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The “Puer-Archetype” and the 1968 movement

by Jörg Rasche | May 9th, 2018

After the Hero: 1968, between Restoration, Revolution and Reenactment

1968  – 2018. It is a challenge to go back these 50 years of my life, to talk about memory, changing views, changing identities. In 1968 I was 18 years. I was born in 1950, in an historic, but heavily destroyed city in Bavaria, Würzburg. In my childhood it was a city of ruins, the leftovers of a disastrous bombing by the allied air forces shortly before the end of the war. I´ll speak about me. The topics I want to address are: The Hero, Restoration, Revolution and Reenactment. And I´ll talk about my adventure as a Puer and my not easy steps out of the Puer archetype to fatherhood.

I am 67 years old. I belong to an older generation than most of you. My life and my memories are those of a German in Europe. So may be some remarks will be useful, remarks about the collective situation in Germany around my birth, my adolescence and my way into the student movement of 1968 and 1970 in Berlin. Looking back some aspects of the Puer Archetype came to my mind, like the juvenile feeling of an eternal spring, the fight against the old establishment, the strong friendship with comrades (compagni), and the spirit of sacrifice – even to sacrifice one´s own life.


  1. 1. After the Hero

The archetypal Puer, the eternal young boy, is younger than the Hero and has a difficult relationship with the archetypal Father. He is quite critical and a borne antiauthoritarian. One of the main enemy-projections in the 68 movement was what we called the establishment – the fathers. I´ll try to trace backwards the roots for this in my own history:

 WW II was a disaster. My father had just finished his study of medicine in Würzburg when he had to join the German army in 1940. A medical doctor, he had to run military hospitals in the occupied Poland and Ukraine; he was heavily wounded in the east of Ukraine in Donetsk (- this is the region which is today again suffering from occupation and war). After his recovery he was sent to France where he finally came into war prison ship and survived the apocalypse. He was traumatized, he suffered from what he had experienced, also of what he had done, and full of fear about a possible new war, a third WW between the West and the East. He was not a hero, but a defeated soldier and a victim of the Nazi system. He had lost two brothers in the war and by the Nazi terror – one brother, a gifted musician and a dreamer, had fallen into the hands of Nazi psychiatry. The returning German soldiers were not heroes at all. Most of them had lost everything, before all they had lost their self esteem; the mass murder, the extinction of the Jewish in Europe and of the Polish population was a program of the ruling Nazi party, ruling by terror and corruption. Everybody had to know about this, but many participated actively, in a kind of collective anesthesia and growing horror. In 1945 the defeated German soldiers came back home into destroyed villages and cities, where the women had to arrange their life and the survival of their children without the help of the fathers. The women had learned to live without men; and defeated losers were often the last they wanted. Also for the children the image of the father as a hero was broken. The worst was that nobody really spoke, or was able to speak, about the murders he was part of or witness. The stunningly restored economy, the Wirtschaftswunder, supported by the Marshall Plan of the USA, covered and repressed all memory, guilt or mourning abilities of the many. When Adolf Eichmann, the organisator of the Holocaust, was kept and sentenced in Israel, his defense slogan became a popular saying: It was not me; it was Hitler who did (ordered) all these things. This is what Hannah Arendt called the “banality of evil”.   

The Post-Heroic Age, often connected with the Vietnam disaster of the 1970ies, was coined earlier. The warriors of WW I were still celebrated as heroes, at least by those who had no idea about the reality of Flanders in 1914 – 1918 and the gas war. Nevertheless, C. G. Jung in his red Book 1913 described a famous dream that he had to kill an archetypal Siegfried, the blond hero of German mythology – and he draw the conclusion, that each hero carries a strong shadow. After 1945 the myth of the heroic fighter, at least in Germany, was out of time. When in 1968 we heard about the crimes of US-marines in Vietnam, and that they could function as killing machines only with drugs, the idea of the hero-warrior was no longer valid. Somehow we were reminded of the anesthesia, the fog of silence which laid over the Nazi time. But to say the truth: Che Guevara, the Black Panthers, some Palestinians, the selfless fighters for justice and against apartheid were heroes for us, with non violent heroes like Gandhi on the other side of the spectrum.  Today I´d say that the Hero is an Archetype with many faces, in a wide range from a radiant angel to a black and satanic devil.


