15 Nov 69

Guidon bearer swings his fist.
Guidon bearer leads the way.

On a gray Saturday in Berlin diplomats sipped coffee at home, breakfast tables awash in pages of technical material from the SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty) talks in Helsinki. Older Germans discussed the stress of undertaking a new way of thinking in terms of reaching live-and-let-live agreements with their Central European neighbors.

These were abstract concerns to the young people who gathered on the morning of 15 November 1969 to protest the war in Vietnam and, in some cases, to cheer for Third World uprisings everywhere.  They were an anxious crowd, as were the policemen who watched them.  Previous protests had resulted in violence.  The rhetoric of some groups associated with the protest could be taken to mean that they wanted a confrontation.

In pages following, the story of the demonstration is told primarily in pictures.  With the cooperation of West Berlin police, demonstration organizers were able to keep the peace.  Ironically, this cooperation and peaceful protests became a symbol of surrender in the eyes of violence-oriented Left groups.  At the same time, Left manifestations of this size being tolerated by civic authorities was a source of irritation to the radical Right.  

Continue on 15 Nov 69.

For a German-language look at these years from a Berlin perspective, visit:

Berliner Stadt-Chronik – 1945 – 1999

Print sources include: Information Unit, United States Information Service, U.S. Mission Berlin, mimeographed daily translations of Berlin newspapers.

Richard Huffman’s Baader-Meinhof pages focus on German terrorists on the political Left.

Berlin 1969