzzing with the excited chatter of passionate audience members from different walks of life all hoping to vividly discuss, debate and delve deeper into the mind of the man behind the book.Wilde Times

This event drew one particular fan into its midst.  Alexa Rodriguez described her particular attraction to Oscar Wilde. “He is my favorite author of his generation. I even based my bachelor thesis on him and his works. He was flamboyant; a dandy and had a way he presented himself to the world.”

Arent Da Haas agreed on what he thought made Oscar Wilde and specifically The Picture of Dorian Gray so interesting. He was fascinated when he found out about “the transformation from the book and how the story was transferred into the modern context of the artworld.”

“Oscar Wilde was a literary superstar!” exclaimed panelist Kees de Vries. In an interview with The Stand, he declared: “Dorian gray is not portrayed negatively in the book. The idea that limitation due to morality is corrosive is one of the key themes of the book.” He added, “Oscar Wilde venerates lying for lyings sakes, playing with artificiality and that has some kind of artistic empowerment.”

“Oscar Wilde always impresses and still sells today,’’ commented Inge Abbring, events coordinator at Van der Velde Akerkhof.

Miriam Zuidema, an employee of the bookstore, looks forward to these kinds of events. She explained that she “loves seeing the faces behind the book and the reader reactions to launches or lectures.’’

Whilst the event was a clear success from the point of view of NNT, Van de Velde and the guests, a little sentiment of disappointment lingered amongst the public.  “I had hoped there would be more of a discussion between the speakers and the audience, not so much a presentation of the play,” explained Da Haas.

Guy Weizman, the artistic director who commissioned the play, elaborated on his passion for the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray: “I was inspired by the book and I fell in love with it. I thought it would be a good idea to set it in a modern setting because a historical one is not very interesting”.

The irony is not lost on the public. Dorian tells the story of a young art student influenced by an art gallerist. “It will not be at all a faithful retelling of the book. The audience can expect a few surprises”. Whilst that may be true, art remains one of the primary themes of the play.

Dorian premieres on September 29th at 8:15 pm at the Stadsschouburg on Bloemsingle.