Fritz Teufel was a West Berlin-based radical who came to the fore during the 1960s as part of the student movement. He helped establish the concept of the Spass-Guerillero or "fun guerrilla" with the manifesto-cum-motto of Witz als Waffe or "Joke as weapon". For all that, he spent eight years in jail between 1970 and 1980, lived a life on the lam for years using false papers to avoid the West German authorities and baked bread for a London baking co-operative after his release from prison.
Born into an anti-fascist family in 1943 in Swabia, like many of his generation he gravitated to West Berlin in 1963. At this point during the Cold War, West Berlin was something of a haven since the city's legal status enabled young West Germans to avoid the draft. By way of counter-balance, the West Berlin authorities were notorious for their fondness for the water cannon when breaking up demonstrations. They used more than water jets. In July 2010 in a Tagesspiegel interview, Teufel called the death of "an innocent student" from a policeman's bullet in June 1967 "more important" than his own imprisonment.
In Berlin he got to know Rudi Dutschke and a circle of young revolutionaries. In January 1967 he co-founded Kommune K1 – a communal living experience that became renowned for its so-called "grotesque actions". These straddled outright provocation and street satire. Bizarrely, Teufel was amongst 11 people arrested for attempting to assassinate the American vice-president Hubert H Humphrey in April 1967. Die Zeit called them the "eleven little Oswalds" but they actually went in armed with puddings, flour and yogurt. The incident was dubbed the Pudding-Attentat, literally "Pudding Assassination", though "Assassination by pudding" captures its absurdist flavour better.
Teufel was a thorn in the side of the West German authorities whose heavy-handed harassment was out of all proportion to what Teufel was alleged to have done. In the authorities' defence, this was also another age of extremists, typified by the Rote Armee Fraktion's murders and kidnappings.
He was eventually imprisoned for arson in what was possibly a miscarriage of justice. When he next went to prison, it was for carrying a pistol. Which he was – in part probably brought on by paranoia, heightened by assiduous Kiffen (dope-smoking). After emerging from jail, he wrote occasionally for Die Tageszeitung and paid his rent working as a bicycle courier in Berlin.
Fritz Teufel, political activist: born Ludwigsburg, Swabia, Germany 7 June 1943; died Berlin 5 July 2010.Reuse content