  1. 2. Restoration

I went from Würzburg to Berlin in 1970, I was twenty years, had finished school and wanted in Berlin to participate in the student movement. The big step was also a kind of liberation and separation from my family. In the years before, when I was still in Würzburg, the shocking waves of the movement arrived also my more or less ignorant hometown. I marched in demonstration against the Vietnam War wearing my red flag (by the way, the only red flag in catholic Würzburg!), but then I had to face harsh reactions by my school and even my parents.  I played in a Beat-Band; we wore long hair like the Beatles or Frank Zappa. Berlin-West was different, like the Promised Land, a mythic island of freedom. It was said that there in Berlin was a bright movement of democratic inspiration; there were many communities, where students and young workers could live together in free and experimental arrangements. There were brave and beautiful girls, of course, and there were no controlling parents. Most famous was the K1 and K2 communities, for their eccentric life. Rudi Dutschke and Fritz Teufel were leading figures among many others. Teufel especially represented the Puer, the naive and tricky clown. Our Berlin was like a greenhouse for alternative styles of living and thinking, an alchemical vessel for all kind of revolutions.  The alchemical pot was hermetically closed by the Berlin wall. Berlin-West was surrounded by the wall which protected our biotope, and also separated us from the Eastern neighborhoods and the Stalinist Block and mentality around. And Berlin-West´s territory was big enough to forget about the shadowed environment on the other side of the wall. Here were many young people, students and artists. If in Berlin-West you had not to join the army. After 1961 (the building of the Berlin Wall) many factories and working class people had left Berlin-West for West-Germany (BRD, the Federal Republic), and so a lot of huge flats in the old and shabby big houses were easily and cheap for rent. Everything seemed to be possible on this cloud, and utopist ideas of all kind were discussed and tested. We had our own leaders like Rudi Dutschke, Herbert Marcuse or Adorno. We spoke about Guerilla in the cities, inspired by the Tupamaros, we read old anarchistic writers like Bakunin or Kropotkin and studied Karl Marx. We knew somehow which side was the right one, the good, the progressive, and we were on the right side. I was glad to swim in this movement like a fish; not as a shark or a flounder, not as a whale, not a goldfish, but as, I´d say, a trout. I was happy.

We were not aware about the real dramaturgy behind the shimmering veil. In fact only a few of us knew or understood that we played unconsciously a role in a global game. Berlin-West was the outpost of the western block, the NATO, the CIA, and the west needed people to live there. Our funny cloud was sponsored by the western powers. This had two sides. The Free University was originally founded a part of a post-Nazi educational program for the Germans, to counter the traditional and now socialist oriented Humboldt-University in East-Berlin. It was both, a democratic and an anticommunist project. The general line was restoration and the geostrategic fight against the Socialist Block under Stalin and later on Chruschtschov and Brezhnev. The BRD was founded in 1949, and the main idea was a Roll-Back policy against the Soviet Union. This was not a new idea; already after WW I the western states USA, the UK and France had supported the defeated German Reich to restore its steel- and military industry and to form a strong power against the communist danger. These facts are not very known today. The so called appeasement policy towards Hitler was the cover, and behind it there were strong economic and military interests. Hitler was the chosen one to do the job, to fight Stalin and to rescue the capitalist world from communism. After 1945 the victorious allies agreed with the “Entnazifizierung”: many former followers of the Nazis came soon again in positions in the government, the universities, and the jurisdiction and so on. The Marshal plan 1974 to support (West-) Germany to regain economic and military power was a kind of repetition of a similar program after 1918. When we students in Berlin-West begun with our utopist socialist fantasies we were surprised by the harsh reaction of the authorities. We simply couldn´t understand why the state was not on our side – facing the historical guilt of Germany in WW II and the Holocaust.

Our situation in Berlin-West was paradoxical. We were supported by western money (living was cheap, university was gratis), we developed alternatives to the traditional roles in families, sex and gender, we became radical democrats and fulfilled the original purpose of the post-Nazi educational program of the allies, but we “went too far”. A keyword in our discourse was repressive tolerance. You are free to do what you want, but we define what freedom means. In the greenhouse atmosphere the Puer in us (and the Puella) could come to life, again, after the depressive disasters of two World Wars.


  1. 3. Revolution

We wanted to make the world a better place. Revolution was the trigger word; from Elvis Presley to Jimmy Hendrix, to Woodstock and the freedom fighters in the Third World. It contained the heroic fight of the Algerian people against the French occupants, the fight of the Vietcong, the heroic resistance in the Prague Spring in 1968, and in our own countries the fight of the working class for the property of factories and  the productive means. Not only this: I studied Antonio Gramsci´s writings about the necessary cultural transformation, and we were enthusiasm by news from Mao´s China about the Great Cultural Revolution. No knowing anything about the terror of Mao´s communist party we easily followed Jean Paul Sartre´s analysis of the Cultural Revolution as a necessary step towards equal rights and against patriarchal and abstract science. I studied medicine, having in mind the fascinating report of Norman Bethune, a Canadian doctor who had served in the Chinese Red Army, and about the so called barefooted doctors in the Chinese countryside. My own study and the developing world of the Revolution came together and made me even happier. I met Beate (my later wife) in this movement, we fell in love, and the shared spirit of a Medicine for the People is still a strong link between us.

