Cohn-Bendit, Daniel

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COHN-BENDIT, DANIEL (1945– ), student leader and politician in Germany and France. Born to German-Jewish emigrants in Montauban (France), Cohn-Bendit grew up in Paris. As a young lawyer in Weimar Germany, his father, Erich, had made a name for himself defending left-wing activists and fled to France already in 1933. He returned to Germany in the early 1950s and began working as a restitution lawyer in Frankfurt, with his wife, Herta, and younger son, Daniel, following him there in 1958. After the early death of his parents and his graduation from high school (the well-known Odenwaldschule boarding school), he went on to university studies in Paris, where he became one of the leaders of the student protest movement of 1967/68 at the University of Nan-terre. He founded the group "22nd March" and received the nickname "Danny le rouge" (Danny the Red). He distanced himself from Western capitalism as well as from Soviet-style communism. When he left France for a brief visit to Germany in May 1968, he was refused permission to return. On May 22, 4,000 French students marched through the streets of Paris under the slogan "We are all German Jews." He continued to study sociology in Frankfurt and remained active in the radical left student movement as founder (in 1976) and editor of the "Sponti" ("anarchist") journal Pflasterstrand. Only in December 1978 was he allowed to return to France. From the mid-1980s, he was active in the politics of the Green Party in Frankfurt, where, together with Joschka Fischer he dominated the so-called "realistic" faction against the "fundamentalists" and ran for the office of mayor in 1987. In 1989, he was appointed official for multicultural affairs of the City of Frankfurt and remained in this position for eight years. From 1994 he was a member of the European Parliament, elected both in Germany and France.

Cohn-Bendit does not identify himself as a Jew religiously but emphasizes that he identifies himself as a Jew as long as antisemitism exists. He keeps a distance from Israel, but in contrast to many of his contemporaries from the 1968 student protest he did not develop an explicit anti-Zionism. During the 1985 protests of the Jewish community against the staging of the allegedly antisemitic play by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Die Stadt, der Muell und der Tod, he maintained a mediatory position between those for and against performance. In 1993 he filmed a documentary about the Frankfurt Jewish community.


L. Lemire, Cohn-Bendit (Fr., 1998); S. Stamer, Cohn-Bendit (Ger., 2001).

[Michael Brenner (2nd ed.)]