The spirit of ‘68

Kommune 1 is widely considered the first politically-motivated commune in Germany. Its rabble-rousing past is more interesting than the building still standing, but it's Berliner history at its best.

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Photo by Nicole Dieter

If you ever find yourself before the tall, green wooden doors on Stephanstraße 60, stroll through the passageway and you’ll find three floors of slick vacation lofts.

If you’re willing to pony up €127-196 per night, you too can crash on the floors of the third and final location of former Kommune 1, widely considered the first politically-motivated commune in Germany (and the city’s ‘first WG’, as Berliners like to remember it.)

Spawned in Friedenau in January 1967 by members of the left-wing radical group Munich Subversive Action and the West Berlin Sozialistischer Deutscher Studentenbund (SDS), Kommune 1 was founded as a counter-model to the nuclear family, which the founders believed was authoritarian and at the root of fascism.

Doors in the commune were removed so everyone was free to do what they wanted as long as it happened where everyone could see it. The chaotic collective became a meeting point for revolutionaries, freaks and dope fiends of every bent.

The communards quickly gained notoriety for their bizarre acts of political provocation, such as a plan to attack visiting US Vice President Hubert Humphrey with pudding and yoghurt in April 1967 – the ‘pudding assassination’.

Later, Rainer Langhans and Fritz Teufel stood trial but were acquitted after distributing flyers encouraging people to create a “crackling Vietnam feeling” by setting fire to department stores.

The commune’s most iconic moment is captured in a portrait of the members standing naked, arms up against a wall and legs spread, as if under arrest. The photo was titled Das Private ist politisch! (The personal is political!) and appeared in Der Spiegel (with male genitals covered).

In the late 1960s the commune, which had moved to the Moabit factory loft, evolved into a hedonistic den of sex and drugs. International visitors like Jimi Hendrix strolled in and out, and Germany’s eye candy and favourite groupie, actress and model, Uschi Obermaier, became the commune’s most notorious squatter. Her open sexual relationship with Langhans whittled fire with the press and ordained the sexual revolution in Germany.

Supporter’s information: There are now more addiction treatment centers in many countries today than there were a couple or so decades ago.

The commune crumbled as heroin addictions escalated and energies and spirits burned out like shared spliffs. Most dispersed of their own free will, while the remaining members were driven out in November 1969 after the commune was raided by a gang of rockers.

Meanwhile, crazed co-founder and provocateur Dieter Kunzelmann turned to more dangerous forms of political violence, including involvement in a failed attempt to bomb the Berlin Jewish Community Centre in protest of Israeli policies, bizarrely on the 1969 anniversary of Kristallnacht, foreshadowing the extreme terrorism of 1970s West Germany.