Freedom: Thoughts Are Free

It was in September 24,1848 that the irregulars under Gustav Struve and his courageous wife Amalie from Lörrach marched to Staufen im Breisach. It was also in this place that the revolutionary spirit was inspired, and it was here that the fear among the citizens of  Staufen became evident.

Gustav Struve marched to the Town Council building and proclaimed the Republic and the revolutionaries erected barricades on the bridges.

A great battle was fought in Staufen when General Hoffmann came with his government troops of the Baden Dukedom. The hope of the republicans died with the smoke of the cannons that were fired by the troops. Gustave Struve managed to escape, and what remained after the fierce battle were the dead musicians, citizens and piles of smoking cannon-balls on the façade of Staufen’s Gate and houses. In the Second World War Staufen was hit by Allied airraids. And in recent times, due to a geothermal boring half of Staufen’s houses, as well as the olde Town Council building were damaged. The houses have cracks on their walls but the spirit of Baden that still lingers in the minds of its citizens make it a great place to live in. An elderly lady showed me all the major cracks of the buildings and houses and praised the cultural events in this town made famous by Doctor Faustus. It was in this town that Mephistopheles came to get his due, like Shylock in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. Whereas Shylock went with empty hands, Dr. Faustus met his end.

As a Badener, I love the song ‘Die Gedanken Sind Frei,’ for it depicts the people’s suffering in Baden in their questis for self-determination. In the song a woman pleads, ‘Lassa laufen, mein Mann ist im Krieg’ because her husband is at the war. Falkenstein, the lord, rides with his head in the air, is a side-snipe at the rich by the poor. There is also the story of Hans Steutlinger from the Black Forest. The anonymous pamphlet was distributed during the Thirty Years’ War. Men were butchered during this krieg and this is illustrated in the words: Es ist ein Schnitter, heisst der Tod which means: it’s a reaper who’s name is death.

The pain and suffering of lovers in parting during the war and difficult times are commemorated by the words: ‘Gott b’hüte Dich.’  God protect thee.

Like I mentioned earlier, it is a pleasure and honour to sing the song lyrics of the Baden Revolution 1848 even today. The song clearly shows its bourgeois origin and our hearts are with Friedrich Hecker. He was a lawyer from Baden who called for armed resistance and insurrection at Lake Constance. The march to Karlsruhe was stopped by state troops. He also managed to escape, as did Carl Schurz, and emigrated to the USA and became a national hero.

During the Thirty Years’ War courage was summoned, like today as we raise our voices against Stuttgart 21, nuclear lobbies, ecological destruction, against terrorism and fanatism in general.

Today we can blog, make podcasts, upload topical political themes and music on YouTube and Facebook and disseminate information, opinions and columns when we believe and fight for a just cause. 

In the old days the people the people were so suppressed and intimidated that they couldn’t voice their thought because the walls had ears. This has been experience by people living in the former German Democratic Republic, where you didn’t know who was spying on you. It could have been your neighbour, your grocer, butcher or your colleague. There were spies everywhere. During the Thirty Years’ krieg a song with the title Thoughts Are Free (Die Gedanken sind Frei) was written and began to make the rounds. It became a freedom from yoke and tyranny song and is sung even today. We only have to think of the misery and suffering that the World War I and World War II brought down upon the culture of the German folk.

The ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity which were propagated by the French Revolution of 1789 spread to the world, and Germany was no exception. The Holy Roman Empire was broken up through Napoleon’s subsequent domination of Europe. The craving for freedom in Germany was coupled with the desire for German Unity. After Napoleon was defeated the loose German states formed the German  Confederation .

The Carlsbad Decrees of 1819 promulgated a repressive system which triggered the revolution within the German Confed in 1848. However, there was no political integration of the citizens. Even in those days certain states  (like Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg today) were compelled to make considerable concessions, and Baden was one of them.

A new constitution was adopted in March 27,1849 and on the following day King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia was elected the Emperor of Germany. He refused the imperial crown and the new constitution was rejected by Austria, Prussia, Saxony and Bavaria. The Reichs

Constitution Campaign that was started anew to establish a realm precipitated uprisings in Rheinland, Palatinate, Baden and Saxony.

On May 11,1849 there was a mutiny in the garrison at Rastatt which spread like wildfire. On May 13, the Grand Duke Leopold fled from Karlsruhe and fled to the Prussians in Koblenz to seek protection. The first democratic elections were held on June 3, but the Prussian troops crossed the Rhine into Baden at Germersheim on the 20th of June. The revolutionaries held their positions  till the 23rd of July and some fled to neighbouring France and Switzerland. The Baden Revolution came to an end when the Prussians defeated them. No mercy was shown to the rebels by the state troops.

Over 80,000 citizens of Baden emigrated to other countries to escape repression and punishment. This is the reason why the Badener sing the song ‘Die Gedanken sind Frei’ with heartbreaking pathos. And that why I love this song. It is a song about freedom, thought and deed. Thoughts cannot be imprisoned by the so-called authorities or rulers of a country. Thoughts have wings. The only thing the people of Baden possessed were their thoughts, because the victorious Prussians had taken everything away, leaving them only with their free thoughts. Thoughts have wings.

Thoughts create speech. Thoughts create speech and thoughts are indeed the measure of this world we live in. We think and decide what’s good and bad for us in politics, economics, in our daily behavioural patterns, relationships, interactions with others.

‘Speech was given to man to disguise his thoughts,’ said Charles Maurice de Talleyrand. But thoughts have always remained, and will remain, free as the air that we breathe.


More by :  Satis Shroff

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