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1970s German communes

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The number of communes in Germany grew during the 1970s. They included political communes, self-help projects organised by young, homeless people (often squats), rural land communes and urban living groups – “WG”s. In size, they ranged from 4 or 5 person WGs to projects with a hundred people.


West BerlinEdit

An important influence on the development of urban communal housing projects in West Berlin and in other parts of the Federal Republic was the left-wing music group, "Ton Steine Scherben" started in Berlin in 1970. With close links to the squatters' movement, many of their concerts ended with the audience going out together and squatting empty buildings with the aim of providing housing and starting local community social centres. One of their most famous songs, the Rauch-Haus Song, was about the "Georg-von-Rauch Haus" in Berlin - Kreuzberg. This was the former nurses home of the Bethanien Hospital, squatted in December 1971 and named after a german activist killed by the police. It accomodated between 40 and 50 mostly working class young people; workers, apprentices, school students and homeless young people, many of whom were orphans who had previously been in children's homes. They had the clear aim of living as a community and looking after one another. They had weekly meetings, and all occupants had equal rights and equal responsibilities. The members of "Ton Steine Scherben" themselves lived as a community. In 1975 they left West Berlin and started their own rural commune at Fresenhagen (North Friesland).

Land CommunesEdit

The number of rural communes in West Germany grew from an estimated 60 communes in 1971 to an estimated 200 in 1978, which meant that they were about 5% of alternative projects in the Federal Republic at that time. Many of them were intense but short lived experiments which lasted for just one summer, but they were important because, unlike most of the urban communal projects, they tried to unite communal life and consumption with communal production. On the other hand, they were often criticised by left-wingers as being similar to the "völkische settlements" of the 1920s, middle class, with an emphasis on anti-industrialism, spirituality, macro-biotic nutrition and bio-dynamic self-sufficiency. In addition, many land communes had the problem that they tried to establish themselves in parts of West Germany where land was cheap and the infrastructure was under developed. The rural population in these areas was often conservative and closed, making the acceptance and integration of communes difficult. A further problem was that few of the land commune members had any experience of agricultural work. One interesting project in this period was the Heumarkt near Kassel, which was an attempt to combine an urban project with a rural community.


Living Groups – WohngemeinschaftenEdit

Together with squatted buildings, the main communal living form which became popular during this period was the "Wohngemeinschaft" or "WG", the small, house or apartment-sharing living group. (Indeed, the K1 was in many ways really much more a living group than a commune. Only squats the size of the Georg-von-Rauch Haus came near to being communal housing on the scale which many projects have today.) The seventies saw an increase in the number of WGs across West Germany, and they began to be a recognised and established alternative to family life or living alone. Associations were set up to support the founding of WGs, and networks came into being. The forms and structures ranged from loose groups of residents who did little with each other to housing projects with weekly meetings, communal activities and shared finances.

Larger urban communitiesEdit

During the same period, various larger communities came into being, many of them combining living together and helping each other with working together to support the project. One of these is the SSK (Socialist Self-help Köln) in Cologne. This began in 1969 as an officially recognised association helping orphans, (in Cologne in this period over 1,000 young people lived on the streets!) providing them with advice, accomodation and help to find work-places. In 1975, after problems with the Cologne city council which funded it, the SSK became an independent, self-help project for a wide range of marginalised people. Members squatted various buildings (in 1976 there were 32,000 empty houses in Cologne!) and set up new projects. including the SSM in a squatted factory in Köln-Muhlheim. The SSK, SSM and a number of housing projects that they initiated or supported still exist today.

The first of the AAO – Aktionsanalytische Organisation communes began in Austria at the start of this period, and the AAO movement grew to become one of the most important and controversial groups of the seventies. At its peak it had about 600 members across Austria and West Germany, living in both urban and rural communities.

A major project which combined the ideas of squatting and being an artistic/musical community is the Berlin UFA-Fabrik, which began in 1979. In the summer of that year about 100 people prevented the demolition of the former film studios by squatting the buildings on the four acre site and starting a unique urban village community combining social cultural and ecological aspects. See UFA-Fabrik Homepage

FresenhagenEdit

In 1974, the left-wing german band Ton Steine Scherben bought an old farmhouse in Fresenhagen, Schleswig-Holstein, a couple of miles from the Danish border. Partly influenced by the US band MC5 and the Trans Love Energies communal project, the band had already lived a communal existence for nearly five years in West Berlin - Kreuzburg , mostly in the "T-Ufer", and were famous for their support of squatting projects. A couple of members stayed in Berlin, but the rest moved out to the country.

See Fresenhagen in Intentional Communities Wiki

HeumarktEdit

The "Heumarkt" was a "city/land" project in Kassel, central Germany which existed between 1976 and 1978. It was an attempt to create a project combining alternative economy (the left-wing ABC bookshop in Kassel) with communal living (the rural Hardtmühle community in Elbenberg, 25 kms from Kassel). The name Heumarkt (Haymarket) was consciously chosen for its association with the events at Haymarket, Chicago, after which 5 anarchists were executed (3 of them originally came from around Kassel) and to show the combination of land (Hay) with city (Market).

See Heumarkt in Intentional Communities Wiki


AAO – Aktionsanalytische OrganisationEdit

The AAO, also known as the AA-Kommune, was a austrian/german commune started by the austrian artist, Otto Muehl. It existed from 1970 to 1978 when the organisation officially dissolved itself. Some AAO communities broke up, others continued until 1991, when Muehl was sent to prison. It consisted of a number of groups, both urban ( e.g. Vienna, Berlin) and rural (e.g. Friedrichshof in Burgenland). It was the forerunner of the commune on La Gomera and of ZEGG. At its peak it had about 600 members spread out through Austria, Switzerland and West Germany. During the seventies it was one of the most influential communities in the german speaking area, but also one of the most controversial.

See AAO in Intentional Communities Wiki


See alsoEdit

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