would certainly carry more weight than all the
activity of the young opposition members. |
Number 13 Niedstrasse, in
Friedenau, was a funny, old fashioned, ivy covered house with a small garden
between it and the street. The gate was wide open. Günter Grass welcomed
me, and took me through the quite modem dining room to a balcony screened from
the street by a hedge. It was already growing dark, and so I had trouble
distinguishing his features. He let me talk for some time about my plan. Then
"I am not particularly eager to speak at such a gathering. To
my mind, the students have been carrying on disgracefully for some time now."
He seemed more amenable after I told him that this would be a gathering
of Jewish students. I left with his promise that he would attend the meeting if
nothing untoward developed.
I returned to Berlin on May 9, a few hours
before the meeting. It had proved quite hard to organize, and out of caution
several good speakers had declined to appear. With the help of Serge, who had
come with me, I carefully prepared my part.
The young people in Michel
Lang's organization were selling our pamphlet about Kiesinger for thirty
pfennigs. They had stuck big posters on walls all over the city and distributed
Well before the demonstration began, almost three
thousand young persons had jammed into the university auditorium. Long-haired
and bearded, they seemed enchantingly romantic. The advertised speakers were
Günter Grass, Johannes Agnoli, Ekkebart Krippendorff, Jacob Taubes, and
Michel Lang. Günter Grass's speech, in which he boldly attacked Kiesinger
as "the heaviest moral mortgage on Germany," set the tone of the meeting. When
my turn came to speak, I was propelled to the microphone. I felt dazed by the
crowd squeezed together on the rows of benches, squatting on the floor just
below the platform, and standing in the aisles. I declared that we must keep
escalating our efforts to break the wall of silence surrounding Kiesinger's
Nazi past. And I promised:
"I give you my word that I will publicly
slap the Chancellor."
There was a spirited response from the
audience. From various parts of the hall came shouts of "childish!" or
"stupid!" Some even said: "Do it if you've got the guts!" One group kept
sneering. "Promises! Nothing but promises!"