Fritz Teufel, 67

Fritz Teufel, 'fun guerrilla' in German student movement of 1960s, dies at 67

Fritz Teufel's parents escort him after he was released from prison.
Fritz Teufel's parents escort him after he was released from prison. (1967 Photo By Edwin Reichert/associated Press)
By Emma Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 9, 2010

Fritz Teufel, 67, a red-bearded prankster whose rabble-rousing stunts made him one of the most famous members of Germany's leftist student movement in the 1960s, died July 6 in Berlin.

He had Parkinson's disease, according to a 2007 interview with the German daily paper Der Tagesspiegel.

Mr. Teufel, a political clown whose irreverence landed him in jail for much of the 1970s, called himself a "fun guerrilla." Among his targets were police tactics he regarded as heavy-handed; older generations of Germans, who he thought had refused to confront the roles they had played during Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime; and capitalists.

He became widely known when he was among a group arrested in 1967 for planning an assassination attempt on U.S. Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey.

Newspapers said that a dangerous plot had been narrowly foiled. But when Mr. Teufel and his compatriots were freed after 34 hours in custody because of a lack of evidence, they said at a news conference that their intent had been to "bomb" Humphrey with projectiles made of flour, yogurt and pudding.

The "pudding assassination" plot gave Mr. Teufel a reputation for theatrical dissidence that was cemented several months later, when he was arrested and charged with sedition after being accused of throwing a stone and inciting a riot during a visit to Germany by the shah of Iran.

More than 1,000 students showed up at the courthouse to support Mr. Teufel on the opening day of his trial. His nascent fame -- boosted by his surname, which means "devil" in German -- reached new heights when he refused several times to rise as judges entered the courtroom.

Finally, he stood. "If it serves to help establish the truth," he said, tongue firmly in cheek.

The moment, covered in the international media, crystallized an anti-authoritarianism that had been simmering among students in Germany, across Europe and elsewhere. In a 1967 article, the New York Times described the trial as "a symbol for the 'seditious' fringe among modern European youth, and beyond that, of the stirrings of an entire restive generation."

After six months in jail, Mr. Teufel was acquitted and freed.

"Every time we succeed in denouncing the ruling force and making it ridiculous, we show we are not powerless," he said at the time. He said his imprisonment was "only possible because it is far easier to make a horned cow pass through a keyhole than to make one German civil servant doubt a statement by another German civil servant."

Fritz Teufel was born June 17, 1943, in Ingelheim, on the Rhine River. He grew up in Ludwigsburg, the youngest of six children in a middle-class family. He made his way to Berlin in the early 1960s to study German literature at the Free University of Berlin.

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