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Seymour Gris: Paedophilia debate?

Green Party member Daniel Cohn-Bendit: paedophile or provocateur? The bestowal of the Theodor-Heuss Award for fostering French-German relations to the bi-national has put the spotlight back on some dodgy comments he made in the 1970s.

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Photo by N4thaniel (Wikimedia Commons)

Yes, it’s official: Germany’s in the midst of a “paedophilia debate”.

What the hell are we talking about, you might be asking? What’s there to debate?

Turn back the clock 28 years. The relatively young Green Party holds a party conference in the town of Lüdenscheid on March 10, 1985. Delegates vote to incorporate a 500-page paper on “Sexuality and Domination” into the party programme. Included is the proposal that “non-violent sex” – also between adults and minors – should be decriminalised (here’s some video “evidence”). The paper was presented by a working group within the Greens known as SchwuP, short for Schwule und Päderasten (“gays and pederasts” – lumping the two groups together under one umbrella seems scandalous itself, from today’s perspective). In ensuing party conferences, the “Realos” (the pragmatic wing of the party) in the Greens, realising they’d gone too far in their efforts to address social taboos head on, swiftly “cleansed” the party programme of anything they might reek of paedophilia. In the decades that followed, not much was said about this “dark chapter” in Green history.

Till a few weeks ago, when conservative CDU and CSU politicians – hoping they’d unearthed the “killer” campaign issue – protested the awarding of the Theodor-Heuss Award for fostering French-German relations to bi-national Green Daniel Cohn-Bendit, on the grounds that he was a suspected paedophile. They dredged up a Youtube clip of Cohn-Bendit making some very dubious comments on French TV about his job as a kindergarten teacher in the 1970s. In the video he says things like “the sexuality of a child is something fantastical” and “when a five-year-old girl begins to get undressed, it’s great because it’s an erotic game. A madly erotic game.” The context of the discussion is pretty unclear – but there’s a suggestion by the end of the clip that Cohn-Bendit had just wanted to provoke his audience, with the line “Isn’t that what you expect from me?”

But there’s more: In his 1975 book Der große Basar, Cohn-Bendit describes scenes at the kindergarten like this: “Several times, various children opened my fly and started to stroke me. If they wanted it, I would stroke back.”

The Green Party elite have come to Cohn-Bendit’s defence, saying he just wanted to “provoke” back then. It’s hard to know who to believe.

These days the Greens are seen as the party of morally-upright, eco-minded, cargo-bike riding Prenzlauer Berg families. It’s often forgotten that 30 years ago they were the real radicals – questioning everyone and everything in an uptight West Germany. They obviously went too far and gave a platform – if only temporarily – to some serious creeps.

Today, the party heads mostly admit that – and have commissioned an independent study into the “paedophile” chapter of the Greens’ history. It’s supposed to be finished by the end of the year. Should make for some interesting reading.