“We want to know what actually happened back then. We are aware that our house and our papers made journalistic mistakes at the time. We have admitted this in the past and do so today,” Döpfner said in a statement.
The tribunal is to take place in October in the headquarters of the Axel Springer Publishing House in Berlin. Its aim is to debate the explosive situation in Berlin in 1968, and what role the Axel Springer papers – most famously the conservative Bild – played in the troubles of the time.
The proposal has its seeds in a failed tribunal held by the student movement in 1968. The power of the Springer publishing house and its role in society was one of the angriest debates in Germany at the time. A group of protestors organized a tribunal intended to analyse the Springer publishing house and to unmask it as an organ of political agitation.
The tribunal was postponed immediately after being opened on February 9, 1968. A pamphlet distributed among students at the time said, “The hysterical reaction of the Berlin press and senate in the last weeks have shown that they are not mature enough for a political debate.” The proposal to hold the debate at a later date in another city was never realized.
All original organizers of the tribunal still alive will be invited to Springer’s own debate in October, and prominent personalities of the years around 1968 will also be expected. Academics and writers who have written on the subject will also be invited, the Springer company said.
The announcement marks a new interest in Germany’s 1968 legacy since it was revealed in early June that one of the chief triggers of the revolutionary left-wing student movement, the murder of student Benno Ohnesorg during a riot, was carried out by an agent of the German secret police, called the Stasi.
But it was the attempted murder of student leader Rudi Dutschke that triggered the impassioned debate around the Springer company.
Dutschke was shot three times by a right-wing extremist on April 11, 1968, following a hate campaign by the conservative press, particularly the top-selling Bild newspaper with its calls to “Stop Dutschke Now.”
He survived the attack but died in Denmark in 1979 from injuries sustained in the shooting.
The city of Berlin named a section of the street where the assassination attempt took place after Dutschke in April 2008.
The newly named Rudi-Dutschke-Straße happens to meet Axel-Springer-Straße, or “Axel Springer Street.” Most of the German media giant’s building lies on Rudi-Dutschke-Straße, and the company took part in a protracted class action suit against the grassroots name-change initiative.