Student demonstration in 1950
It is the year 1950. Among the numerous activities of the youth, especially the students, the well-planned operation of 300 young people stood out. On the 6th of August 1950 they demonstrated at the German-French border near Wissembourg/Weiler and St. Germanshof and tore down the toll-house barriers. The demonstration is today known as the "storm of students".
Men and women, students, professors, politicians and journalists from 9 different European countries, who all believed in the idea of a united Europe, gathered there. "Open" borders by means of a European "identity card" and a federal Europe were essential demands of the declaration written and read out at that time.
Among the personalities who were particularly committed to a federal Europe were two men who had fled Georgia after the First World War to "Europe" and had made a scientific career there: Alexandre Marc and Michel Mouskhély. They therefore saw Europe with their own vision - it was the Europe of the future and of youth. They wanted more action, serious debates and active support for the unification of Europe. To achieve these goals, Mouskhély founded the Union Fédéraliste Interuniversitaire (UFI). Together with Marcel Mille, the language teacher from Paris, Mouskhély worked on the realization of the public demonstration.
A particular challenge was the preparation of the public relations work. Mille was able to make use of his contacts and draw the attention of reporters from newspapers, magazines and radio stations to the planned border campaign. In order to attract a large number of young actors, they received support from the organisation "Jeunesse Fédéraliste Européenne" and the Federation of European Youth, among others, who announced the action at St. Germanshof.
After the goal of the activity had been clearly defined, the date had been set and the actors had been addressed throughout Europe, the detailed preparations could begin. For this purpose, rehearsals were held in tent camps on the German and French sides - because a surprising demonstration with young people from different countries could not succeed without training. The participants discussed their approach, distributed individual tasks and practiced how they would deal with customs officers and expected protests.
On the 6th of August 1950, a Sunday when the summer weather was at its best, the students made their way to the border. As a cover they took several tourist buses across the Rhine to a forest near the border at St. Germanshof. Marcel Mille and his group were ready on the German side - Michel Mouskhély waited on the French side. The French customs officer René Reiffel first noticed a young woman who - pretending to be fainting - stumbled towards him as a distraction manoeuvre. He worriedly looked after the 23-year-old student Jeanette Lüthi from Bern, while other young people gradually came to the customs house. The customs officers on the German side were surprised at the great interest shown by the "hikers" and initially did not notice the utensils they had brought with them for removing the barrier.
The friends from France were quicker on the German side, because the wooden barrier was easy to overcome. The German students unexpectedly had an iron barrier in front of them, which had been newly installed shortly before. The solution came from the French side, when the demonstrators came to help with further border utensils. Together they stormed towards the barrier and could finally saw it until it broke. "Vive l'Europe" the demonstrators screamed and fell into each other's arms.
The chosen day had great symbolic power. It was the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Wörth / Reichshoffen, which cost the lives of almost 25,000 French and Germans on the 6th of August 1870. And on the next day the second meeting of the Council of Europe took place in Strasbourg.
After the successful demonstration, the participants gathered on the meadow between the toll station and the river Wieslauter around a fire, in which the remains of the customs signs and the tollgate burned. The prepared and handwritten proclamation "Europe is the present" was read out there. Among others Mouskhély, Jean Sommier and Marcel Mille gave speeches and emphasized the importance of the action. Former Minister André Philip also took note and praised the demonstrators. After a minute's silence, the students appeared one by one and confessed to Europe with a short sentence. Abstract of the demands of the 300 European students to the governments, the parliaments of Europe and the Strasbourg Assembly of the 6th of August 1950:
The original document of the proclamation can be seen on the picture on the right side. Source: Matthias W.M. Heister (2015): "Der Studentensturm auf die Grenzen 1950. Für ein förderales Europa" (Dokumentation Heinz Hahn, Archiv der sozialen Demokratie der FES Bonn)
The generally positive response to the border demonstration at St. Germanshof resulted in an announced follow-up action in which ten times as many young people wanted to cross the border without a passport or visa: The rally to Strasbourg...
The newly founded organisation "Jeunesse Européenne Fédéraliste" held its first annual meeting in Strasbourg on the 24th of November 1950. In agreement, this date was used to call on the Council of Europe, which was meeting at the same time in the House of Europe, to act promptly.
In the night from Thursday to Friday more than 3,000 young people from different countries had already gathered in Strasbourg. At about the same time, more than 20 large buses decorated with green European flags drove towards the border on various routes in Germany. Instead of their passports, the participants carried a symbolic "European Identity Card" with them. The buses, which were about to cross the border to France from Bobenthal, met with resistance: The French side did not allow the journey through Wissembourg, so they had to turn back and drive to the border station Hirschthal. What seemed impossible before succeeded: The border guards let the cars pass through. The young people shouted "Vive l'Europe - long live Europe" in chants, while they were greeted with cheers by the population.
In the afternoon, the demonstrators moved side by side to the House of Europe, where the demands to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe were read out. Paul Henri Spaak, President of the Assembly of the Council of Europe, tried to explain in a speech why Europe could only progress slowly. The answers of the student speakers were clear: young people want a federal Europe! The way back was a silent march, a silent protest through Strasbourg at night.
Aktionsgemeinschaft Bobenthal – St. Germanshof e.V.
Am Mühlbach 5