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I have recently seen a [caricature][1] in which a blindfolded man goes along a cliff. The caption was "The German citizen in the 1960's". I thought it may have something to do with the economy, but in the 50's the economy in Germany was actually very good, so, any ideas? Why is it exactly in the year 1960 and what is the background?

A blindfolded man walks along a winding thin ridge-line with a cliff either side

  • Welcome to History:SE. Where did you see the picture? Do you think it might have been in the context of the Cold War? – sempaiscuba Jan 27 at 20:00
  • @sempaiscuba I have seen the picture in a report of a very famous german cartoonist. They have just shown some examples of his work. – calculatormathematical Jan 27 at 20:03
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    To me, it indicates that the German citizen was proceeding blindly along a precipice. The implication is that there was no strategy, no vision, no fundamental direction. – Mark C. Wallace Jan 27 at 20:14
  • @MarkC.Wallace In terms of the strategy after rebuilding germany after the second world war? Why is it exactly in 1960? – calculatormathematical Jan 27 at 20:19
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    I suspect it may be in the aftermath of the collapse of the 1960 Paris Summit, which was part of the build-up to the 1961 Berlin crisis. But without further context, it's impossible to know for certain. – sempaiscuba Jan 27 at 20:23
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This a caricature (05:30) bei Vicco von Bülow, pen name Loriot. The title says "Bundesbürger 1960", and means 'West-German citizen 1960'. This man makes a Gratwanderung blindfolded. Gratwanderung being an idiom, meaning not only alpine hiking, but also being in a precarious situation, in which no deviations are 'advisable', if not incredibly dangerous.

But in most of his work, no special political event is picked up upon. He was more of a chronicler of the humorous absurdities of life.

If one really wants to go down into exegesis of a cartoon: the West-German citizen is (again) up high, amidst the clouds, in terms of political re-recognition, economic recovery after the war, being now democratised citizen, etc. But this middle to upper class citizen is inexperienced in being such a creature, hence the blindfolds as this doesn't come naturally to him, and is more like tightrope walking. That's only one interpretation.

As already commented below the question, and equally likely:

To me, it indicates that the German citizen was proceeding blindly along a precipice. The implication is that there was no strategy, no vision, no fundamental direction. — Mark C. Wallace

But I highly doubt there will ever be one, correct. Equally possible is a simple reading of "awwh, these modern days…"

The works he published in those years are "Loriot lies true stories" 1959 and "In case of…" 1960. Both roughly as current events political like Gary Larson.

The latter seems to be the book this cartoon is published in. It had the subtitle: "The modern helper in difficult situations" and is now advertised with:

In this epoch-making book, Loriot pointed out that "not only the faulty hibernation of sensitive garden gnomes has always been a problem that has caused many marriages to fail prematurely. It was also clear that, apart from this quite ordinary case, there would have to be a number of other questions which, although less well known, would be no less important.

The backside of this book has a similar cartoon:

enter image description here

While an easter egg is revealed when one removes the cover: enter image description here

It's worth remembering that "walking along the edge of a precipice" was a fairly common trope throughout the Cold War, but especially from the late 1950s. — sempaiscuba

That is on the hand quite true. As for the broad general background. But then it is particularly noteworthy that in this case the artist is seldom interested in global political observations. His takes on nuclear power for example look like an all ou attack on the dangers of said technology. But it is more the salient features of how people deal with such absurdities that he analyses. One of the arguably more political cartoons of him shows this:

enter image description here

A potato nose man clad in a federal eagle — and pathos. Wearing a medal, probably a civilian order. Very 'stately making'. That seems to be the most important feature of the cartoon in question: It is the West-German citizen, quite individualised, the year seemingly almost superfluous.

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  • It's worth remembering that "walking along the edge of a precipice" was a fairly common trope throughout the Cold War, but especially from the late 1950s. – sempaiscuba Jan 27 at 21:51
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The West German citizen must plot an exact but wandering course of left and right deviations or fall off a precipice.

West Germany while nominally a democracy had extreme restrictions on left wing political organisation combined with a failed de-Nazification that barely acknowledged mass killing of non-combatants in Europe in the 1940s. Moreover, West Germany was wedged between “right” wing powers such as France, the United Kingdom and the United States all of whom had a political interest in BRD remaining right wing, while seeking to prevent Bonn Germany becoming non-parliamentary right wing. Correspondingly a large bloc, dominated by the Soviet Union, feared a right wing Germany or a puissant Germany and sought to keep West Germany locked into certain behaviours, some of which could be called left. A latent incapacity for Bonn institutions to express ultraleft sentiment meant that West Germany students and young workers were building organisations and apparatus which would, for example, oppose the American war against the Vietnamese people, or fund and execute the exploding of bombs and shooting of civilians by the end of the decade.

In this situation the burger, the comfortable city dwelling bourgeois minded middle class member is blind to the realities of the left right movement of policy and to the cliff of the KAPD and NSDAP: of revolution and reaction; on which they blithely wander.

One false move and the Bonn republic falls.

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    It is a projection plane, so I won't dispute this, too much. But west-integration was a done deal in 60, 'being right-wing' as well (if I get your drift, which I think I do, except for "non-parliamentary right-wing": you mean 'even more right-wing, like 'they' were a few years before; ie openly fascist?); and 'Vietnam' in 1960? Please resolve acronyms like KAPD (SRP or KPD may even better working examples for this A; again: if I do get your drift). External forces (SU) & wishes seem too large in this interpretation? In case you missed it: this is not a bad analysis. – LаngLаngС Jan 28 at 1:34
  • Will note RAF/Anarchist armed left as an example of failing to navigate more clearly: in 1956 an armed student ultraleft in BRD over the Indochinese war or in 1960 over Algeria was incomprehensible. Link with BRD denazification and ultraleft guilt motivation to be spelled out. KAPD will be spelt out and the choice over KPD: the 1917-21 threat. Correspondingly Weimar Republic -?-> Bonn republic comparison will be more clearly spelt out. Will note the nominal existence of the SPD and partial legality of language only ultralefts / tension over Soviet Union suddenly reversing German settlement. – Samuel Russell Jan 28 at 1:46
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    The RAF is inconceivable before Spiegel-affair and resulting student awareness movement (~7 years too early? While all the while right-wing underground was re-armed officially & clandestinely, with guns and media). Earlier than Spiegel, slightly more left-wing dissent had a very hard time visavis pacifying anticommunist SPD=worker's alliance (as you seem to note). What is noteworthy is that any left idea, no matter how domestic, was painted as Moscow puppets (and indeed some had coffers quite amply filled in East-Berlin (just as US did with like-minded orgs, with more $s to spend ;)) – LаngLаngС Jan 28 at 2:22
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    Thanks for this expansion on your thoughts. I want to point to the illegality/difficulty of ultra left legal organising combined with the animating Weimar-again and Soviet subversion elements to indicate that a left “cliff” existed even if as an imaginary, and that compared to systems of hegemonic repression the bans created the space where illegalism could (and later did) develop: again that the imaginary cliff has some basis. I also need to indicate more clearly that the ridge line here is the lawful “right” and “left” coalition leading parties and legal to advocate policies. +1 – Samuel Russell Jan 28 at 3:02
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    No. I mean the KAPD as the revolutionary threat from the left which characterised late second reich and early Weimar non parliamentary working class leftism. The SED was an obvious puppet of an external power and the KPD replicated the parliamentary cretinism of the second reichs SPD. – Samuel Russell Jan 29 at 4:36

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