Handbook: The Generation of 1968

Biographical Sketches and the History of a Movement

The 1968 protest movement is inscribed into the memory of the Federal Republic of Germany. Therefore it is all the more surprising that there is still a lack of reliable information on those individuals who were at the center of events because of their political activities―the "1968 movement" activists themselves. Aside from knowledge about a few prominent personalities, basic information is not available for most activists regarding their family backgrounds, socialization, religious affiliations, membership in various organizations, and much more. The central questions are: Which birth-year cohorts did the 1968ers belong to, and what percentage of each birth year was actually involved in the movement? How did they grow up? What was their social background? What role did Germany’s Nazi past play for them? What factors were generally significant in shaping activists’ political and ideological self-understanding?

This gap in knowledge should be filled. Information on more than 1300 individual biographies has already been entered into a database. The preliminary results show that there was an extraordinarily high percentage of university graduates among activists in the 1968 movement, many of whom were subsequently employed by academic, cultural, and media institutions. To allow the intellectual and ideological profiles of these former activists to emerge more clearly, the project distinguishes between the differing roles played by West German and international activists and by mentors and critics. When the protagonists of these different roles become recognizable, a better understanding of the dynamic political and socio-cultural developments unleashed in 1968 and their sustained echo should emerge.

(Last modified October 2014)