But, how could a revolution be successful? The Puer, the eternal youth in us begun to reflect, that students alone will never be successful. A real Revolution had to be carried and set in reality by the majority of a population, if not by everybody. The fight of the Vietcong (“War of the People”, Volkskrieg) was an extreme version, under the repression of the US Invasion. In Germany or the Western capitalist world not only the intellectual, but also the working classes had to be mobilized – as it happened obviously in Paris in May 1968. So we started to look for the working class – as described in all the texts from earlier revolutionary times. I read the history of the French Revolution 1789, the Spanish-Catalan revolution of the 1930ies, the Russian revolutions and so on. The German Revolutions, those from 1848 or 1919, unfortunately, were not such an inspiring lecture. Something went wrong. We tried to make it better, better than our fathers and grandfathers. But – where was the working class today, the proletarian class in Berlin-West in 1970?


  1. 4. Reenactment

Hegel wrote that each important event in history happens twice: the first time as a tragedy, the second time as a farce. Marx used this quote to inspire his followers not to give up, and we followed him, too. He also wrote, that each revolution starts in disguise, and that Revolutions need to go back and to start from earlier beginnings again and again. In our quest for the working class we mentally went back to the times before Hitler came. It is part of the Puer Psychology not to accept historic facts. It was somehow logic, and the impressive environment of the big old grey city of Berlin was the right stage. Somehow, even with its ruins, it looked like before the war. When I arrived in Berlin in 1970 the famous street and barricade battles between students and the police 1968 and 1969 were famous and stimulating narratives. Now it was the time of rearranging the revolutionary subject: The Proletarian Class and its party.

But, the Communist Party KPD was forbidden, and there was no Proletariat! We had to face middleclass mentality, not a classical working class. When we argued that Capitalism is unjust, or: Capitalism leads to Fascism! , or that the USA should leave Vietnam, the people answered: Go east, go to the Russians on the other side of the wall. The mass media of the Springer group declared us students to be criminals and undercover agents of the Socialist Block. And now two processes became influential: One was that we started to ask what our parents had done in the Nazi time and in the war. Paradoxically, the US-crimes in Vietnam provided us the moral license to break the taboo of silence about us Germans, and to question the deeds of our fathers. The second process meant: Never again! If the anti-Nazi resistance had failed before 1933 (and during the Third Reich) our duty was to fulfill the lost fight of the former working-class-movement against Hitler. So we somehow reenacted the historic battles from the 19twenties. We slipped into the disguise of the revolutionary grandfathers, and state and police on the other side played the complementary role of the Nazi battalions. The old honest communists (= we) were back, and the Nazi terrorists as well, and this dramatic performance was quasi totally unconscious on both sides. Somehow we all, left side or right side, lived in a kind of collective phantasmagoria or pandemonium.  On our side it was a collective projective identification with the former resistance fighters, their heroism and their painful suffering, also with Jewish resistance fighters and victims, tortured or killed by Nazis in Concentration Camps. The result was a vicious circle of mutual escalation. The state, supported by the mass media, began a witch hunt against us, with political prisoners and with shot comrades on our side, and with killed politicians and policemen on the side of the enemy. The escalation with the RAF (Bader-Meinhof-Group) was the extreme consequence of this psychology. Today we know that GDR, the communist state on the other side of the wall, was engaged, too, and sent agents provocateurs.

It was an existential experience, to life in the real daily danger of being kept by the police. The student Benno Ohnesorg was killed 1967 by a policeman, Rudi Dutschke was shot 1968 by an instigated anticommunist. It was not a joke. It provided an incredible feeling of meaning, of being alive, of fighting for peace and truth, for the values that former generations had fought for and sacrificed their lives. It was a revenge for the victims of the holocaust, too. We had contact with comrades in other countries; I knew people from Lotta Continua, Potere Operaio and Il Manifesto or Gauche Proletarienne. I remember that for me my study of medicine with all its exams was of no relevance compared with the challenges of our fight, writing leaflets, demonstrating for peace and justice, occupying houses and arranging popular festivals. There was one book that expressed my feelings: The Damned of the Earth, by the French-Algerian psychiatrist Frantz Fanon.


  1. 5. Comrades

I must add that I was lucky not to slip and fall into disasters like some friends and comrades, who became terrorists, finally even killed so called enemies, were killed themselves or spent years in Prison. I was never a terrorist, but I knew some of radical comrades of this kind. I always argued against violence against people, and I was respected with this conviction. I felt like a convinced anarchist, not a Maoist or whatever, I had a Christian background and even played the organ in the church, to make my living and to pay for my studies. I was convinced that killing people would never lead to an end of violence. But I was known in the scene for brave hood and reliability. 

