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The Anti-Nuclear "Free Republic of Wendland" (May 30, 1980)

In order to prevent the federal government from establishing a permanent nuclear waste facility outside the town of Gorleben in Lower Saxony, five thousand environmental activists “occupied” a piece of burnt forest and constructed a countercultural “Free Republic of Wendland” to dramatize their opposition.

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Watchful in Wooden Palaces: Anti-Nuclear Activists Offer Resistance in Gorleben “Peace Village”

The resistance opened up their kitchens and living rooms, stables and fields. Adversaries of nuclear power from all over the world – writers, scientists, even Native American chiefs from Canada and the United States – are coming to Gorleben* to learn from the people who are resisting here. A delegation of farmers from Larzac who are fighting the expansion of a military base in their country just participated in the International Farmers’ Meeting, which was organized by the Farmers’ Emergency Association and held in nearby Trebel.

The “Gorleben women” are known as far away as the United States: Rose Fenselau was asked by an anti-nuclear power initiative to travel to Chicago. She cannot accept the invitation because she has to take care of her husband and mother, both of whom are disabled, but she keeps receiving visitors from all over the world. Like many farms and weekend cottages in the Lüchow-Dannenberg area, Rose’s quaint little apartment in Vietze is constantly filled with guests.

[ . . . ]

The demonstration procession that stretched on for kilometers over the field and forest paths from Trebel to Site 1004 was a hodgepodge of bundles, wheelbarrows, and horse-drawn carts, and looked wholly incompatible with any form of organization. But on the day following their “takeover” of the area (which escaped disruption from the police), thousands of people – citizens of the “Free Republic of Wendland,” as they call themselves – formed an anthill of activity, moving around in a manner that defied outsiders’ comprehension.

Within only a few days an entire wooden city appeared on the “liberated” piece of land: a model of alternative half-timbering and “village politics.” Many of the original 5,000 squatters are starting to go home, but others are just arriving, gathering together in “affinity groups” from their hometowns. After the people who brought the nails had left, newcomers hammered them in. Fifty houses have been built so far – each of them unique. One has a gable that extends way up high; another is dug down into the ground. There’s a round house with a roof terrace and a wigwam with wall tapestries. And there’s a house for women and children that is heated by bottles filled with air and water: at nighttime, they radiate the warmth they absorbed from the sun during the day.

* Town in Lower Saxony where at first an interim and later a permanent storage for nuclear waste was supposed to be constructed in an abandoned salt mine – ed.

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