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Joschka Fischer becomes the First Green Minister of the Environment (November 4, 1985)

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The beneficiary is Holger Börner (“This story will get me 50,000 young voters”), who was warmly welcomed in the party’s presidium last Monday by the SPD party chairman. “I am the only one,” the Hessian said interpreting the friendly reception, “who did just what Willy wanted.” Like Brandt, Börner also set his sights on the immediate goal – along with an SPD minister president in Lower Saxony – of breaking the CDU majority in the Bundesrat in the spring, in order to make it difficult for Kohl to govern.

Lower Saxony’s leading candidate Gerhard Schröder does not want to adopt the Hessian model, but other leading social democrats support Börner’s course. SPD presidium member Erhard Eppler defends the Red-Green coalition, pointing to Saarland’s SPD environment minister Josef Leinen, who, like Fischer, aims to bring together economy and ecology. “Why is a Joschka Fischer in Hesse any different from a Jo Leinen in Saarland?”

The difference lies in their personal histories. In the Bundestag handbook, where representatives like to elaborate on the number of offices they have and all they can do, Fischer – a Bundestag representative for the Greens until March 1985 – needed no more than two lines: “Born on April 12, 1948. Member of the Bundestag since 1983.”

That reads as though nothing much happened during the years in between – and as though he wanted to distance himself from his life. But Fischer does not reject his own history: “Except for what is in my file at the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, I have nothing to hide. I stand by my history.” Joschka, raised in the strictly Catholic town of Fellbach on the outskirts of Stuttgart, is from “a butcher family.” Father and grandfather were meat dealers, “full time,” and of course “Catholics.” But Joschka was not altar boy material, well-behaved in a red and white robe, so he became a bicycle racer.

In the tenth grade, he had had enough of Gymaniusm and began to have “a lot of fun” with a photography apprenticeship. The fun lasted a year. Turned on by Bob Dylan and the Beatles, he indulged in the 1960’s “new attitude toward life,” and at sixteen he fled “the narrowness of home, village, and apprenticeship.”

The police picked him up in Hamburg and carted him back to his Swabian world. On his second attempt at a “European tour” he went as far a Kuwait – a non-conformist from an early age.

Back at home, runaway Joschka had a job for a short time as an assistant clerk at the employment office, in the child-benefits department. A second attempt at a photography apprenticeship also failed.

That was the time when Ludwig Erhard was still chancellor and intellectuals mocked and ridiculed him as “a little pipsqueak.” Joschka read Jack Kerouac, the Beat Generation’s man of letters, and fell “undyingly” in love with Edeltraud, a seventeen-year-old Swabian. Still minors, the two married in 1967 in Scotland’s Gretna Green.

Fascinated by the student protests against the Vietnam War and full of rage over the death of demonstrator Benno Ohnesorg and the assassination attempt on Rudi Dutschke (Fischer: “the shots in Berlin awakened me”), the young newlywed moved to Frankfurt. There, in one of the metropolises of student revolt, the young Gymnasium student with no degree and no training wanted to go back and get his diploma in order to study Kant, Marx, and Hegel at Johann Wolfgang Goethe University.

[ . . . ]

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