1968ers sexualised children to avoid 'bourgeois' shame culture

BERLIN LETTER: Sixties radicals in Germany thought sexual liberation was good for everyone – and that included children, writes…

BERLIN LETTER:Sixties radicals in Germany thought sexual liberation was good for everyone – and that included children, writes DEREK SCALLY

WHEN CHILD abuse allegations surfaced at the Odenwald School near Frankfurt last March, it sent shock waves through Germany’s left-wing liberal establishment.

For nearly a century, the rambling school in an idyllic forest setting was where they sent their children for a broad education that was as far from rote learning as possible.

How could it be that the revered headmaster took advantage of the school’s structures as a front for his abuse of pupils – and then used his own and the school’s reputation to keep it quiet for decades? Worse, as it became clear that claims of abuse went back over decades, the left-wing elite that supported the school was faced with the prospect that the abuse was not random and opportunistic but systematic.


The Odenwald debate has revived memories of a little-known detour in the 1968 student revolution: the sexual liberation of children. This attempted revolution began in Berlin’s leafy Giesebrechtstrasse in the western neighbourhood of Charlottenburg, the home of West Berlin’s second commune, Kommune 2.

Like other such groups springing up around Germany, Kommune 2 eliminated social conventions like private property and monogamous relationships. The communards propagated free love and polygamy as antidotes to the poisonous control system of shame, in their eyes the chief weapon of bourgeois societies to control citizens’ will, thoughts and sexuality.

Taking this argument to the next level, they decided that it would be a good idea to promote child sexuality before shame could take hold.

The commune was made up of three women, four men and two toddlers: three-year-old girl Grischa, and Nessim, a four-year-old boy.

The children were raised jointly by all adults who made it their goal "not just to tolerate but to embrace child sexuality". They documented their hands-on efforts in some detail, extracts of which surfaced recently in Der Spiegelmagazine.

On a typical day, April 4th, 1968, communardEberhard Schultz reported in graphic detail how Grischa got into bed with him and began stroking him intimately, which he reciprocated.

Unknowingly, the two children became stars of the progressive educational scene. A leading left-wing magazine printed a double-page photo spread of Grischa and Nessim romping naked in the commune.

The sexualisation of children and child-rearing spread to the “Red Freedom” kindergarten in the Kreuzberg district.

Teaching plans from 1969 include the “development of socialist personalities” and “Agitprop” about the Vietnam War. Playtime was devoted to “street battles”, in which the infants were divided into groups of students and police or “pigs”. The sexual education of the toddlers was promoted through group study of pornographic magazines and sexual pantomime.

“We provoke sexual innuendo, openly or in a hidden manner,” wrote a kindergarten teacher in the teaching plan for November 26th, 1969, “which is then performed in a pantomime fashion (onstage) by Kurt and Rita”. On December 11th, 1969, while other kindergarten children in Berlin were doubtless making Christmas tree decorations or baking gingerbread, the “Red Freedom” kindergarten organised sex games.

An interesting contribution to the growing body of literature was 1975's The Great Bazaarby Green Party leading light Daniel Cohn-Bendit. In the book, which he now describes as "bad literature and not factual", he described the "sexual edge" of his years as a kindergarten teacher, in which children liked to slip their hands into his trousers. In 1982, on a German talk show, he described watching two-year-old girls changing their clothes as "an incredibly erotic game".

In the interests of open debate, the left-wing Tageszeitungnewspaper regularly published articles on child sexuality. In one 1979 series, a male author praised the "liberating feeling" of sex with children. A motion at the 1980 Green Party conference sought to "liberalise sex between children and adults". After the successful campaign to decriminalise homosexual activity between adults, a "pro-paedophile" group called for the abolition of laws prohibiting sex with minors. That debate eventually fell by the wayside and Cohn-Bendit, along with other 68ers, now describes the child sexual revolution as a step too far.

"We didn't draw clear lines," he admitted to Die Zeitnewspaper. "To grant children and young people a route to develop their own sexuality was and is correct. That adults force their kind of sexuality on children – even if it has a libertarian hue – turns emancipation on its head."

The question being posed now is whether a line can be drawn from the Odenwald School reform movement to the 1968 explorations of child sexuality. And, if so, where does this line begin? A trawl of the Odenwald archives has turned up the first recorded complaint of child abuse at the school, dated 1924.