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1960s at the Institute for East European Studies. Spirit of optimism

1968 at the Institute for East European Studies

The 1960s were in many ways a time of upheaval: the protests against the Vietnam War, the anti-authoritarian movement, democratic awakenings in the East, the suppression of the Prague Spring. New ways of life were demanded and tried out. Students in Berlin were particularly active in this movement. Many well-known names are closely associated with the FU Berlin.

This was also reflected at the Institute for Eastern European Studies. However, the institute was not as central to the protests as the neighboring Otto Suhr Institute for Political Science. At the same time, the view of Eastern Europe changed. Only two years later, with the signing of the Warsaw Treaty, the Federal Republic recognized Germany's eastern border 25 years after the end of World War II. Willy Brandt's genuflection in Warsaw in front of the memorial in the former ghetto marked a new phase in dealing with German guilt. 

A Conservative Institute?

In the founding years of the institute, professors with Nazi ties dominated the OEI. With the Marxism-Leninism Project, important impulses from German-language exile studies and U.S. American research came to Berlin. Left-wing intellectuals such as Franz Neumann and Herbert Marcuse were in a dialogue with the representatives of the OEI that lasted for years. In the early 1960s, historian Werner Philipp began self-reflexively to publicly call for a break with Ostforschung and to open up new avenues of research on Eastern Europe. Sociology professor Hans-Joachim Lieber, also rector of the FU from 1965 on, shaped a generation of progressive scholars, such as René Ahlberg and Klaus Meschkat. Rudi Dutschke was also among his students.

The Dutschkes at the OEI

Two central protagonists of the student movement studied at the OEI: Gretchen and Rudi Dutschke. Rudi Dutschke was also a student assistant in the institute's sociology department. The couple was active in the Socialist German Student League (SDS). Gretchen Dutschke-Klotz was a co-founder of the Women's Working Group in the SDS, a nucleus of the German women's movement. As students, Gretchen and Rudi Dutschke were in Prague after the election of Alexander Dubček and experienced the days of the Prague Spring as eyewitnesses.

1969: Strike at the Institute for East European Studies

From 1967 to 1969, the extra-parliamentary opposition and the student university alliances repeatedly led to strikes at Berlin universities. Strikes were held against the introduction of tuition fees, for a greater say in university affairs, and for the politicization of teaching. Last but not least, it was a conflict of generations, as was evident in the communication between the students and Prof. Werner Philipp during the strikes at the OEI in early 1969: 

It is Friday, January 17, 1969, and Prof. Bräuer (1921-1989, German Slavist, professor at the FU from 1964), full professor for Slavic languages, is supposed to give his lecture. But nothing came of it. The entrance door of the small lecture hall of the Institute for Eastern European Studies is barricaded with two tables. Students of Slavic studies additionally lean against the door from the inside. It is not possible to hold the lecture. The lectures of the then director of the OEI, Werner Philipp, cannot take place on this day as planned, too. The strikers demand an end to ongoing relegation measures against individual students and fundamental curriculum changes. In addition, they demand a general politicization of the student body and directly attack the institute, which they say lives in "peaceful symbiosis with secret services." The demands are titled: "Finally something is happening at the Eastern European Institute!" The strike council is pleased that the Slavic studies students - who, according to their own statement, until a week ago were assumed to be "unworldly, unpoliticizable, gullible, naive, etc." - have now successfully dispelled the "myth of insurmountable student political lethargy".

In the following weeks, individual rooms and lectures are repeatedly struck. The Institute reacted with incomprehension. In a notice, some of the Institute's employees express their concern that the insinuation of cooperation with the Office for the Protection of the Constitution could make it difficult for them to travel to Soviet countries. Werner Philipp asks the rector of the FU, Prof. Dr. Ewald Harndt, to file charges of defamation against the OEI. The rector does not comply with this request and refers to his lack of competence. However, he approves of the action as such.

The last strike of this period at the OEI on record takes place on July 10, 1969, when students from other disciplines take over Prof. Bräuer's exercise. Werner Philipp has the exercise cleared by the police stationed in the building. The strikers eventually vacate the room, but the fronts remain hardened.