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The Anti-WAAhnsinns Festivals were political rock concerts, which took place in Germany in the 1980s. Their purpose was to support protests against a planned nuclear reprocessing plant Wackersdorf (German: Wiederaufbereitungsanlage Wackersdorf, abbreviated WAA Wackersdorf) in Wackersdorf. In 1986, the fifth festival marked the peak of the protest movement against the plant. With over 100,000 people attending on July 26 and 27, Burglengenfeld became the venue of the until then-largest rock concert in the history of Germany. The line-up included some of Germany's most popular music acts of the time such as BAP, Die Toten Hosen, Udo Lindenberg, Rio Reiser, Herbert Grönemeyer. The festivals resulted in an unexpected amount of media coverage for the anti-nuclear movement in Germany. Contrary to expectations of government agencies, however, the festival remained completely peaceful. As a result of the overwhelming protests the planned nuclear reprocessing plant was never built.
The first Anti-WAAhnsinns Festival took place in 1982 at the Lanzenanger venue in Burglengenfeld. Primary responsibility for the event was held by the local autonomous youth centre, where many such festivals had taken place before. Between 2,000 and 4,000 people visited the concerts each year. Because many members of the youth centre had actively been participating in the resistance against the recycling plant, the management decided to change the original festival into the Anti-WAAhnsinns Festival. The main purpose of the events was to attract public attention to the problems related to the WAA and the protests.
Because of their engagement in culture-related work, the youth centre very quickly managed to come into contact with many Bavarian musicians like Haindling or Biermösl Blosn who also argued against the building of the recycling plant. Because these festivals got more and more positive feedback from the public the idea began to emerge of encouraging big name performers, like BAP, Udo Lindenberg or Herbert Grönemeyer, to take part. Not least of all because of good relations to the management of BAP, the record label EMI Electrola was able to convince their - mostly left-leaning - artists to participate in the festival. In that same year, a live recording of the festival was released as a double LP by this record label. The proceeds of this album were used to support a citizens' initiative against the WAA.
Originally, the organizers intended the Anti-WAAhnsinns Festival to take place in the immediate vicinity of the planned FRP. After excessive protests at Easter and Pentecost the position of both parties got more radical, especially influenced by the catastrophe of Chernobyl. As a result, the Bavarian government set up inviolable precincts up to 120 square kilometres around the construction area. Ultimately, the organizers opted for a field near Burglengenfeld as the venue for the festival. Even before preparation for the festival took place, some city councillors of the CSU (Christian Social Union) and the mayor of Burglengenfeld, Stefan Bawidamann, had already voiced their concern about riots on the fringes of the festival.
Although the Anti-WAAhnsinns-Festival had been officially authorised by the town, the Bavarian Ministry of the Interior and the local government of Oberpfalz voiced intentions to prohibit the event. An extraordinary meeting of the city council that was scheduled for the 15th of July, again voted in favour of the realization of the festival. However, the town’s major Bawidamann repealed the ballot, referring to article 19 of the penal law. He considered this necessary in order to prevent the general public from danger for their life, health or material goods and to save them from heavy disturbances. The decision about the authorisation of the festival thereby passed to the subsequent regulating authority, the district office of Schwandorf. Hans Schuierer, the district administrator, validated the decision of the city council and assigned the local government of Oberpfalz to check the legal force of Bawidamann's decision again.
The motorcycle club Kuhle Wampe took charge of security and entrance. Excrements had to be removed almost every hour. Fields within a radius of several kilometers were rent by the festival's management for parking. In part, the fields had to be harvested right before the beginning of the festival although the grain was not ripe yet. The number of visitors exceeded expectations and more fields had to be marked as parking spaces on short notice. At one of those rent fields, in particular on the stubble field in the vicinity of Greinhof, a hot catalyzer set off a large-scale fire. Thanks to the dauntless action of a local farmer who used a plough to create a firebreak, bigger damages could be prevented.
Burglengenfeld, a city with about 10,000 inhabitants, was not prepared for such a stampede of visitors. Already on the eve of the festival, in the supermarkets all staple food and alcoholic drinks were sold out. Several shops closed their doors and did not open them on the following Sunday either. Not having any mobile phones yet, on all church doors there were pinned written notes, informing when to meet whom and where. Every bare brickwork the visitors used as a "roof over their head", as a place to sleep. Anyhow, the thefts, damages of property or even riots the inhabitants had feared held off.
Accounts about the number of participating visitors at the festival vary. The number is supposed to be over 100,000, which, considering the area, is not entirely unlikely. Musically the Open Air can be revisited on double LP as well as on film.
The impact of the festival
Although the 5th Anti-WAAhnsinns Festival (26–27 July 1986), a protest against the nuclear reprocessing plant, proceeded peacefully and without any violence, the state continued fighting it with undiminished rigidity. The opposition to the WAA ended abruptly with the sudden death of Bavaria's minister president Franz Josef Strauss on 3 October 1988. The operating company DWK (Deutsche Gesellschaft für die Wiederaufarbeitung von Kernbrennstoffen = German Corporation for Nuclear Reprocessing) and the politicians in the CSU thereupon saw only little chances that the WAA project could be realised successfully. On 30 April 1989, Dr. Rudolf von Bennigsen-Foerder, former chairman of the board of VEBA, announced that German energy companies would retreat from reprocessing technology. This came completely unexpected and filled the CSU with bitterness. On 31 May 1989 the DWK specifically froze the construction of the reprocessing plant and had the iron main gate closed symbolically. After the sudden ending for the WAA, the population's resistance diminished as well. Only a few might remember the matchlessness of the Anti-WAAhnsinns Festival. It was matchless not only because of the 100,000 visitors and all-time greatest spectrum of top musicians, who performed coherently for one special purpose – the building freeze of the WAA. The festival also showed that there is the opportunity of a counter public, the chance to correct and if necessary to prevent the decisions of local and federal administrations in a constitutional state. At the same time the festival suggested the possibility of peaceful protest. Nowadays there is a memorial stone on the former festival site “Lanzenanger” in Burglengenfeld that is to commemorate the spectacular Anti-Atom-Festival.
- Allnutt, Mike / Herl, Michael (Publisher): WAAhnsinn – Der Wackersdorf-Film. Die Filmbilder, Lieder, Texte, Reden, Interviews, Dokumente, Nördlingen 1986.
- Hoffarth, Florian: "Ihr habt die Festung, wir haben das Fest" – Das ‚Anti-WAAhnsinns-Festival' 1986 als Höhepunkt der Bürgerproteste gegen die Wiederaufbereitungsanlage in Wackersdorf, in: Jahresband zur Kultur und Geschichte im Landkreis Schwandorf, Bd. 16/17 (2005/06), published by Landkreis Schwandorf, pages 102-123.
- Homepage of the Jugendzentrum Burglengenfeld (German)
- Article in Der Spiegel on the 20-year anniversary of the festival (German)