The history of squatting in Münster
Restructuring measures in city centres, as well as rising rents and vacancies due to real estate speculation, led to a wave of squatting in Münster and many other university towns in Germany in the 1970s and 1980s.
Besides practical housing considerations, the act of occupying vacant houses was always an expression of an anti-capitalist political concept. The communal lifestyle within the squats was seen as an alternative to what was regarded as the alienated form of existence people led within the capitalist system.
Squatting in Münster:
Grevener Straße 31
On 15 November 1972 students occupied Grevener Straße 31, a building that had been standing vacant for a year. One reason for this measure was the catastrophic housing situation in Münster at the time. A total of 25% of first-year students were homeless at the end of October 1972, 2000 students had no accommodation, and some were sleeping in tents. On 18 November 1972, the student union signed a contract with the Münster municipal authorities authorising the further use of Grevener Straße 31 by the squatters.
One of the longest squats in the history of the Federal Republic ensured that Frauenstraße 24 was saved from demolition. The residential building’s basement pub, which still exists today, was used as a meeting place by the squatters, and the funds it generated were used to finance political initiatives and legal defence fees. After several tries to evict the squatters, as well as an attempted arson attack on the building, ‘f24’ was legalised in 1981.
The Initiative to Prevent the Destruction of Living Space (Wohnraumrettungsinitiative, or WRI) was founded in Münster. Its main focus was on the dire housing situation at the time, and the squatting campaign on 26 January 1980 was well organised: between 600 and 700 people occupied several houses in Sertürnerstraße.
On 13 October 1980, squatters moved into the well-preserved residential building at Marienthalstraße 8, but were evicted four months later, on 17 February 1981, by a large contingent of police.
In December 1981 students in need of accommodation occupied a building formerly belonging to Coca Cola. They demanded that the complex of empty administrative offices be turned into a student hall of residence to alleviate the catastrophic housing situation at the time.
In the following years there were only sporadic short-term squats. In 1989 the Alliance Against Housing Shortage and Restructuring (Bündnis gegen Wohnungsnot und Umstrukturierung) was founded. The members of this group went on to organise numerous initiatives against the housing shortage.
As of August 1990, an emergency accommodation shelter in Steinfurter Straße was occupied in an effort to support Moroccan students. As the autonomous group noted, ‘The students have been represented since February 1990 by a right-wing student union, which has attempted, together with the university administration, to drive the Moroccans out of the emergency shelter. For months the squatters were forced to occupy the premises on their behalf.’ Eventually the squatters were able to convince the authorities to set up an emergency shelter in Grevener Straße.
Between September 1990 and the autumn of 1991, four issues of na warte! (‘just you wait!’) appeared, with the subheading ‘Münster Housing Paper’. It was conceived as a local publication for everyone who is ‘against restructuring, real estate speculation, and landlords, and for affordable self-determined accommodation, and who is prepared to fight for the existence of squats’.1
Following intense preparations, Engelstraße 59 was occupied by activists belonging to the anarchist scene in Münster on 19 October 1990. The squatters were evicted by 200 officers (using stun grenades) and the mobile task force of the Dortmund Police on 4 December 1990.
Starting in 1989 the buildings at Breul 32 to 38 and Tibusstraße 30a, b, and c became a centre for alternative life-styles. The fifty-five occupants founded the Association for the Preservation of Affordable Accommodations (Verein zur Erhaltung preiswerten Wohnraums, or VzEpW), which still exists today. For ten years the housing project was threatened with demolition; in 1996 the occupants were finally able to avert demolition and spent two years renovating the buildings. After the renovation was completed, the VzEpW won prizes for ecologically sound and autonomous redevelopment.
On New Year’s Eve 1999/2000 activists occupied the Uppenbergschule. The squat was linked to the demand to establish an independent cultural centre in Münster. On 10 February 2000 the squatters were evicted by more than 200 police. To assuage the activists, the city rented out a small café/shop on Grevener Straße to the group. Today the café, called Versetzt (‘Displaced’), is still used as a meeting place, but is currently threatened with demolition.
On 13 April 2001 a building in Robert-Koch-Straße, which had been left vacant since 1999, was occupied by squatters who wanted to use it as a new social and cultural centre. On 19 April 2001 the project was ended by means of force when 180 police evicted the squatters on behest of the municipal authority.
During the following years, the squatters restricted themselves to activities that would attract public attention. In 2005 the Action Group for an Independent, Self-governed Cultural and Communications Centre (Initiative für ein autonomes, selbstverwaltetes Kultur- und Kommunikationszentrum, or ‘ask’) drew attention to itself when they symbolically staged a squat on a local lake, the Aasee.
Grevener Straße 31 – 57
In December 2006 and late March 2007, Grevener Straße 57 was occupied for several days in protest against plans to demolish the building. On 1 April 2007 Grevener Straße 59 was occupied. Statement by the squatters: ‘This squat is also intended as a protest against the planned demolition of the entire row of buildings from 31 to 59, and as a demand for the preservation of affordable accommodations. At the same time we express our solidarity with the occupants of the housing project in number 31, with the autonomous art-café Versetzt in number 53, and with all the tenants affected by the city’s demolition plans, who would prefer to continue living here.’2
The current squats in Grevener Straße, which was where the housing struggle in Münster began in 1972, demonstrate that the history of squatting in Münster has not yet come to an end.
Bernd Drücke, 10 April 2007
1Dear readers, in: na warte!, Housing Paper Münster, 25 Sep 1990, p. 2.
2All good things, as the German saying goes, come in threes – or fours or fives…! Now Grevener Straße 59 in Münster has been occupied! Welcome to the squatting marathon!, Flyer, Münster, 2 April 2007.