Obituary: Fritz Teufel

German 'fun guerrilla' became radical activist

Born: 17 June, 1943, in Ingelheim, Germany.

Died: 6 July, 2010, in Berlin, aged 67.

The ferment of the 1960s brought Fritz Teufel, a skinny, red-bearded figure with wire-rimmed glasses, bobbing to the surface of tumultuous events. Though he later fell in with a violent revolutionary group and was arrested and imprisoned, he started out as a prankster or, to use his term, a "fun guerrilla".

To leaven the moral intensity of his fellow leftists, he offered a theatrical vision of politics. The 1967 visit of the shah of Iran to Germany, he told reporters, was "low comedy", in which "the public is justified in throwing eggs and tomatoes if the performance does not satisfy them". He was cleared of "grave sedition" over a demonstration against the visit.

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Teufel, the youngest of six children, became a founder of Kommune 1, a notorious squat on Stuttgarter Platz often referred to as the Horror Commune. Its members, influenced equally by Maoism and psychoanalysis, rejected such bourgeois norms as personal privacy - the bathrooms had no doors - and devoted themselves to organising political protests and stunts.

Like many of the younger German generation, they were in revolt against their parents, whom they regarded as having been either complicit or supine during the Nazi years, and the West German state, which they regarded as sneakily repressive.

It was while at Kommune 1 that Teufel became a semi-celebrity, helped in no small part by his last name, which means "devil" in German. When his comrades, perhaps out of jealousy, expelled him from Kommune 1, he moved to Munich, joined a radical commune and drifted into the orbit of the Red Army Faction. Dedicated to the violent overthrow of the government, the group carried out assassinations, bombings and kidnappings. In the early 1970s, he spent two years in prison on charges he had tried to firebomb a courthouse in Munich.

In 1975, Teufel was arrested and charged with being a leader of the June 2 Movement, which had kidnapped local politician Peter Lorenz. He was carrying a pistol at the time. Teufel spent five years in jail awaiting trial, only to present a watertight alibi in court. He said he had kept silent to expose the arbitrary nature of West German justice.

By this time, Teufel had rejected radical politics, although he retained a taste for provocation. While taking part in a political discussion on TV in 1982, he took out a water pistol and sprayed the West German finance minister - who then threw a glass of wine in Teufel's face.

Teufel, who had Parkinson's disease, is survived by his partner, Helene Lollo.

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