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

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As a speaker, Fischer had dazzling moments in the Bundestag. He still considers his debate-contribution to Wörner’s Kießling scandal* – his derision of Kohl’s spiritual, moral renewal as “a Palatinate work of art, sinking slowly into baroque opulence” – as one of his historic moments in parliament: “Politics as a real existing satire.”

When Heiner Geißler denounced the pacifism of the 1930s as a cause for the Nazi horrors at Auschwitz, Fischer retorted with polished rhetoric. After the death of the Turk [Cemal] Altun, who jumped to his death to avoid custody pending deportation, Fischer transformed himself into the defender of asylum rights. Heinrich Böll referred to the two debate contributions as “the best speeches that have been heard in the Bundestag in years.”

“As a symbol,” said Hubert Kleinert, Fischer’s Realo companion from Marburg, “he was incredibly important for us in Bonn: unshaven and in jeans, he represented, on the one hand, the lifestyle of a large group that had never before been represented politically in Bonn. And on the other hand, he brought life to the Bundestag and became a symbol for left-liberal intellectuals.”

Faster than other Greens, Fischer adapted to the habits of the politicians in Bonn and transformed himself into a media favorite. But he worked just as hard on the image of the non-conformist. The CDU/CSU representatives confirmed that for him by shouting “pinstripe rocker,” “rogue,” and “despicable loudmouth” during his speeches.

[ . . . ]

As the “defender of the environment,” Fischer says statesmanly, he “will not assert himself through ordinances or directives, but through persuasion,” in order “to achieve as much consensus as possible, even with big business.”

Fischer and his comrades-in-arms have long since adopted a moderate gait in the new office. “We won’t kick up a fuss,” appeases Green speaker Georg Dick. “Everything,” says Fischer, “is done according to law and statute” – which spurred SPD economics minister Ulrich Steger to the assessment that, in comparison with Fischer, “even Young Socialists seem revolutionary.”

But a minister who strictly abides by the environmental laws – that is exactly what Hessian industrial managers seem to be afraid of.

Friedrich Karl Janert, CEO of the Hessian Chemical Employers Association: “If Fischer follows the environmental protection laws to the letter, it will be torture.”

*As Minister of Defense from 1982 to 1988, Manfred Wörner classified four-star NATO general Günter Kießling as a security risk in 1983 by alleging his homosexuality and made him retire early. Due to public outrage Kießling was rehabilitated in 1984, but Wörner did not suffer any consequences, becoming NATO general secretary in 1988 – trans.

Source: “Hessen-Koalition: ‘Wie Willy wollte’“ [“The Hesse Coalition: ‘Just What Willy Wanted’”], Der Spiegel, November 4, 1985, pp. 24-31.

Translation: Allison Brown and Kelly McCullough

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