The Rise and Fall of the Famous Kommune 1

Colorful Flower power icons
The Kommune1 was actually a hippie movement. MrPlumo-DigitalVision Vectors@gettyimages.de

Like in many other parts of the world, in Germany, the youths of the 60s seemed to be the first political generation. For many leftist activists, the generation of their parents was conventional and conservative. The Woodstock-like way of life that originated in the USA was a phenomenon in this era. Also, in the young West German republic, there was a wide movement of students and young academics who tried to break the rules of the so-called establishment.

One of the biggest and best-known experiments in this time was the Kommune 1, the first German politically motivated commune. 

The idea of establishing a commune with political issues first came up in the late 60s with the SDS, the Sozialistischer Deutscher Studentenbund, a socialist movement among students, and the "Munich Subversive Action," a radical leftist group of activists. They discussed the ways to destroy the hated establishment. For them, the whole German society had been conservative and narrow-minded. Their ideas often appeared very radical and one-sided, just like the one they made about the concept of the commune. For the members of this group, the traditional nuclear family was the origin of fascism and, therefore, had to be destroyed. For those left activists, the nuclear family was seen as the smallest "cell“ of the state where the oppression and the institutionalism originated.

Besides, the dependence of men and women in one of those families would prevent both from developing themselves in a proper manner.

The deduction of this theory was to establish a commune where everybody would only satisfy his or her own needs. The members should be interested in themselves and just live the way they like without any oppression.

The group found a suitable apartment for their project: the author’s Hans Markus Enzensberger in Berlin Friedenau. Not all of those who helped to develop the idea moved in. Rudi Dutschke, for example, one of the best-known leftist activists in Germany, preferred to live with his girlfriend instead of really living out the idea of the Kommune 1. Whilst the famous progressive thinkers denied joining the project, nine men and women and one child moved there in 1967.

To fulfill their dream of a life without any prejudices, they started with telling each other their biographies. Soon, one of them became something like a leader and patriarch and made the commune let down everything that would be a security like savings in money or food. Also, the idea of privacy and property was abolished in their commune. Everybody could do whatever he or she wanted as long as it happened among others. Besides all that, the first years of the Kommune 1 were very political and radical. Its members planned and made several political actions and acts of provocation in order to fight the state and the establishment. For example, they planned to throw pie and pudding at the vice president of the United States during his visit to West Berlin.

Also, they appreciated the arson attacks in Belgium, which made them be more and more observed and even infiltrated by the German interior intelligence agency.

Their special way of life was not only controversial among conservatives but also among leftist groups. The Kommune 1 was soon known for its very provocative and also egocentric actions and a hedonistic lifestyle. Also, many groupies came to the Kommune, which has moved inside of West Berlin many times. This soon also changed the commune itself and the way the members dealt with each other. While they were living in an abandoned fabric hall, they soon limited their actions to matters of sex, drugs, and more egocentrism. In particular, Rainer Langhans became famous for his open relationship with the model Uschi Obermaier. (Watch a documentary about them).

Both sold their stories and photos to the German media and became iconic for free love. Nevertheless, they also had to witness how their housemates became more and more addicted to heroin and other drugs. Also, the tensions between the members became obvious. Some of the members were even kicked out of the commune. With the decline of the idealistic way of living, the commune was raided by a gang of rockers. This was one of many steps that led to the end of this project in 1969.

Besides all the radical ideas and egocentric manners, Kommune 1 is still idealized among some sectors of the German public. The idea of free love and an open-minded hippie lifestyle is still fascinating for many people. But after all these years, it seems that capitalism has just reached the former activists. Rainer Langhans, the iconic hippie, appeared on the TV show "Ich bin ein Star – Holt mich hier raus" in 2011. Nevertheless, the myth of Kommune 1 and its members still lives on.