This reputation became a challenge. 1974, one day I was asked if I would help a comrade to life for a while in the underground. This comrade had already spent months in prison for nothing (as I was told) and needed an alternative identity. He wanted to work in a factory, to learn about the real thoughts and needs of the working class people. I did not know him; later I learned that this comrade was Fritz Teufel, the clown of the antiauthoritarian movement. Without hesitation I gave my identity card and my tax card to a common friend. Fritz began to work, under my name, in a factory in BRD. After a while my documents were no more valid, and I met Fritz and gave him new ones. My official version was that I´d lost it. 

This kind of delicts with passports and identity cards was, in those years, not very strong sentenced. I knew that 5 years later the term of limitation (Verjährungsfrist) would be over. But now began a horror story. One year later Fritz changed his identity again; I was informed, and I demanded that he would burn my old documents. He did it. Fritz was kept by the police shortly after that, in 1975, wearing another identity, and came into custody prison. Now he was said to have killed a prominent politician, and soon even a second murder was connected with his name. So overnight my dear comrade Fritz became one of the top terrorists of the 1970ies! But Fritz himself didn´t say anything, and he stayed in prison in silence. Nobody knew about my connection with him, nobody should know about this. For the following 4 years I lived under the imminent thread and danger of becoming kept as a complice of a murder. The string around my neck became tidier with each news regarding the investigations about Fritz´ supposed deeds. It was a horror. I could not tell anybody about my connection with Fritz, even my wife Beate shouldn´t know about it, not to be horrified. Fritz remained in custody, awaiting trial for four years. In the meantime I finished my medical exams; I worked as a surgeon and became father of a little son. 

I want to tell my story in detail. One day, in May 1980, I was secretly informed by Fritz´ lawyer that Fritz would come out with his alibi. The attorney would present their pleading: guilty of two infamous murders, to be sentenced with prison for lifelong. After this Fritz would bring forward his defense, a perfect alibi. He would proof that he had worked in the factory on the relevant days, using the control clock (Stechuhr), under my name. The lawyer told me that Fritz kept silence over the four years in detention prison for two reasons: 1. because he knew that the states attorneys would construct other accusations against him (because everything was fake!), and 2. to protect me. The term of limitation (the 5 years after he lived under my name) would end soon. So the crucial day came.

I told Beate my secret, and we went with our baby to Westgermany, to be with my parents. I wanted to be with my mother at the TV when Fritz´ Alibi would be in the news, and my name. So it happened. My mother was upset: There is somebody with the same name a yours, she exclaimed. A week later we had to return to Berlin, and by a miracle we were not controlled at the border. There was a football game in the TV, and the western and eastern policemen were not interested in us. At home I found a letter and citation that I had to come and to present myself at the trial some days later. At this day I said goodbye to my wife and my little son, not knowing if I´d come back.

In the courthouse in Moabit, in the biggest but overcrowd hall, some hundred people were watching the drama. In front in a glass box there were the accused comrades of the “Bewegung 2. Juni”, a group named by the date when in 1967 the student Benno Ohnesorg had been killed by a fascist policeman. Fritz was among them. The judge, an overcharged elder man with a red face, tried to cheat me by tricky questions, but my lawyer (a comrade) was clever enough to save me. Then the long expected moment came. The court had ordered some former coworkers of Fritz from Westgermany to participate at the session. They were asked: Who is the right Joerg Rasche – this young doctor, or the man in the glass cage? The answer was: The right Joerg Rasche is the accused man in the glass box – we know him as our colleague!  Turmoil broke out in the audience, and the judge said to me, to finish the painful and embarrassing scene: You can go! I was free, and two days later also Fritz was a free man. It was one of the biggest scandals in judicial affairs in BRD. It was clear that the entire construction of accusations was a malevolent fiction.

For me fife years of fear came to an end. After a while I began my analysis … and became a Jungian.

Fritz now worked as a bicycle messenger, in spite of Parkinson disease he had got in prison. One day he visited me in my flat and saw my little son. He had written a book of fairytales. He told me, that he really wanted to protect me for gratitude.

This is why I chose to tell this story, to illustrate a special aspect of the Puer Eternus Archetype. The Puer gives everything, even his life. He can be seduced, abused, of course, by ideologies or father figures, but he is also very honest, positive and can be a good friend. I learned to understand an aspect of my father´s trauma under Hitler and in WW II. With Fritz, somehow my father´s lost brother was reborn for me. I helped him to survive in the reenacted pandemonium of the early Nazi time. 

To finish I want to tell you: I am not ready with this story of my life. I feel blessed after all. When the wall came down in 1989, and the Iron Curtain was over, I was so happy to discover again my lost European family in Poland, Ukraine and Latvia. Again I had the feeling: It is our challenge to make the world a better place. I am an old man now, but the Puer is still alive. Don´t give up!

Thank you.

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