50 years of “Berufsverbote” in the Federal Republic of Germany

The FIR recalls that at the beginning of the 1970s, in the time of international détente between East and West in Europe, political repression against anti-fascists and leftists reached a new peak in the Federal Republic of Germany.
On January 28, 1972, Chancellor Willy Brandt (SPD) and the interior ministers of the federal states signed the so-called Radical Decree (“Radikalenerlass”). The chancellor, who in his 1969 government declaration called for “daring more democracy,” who himself had been forced into political exile during the Nazi era and had offered resistance as a socialist in France and Norway, now became responsible for the persecution of anti-fascists in the FRG.

Ostensibly to keep “radicals” out of the public service, a mass spying campaign was developed against all young academics, but also against letter carriers, train drivers and other civil servants. The domestic intelligence service, which was influenced by old Nazis, collected “information” such as participation in a demonstration, distribution of leaflets, participation in the student council, candidacy for parliament on the list of the DKP. Via a “regular inquiry” to the secret service (”Verfassungsschutz”), these “findings” reached higher administrative officials, who then decided whether an applicant for public service would prove suitable for democracy. In this way, not only were young people deprived of their career aspirations, but a political climate of fear of spying on democratic movements was also created.

Already in the 1950s the FIR and its member federations had protested against political persecutions of anti-fascists in the FRG, so e.g. in the high phase of the cold war against the political persecution of supporters of the Stockholm peace appeal and against the repressions, to which the VVN was exposed. When the VVN should be forbidden by court, the FIR and its member federations organized broad international solidarity.

Thus it was only consistent that the FIR engaged itself also in this political argument at the side of the VVN against the “Berufsverbot” in the FRG. FIR noticed that under the victims of the Berufsverbote-politics have been often children of women and men from the resistance. The best-known example was certainly the “Silvia Gingold case”. Silvia was the daughter of Peter and Ettie Gingold, who had fought as emigrants in the French resistance and were highly honored for this in France. Their daughter was now to be expelled from teaching because of “doubts about loyalty to the constitution”. This led – especially in France – to a broad solidarity campaign. “A bas le Berufsverbote” became the slogan of many actions. Together with the VVN-BdA and other member associations, FIR organized international demonstrations in Bonn and Strasbourg in front of the European Parliament “Pour l’abolisation des ‘Berufsverbote'”.

It was not until the mid-1980s that the Berufsverbote-policy in the FRG was scaled back. Willy Brandt, already no longer Chancellor, declared the Radical Decree a “political mistake.” It was not until the early 1990s that the European Court of Human Rights declared in a test case against the FRG the Berufsverbote policy to be a violation of law and human rights. The political record leading up to this ruling was devastating. Over the course of nearly 20 years, some 3.5 million young people who wanted to enter the civil service were vetted by the secret service , over 10,000 hearings, took place to legitimize the refusal to hire, 1,250 teachers labeled as “left-wing extremists” were not hired, and an estimated 260 people, including mailmen and railroad workers, were fired.

Until today, those affected by this state repression wait in vain for political rehabilitation as well as recognition as an unjust measure. The FIR remembers on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of this political injustice and supports the demands of those affected.