To the Editors:
I address myself for the second time to The New York Review, a journal well-known in the field of publicizing the plight of dissenters in virtually every nation, to draw your attention to the lot of West German civil servants, including all university employees, who attempt to exercise their critical abilities vis-à-vis the status quo. Clearly this plight is not to be compared with that of dissenters in the German Democratic Republic; yet it ought to be exposed precisely because the Federal Republic poses as an outpost of democracy.
Thousands of persons have, in the past three to four years, been denied civil service positions, denied promotion to tenured status, or have been otherwise disciplined, for entirely legal activities which include: writing letters to editors protesting those very denials; signing newspaper advertisements; passing out leaflets; having at one time been members of student organizations which, e.g., demonstrated against the Vietnam War; living in housing cooperatives with others suspected of similar behavior; going to public meetings sponsored by legal but suspect organizations such as the German Communist Party, its youth affiliates, or suspected front groups; exhibiting art work at shows devoted to exposing the Chilean dictatorship; using such terms as “murder,” “imperialism,” “exploitation,” and the like in articles, including those of a scholarly nature; or, of course, membership in allegedly “Communist” organizations.
To cite but two cases, Professor Christian Sigrist, an ethnologist at the University of Munster, faces termination (although he is tenured) for expressing views that are “contemptuous of the state and its organs” and using “extreme” language such as terming a police killing “murder.” Professor Matthias Tomczak, an oceanographer at the University of Kiel, was terminated for disseminating a literature packet on oceanographic research which included leftist criticisms of ecological damage.
It should further be brought to the attention of your readers that a series of paragraphs of the German criminal code have resulted in bookstore and publishing-house raids, and fines and prison sentences for editors, publishers, and book distributors. The best-known of these incidents involved a raid on November 11, 1975, of Trikont Verlag, the objective being a book by an underground figure, Michael Baumann, entitled Wie Alles Anfing. This book has, despite its illegal standing, now been reissued with a “declaration of conscience” by some 500 individuals and publishing concerns, all of whom have collectively declared themselves to be the “responsible editors.”
Committees to support civil liberties in West Germany have been organized in a number of West European countries, and one is now in process of formation in the US. Interested persons may contact the undersigned.
Chairman, Department of Sociology
New Brunswick, New Jersey