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Berlin climate activists push ahead with hunger strike

Farah Bahgat | Wesley Rahn
September 15, 2021

Despite the hospitalization of a strike organizer, the young activists say they will continue their protest in front of the Reichstag until German chancellor candidates speak with them before the election.

Two young activists stand in front of the hunger strike banners and tents
The activists have been on hunger strike for environment protection for 17 days Image: Kay Nietfeld/dpa/picture alliance

A group of young climate activists on Wednesday insisted they will continue their hunger strike in Berlin after one of them collapsed on Tuesday. The young man was hospitalized and returned to the camp Wednesday. 

The group of activists, who call themselves "the last generation," have been on the hunger strike since August 30. 

The protesters' objective has been to speak about the climate crisis with the three top candidates running to replace Angela Merkel as chancellor in Germany's election on September 26. 

A camp of hunger strikers is set up in Berlin's government district
The activists' camp near the Reichstag in BerlinImage: Kay Nietfeld/dpa/picture alliance

"This election will determine the future of our young generation," spokesperson Hannah Lübbert told DW at the protest camp in a park near the Reichstag in Berlin.

"If the three people who will have power over that for the next four years don't even have two hours to speak with us, after people have risked their lives for it, then they aren't fit to govern," she said. 

Lübbert added that the organizers are very concerned about the health of the hunger strikers as the protest has gone on for 17 days. 

"This is exactly why a conversation simply needs to happen," Lübbert said, adding that the activists' hunger strike will continue until the candidates speak with them. 

She added that the activists in Berlin discourage others from attempting similar strikes, as they may be unprepared or not know the risks they are getting into. 

Video footage of the protest camp shows the hunger strikers have bottles of vitamins, fruit juice and tea at the ready. 

Young Germans fighting for climate agenda

'I feel weak and dizzy'

One of the hunger strikers, Simon Helmstedt, told DW that his physical condition was suffering after more than two weeks without eating. 

"I am very weak, and get dizzy when I stand up," he said. "But this is nothing compared to what we can expect when the climate crisis unleashes a famine here in Europe in 20 years."

Video footage of the protest camp shows the hunger strikers have bottles of vitamins, fruit juice and tea at the ready. 

The young man added that the collapse of his fellow hunger striker has only served to increase his resolve to continue because "now action needs to be taken ... it can't wait any longer." 


A young man reads a book in a tent
The protester, Jacob Heinze, who was hospitalized on Tuesday seen resting at the protest campImage: Kay Nietfeld/dpa/picture alliance

Candidates offer talks - after election 

The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) candidate Armin Laschet, Social Democrat (SPD) Olaf Scholz and the Greens' Annalena Baerbock have all pledged to fight climate change in their election campaigns

On Tuesday afternoon, Baerbock, Scholz and Laschet said in a joint statement that they were ready for talks with the hunger strikers — albeit not publicly and after the election. 

"Despite different political positions, Ms Baerbock, Mr Laschet and Mr Scholz agree that they do not find this kind of protest appropriate," the statement carried by the Greens said. "They are putting themselves in danger by doing so and possibly motivating other young people to follow suit."  

Chancellor Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, also told DW at a press conference in Berlin Wednesday that the hunger strike was dangerous to the activists' health. "Any action to help the climate is welcome, but please without endangering yourself," he said.

AFP news agency contributed to this report  

Wesley Rahn Editor and reporter focusing on geopolitics and Asia