Shadows from the Past: Pedophile Links Haunt Green Party
In the 1980s, some members of Germany's Green Party advocated the legalization of sex with minors. Now the party wants to come to terms with this dark chapter via an independent review of internal documents -- some of which show that the influence of pedophiles on the young party was much stronger than previously thought.
He is a boy, roughly 10 years old, with a pretty face, full lips, a straight nose and shoulder-length hair. The wings of an angel protrude from his narrow back, and a penis is drawn with thin lines on the front of his body.
Documents like this have become a problem for the Greens today. Some 33 years after the party was founded, it is now being haunted by a chapter in its history that many would have preferred to forget. No political group in Germany promoted the interests of men with pedophile tendencies as staunchly as the environmental party. For a period of time in the mid-1980s, it practically served as the parliamentary arm of the pedophile movement.
A look at its archives reveals numerous traces of the pedophiles' flirtation with the Green Party. They appear in motions, party resolutions, memos and even reports by the party treasurer. That is because at times the party not only supported its now forgotten fellow campaigners politically, but also more tangibly, in the form of financial support.
When the Green Party was founded in 1980, pedophiles were part of the movement from the start -- not at the center of its activities, but always hovering along the periphery. At the first party convention in the southwestern German city of Karlsruhe, pacifists, feminists and opponents of nuclear energy were joined by the so-called "Urban Indians," who advocated the "legalization of all affectionate sexual relations between adults and children." From then on, pedophiles, noisy and wearing colorful body paint, were often a visible part of Green Party gatherings.
Possible Independent Review
The aberrations of the early years were eventually forgotten. Today, when party members look at family photos from their early history during anniversary celebrations, they are quick to overlook the proponents of sex with children. No one asks about these strange figures anymore, the ones who turned up at every party convention, claiming that pedophilia was a "human right." Who exactly were they? And what did they want? As it advanced from a protest party to a member of various governments, critical self-examination was replaced by nostalgia.
Until now, that is. In an effort to come to terms with this ugly side of their history, party leaders are expected on Monday to adopt a resolution to conduct an independent academic review of documents from the 1980s. The move comes partly as a result of fierce debate over past statements made by Greens member and European parliamentarian Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who, in his 1975 autobiographical book "Der grosse Basar" ("The Great Bazaar"), described intimate experiences with children as a teacher in an alternative Frankfurt kindergarten. In one passage he writes: "You know, a child's sexuality is a fantastic thing. You have to be honest and sincere. With the very young kids, it isn't the same as it is with the four-to-six-year-olds. When a little, five-year-old girl starts undressing, it's great, because it's a game. It's an incredibly erotic game."
Cohn-Bendit, who has since said that the statements were meant as a fictional provocation, calling them a "big mistake," has been repeatedly criticized for the contents of his book. But it sparked renewed controversy last month when the president of Germany's Federal Constitutional Court cited it as grounds for his refusal to give the speech at an awards ceremony honoring him for his contributions to European democracy with the Theodor Heuss Prize. In hopes of calming the uproar, Cohn-Bendit later declined to accept the prize.
It's embarrassing for the Greens. No other party depends as heavily on the claim of being on the right side of morality. The Greens also played a leading role from the start -- as prosecutors -- in the debate over abuse within the Catholic Church, emphatically demanding answers to allegations of sexual abuse of children. And, of course, a Green Party parliamentarian, Antje Vollmer, was also a member of the Bundestag's round table to address the abuses that took place in mainly church-run children's homes in the 1950s and 1960s.
How is the party going to explain that it once tolerated people whose agenda had nothing to do with progress and emancipation, but solely with the exploitation of their position of power and trust in relation to minors?
'The Only Hope for Pedophiles'
In their initial approach to the issue, Green Party leaders have agreed that they are dealing with regrettable but isolated cases. "Protecting children from sexual abuse was and remains a central concern," says party co-chairman Cem Özdemir. "It is unacceptable that some are now trying to reinterpret the positions of individual groups in the past as a supposedly lax position of the Greens toward the sexual abuse of children."
But it isn't that simple. The Greens are not being accused of having advocated sex with children. The real question is whether they contributed to an atmosphere in which people could feel emboldened to pursue tendencies that are illegal if acted upon, and for good reason.
"In terms of national politics, the Greens were the only hope for pedophiles," says Kurt Hartmann, a member of BAG SchwuP in the 1980s who now heads an association that promotes pedophile literature. "They were the only party that put their necks on the line for sexual minorities in the long term."
The "Schwuppies," as pedophiles are known within the party, made no secret of their sexual preferences. BAG SchwuP memos were circulated within party committees that openly portrayed minors as objects of sexual desire. One typical image is a photo of a boy in skimpy gym shorts, bending forward slightly as he stands on a playground. The official letterhead of the chairman of BAG SchwuP, Dieter F. Ullmann, featured a drawing of an older man with his arm draped over a young boy's shoulders.
Party leaders claim that SchwuP was an embarrassment to the national party from the beginning. A look at the files, on the other hand, shows that the pedophile organization received funding -- amounting to several thousand deutsche marks over the years -- from the Green Party itself and from its parliamentary group in the Bundestag.
Establishing a 'Pedo-Commission'
BAG SchwuP was upgraded in the summer of 1984, when it became part of the Green Party parliamentary group's "Law and Society" task force. This gave it a privileged position within the party. From then on, SchwuP played a part in shaping the party's positions within its parliamentary group. "The goal of providing the Green Party group in the Bundestag with professional support characterizes the work of the national task force," states a Green Party document.
The pedophiles' core issue was to bring down Section 176 of the German Criminal Code, which criminalizes sexual acts with children. With the Greens they found for the first time a political force that was willing to entertain this debate. Indeed, in March 1980, the Greens held their second national convention in the southwestern city of Saarbrücken, where they approved a program that opposed "discrimination against sexual outsiders." The convention established a "pedo-commission" to specifically address the interests of pedophiles.
Today, Green Party co-chair Claudia Roth insists that the Greens never made the case for sex with children. "At no point did a committee within the Green Party's national organization adopt a resolution that would have advocated the decriminalization of the sexual abuse of children," she said two weeks ago. But in the 1980s, the environmental party had a very specific idea of what did and did not constitute abuse.
In 1983, an ad for the Greens ran in the gay newspaper Torso. It featured a drawing of the party's trademark sunflower and the text: "Sections 174 and 176 should be amended to read that only the application or threat of violence, or the abuse of a dependent relationship in connection with sexual acts should be criminalized!" In plain terms, this meant: Adults could have sex with children, as long as they weren't their own and they weren't threatened with violence. Such positions were socially acceptable among the Greens, a fact that today's party members are only too eager to forget.
"The subject went from being taboo to part of the political consciousness," reads a SchwuP newsletter from the period. "The fact that, for the first time, the protagonists are becoming the targets of HATE and disgust, scorn and derision, all of this is good and not bad. These emotions always arise at the beginning of a truly deep debate."
- Part 1: Pedophile Links Haunt Green Party
- Part 2: A Product of the Late 1960s
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