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116 min. German, Italian.

The anti-psychiatric Socialist Patients’ Collective (SPK) was founded in Heidelberg in 1970 and attributed individual suffering to society’s capitalist structures. It began as a self-organised experiment in group therapy led by doctor Wolfgang Huber with psychiatric patients, featuring Hegel readings and individual agitation, before subsequently radicalising, which ended in criminal proceedings against its members, some of whom went underground with the Red Army Faction. This film examines a little known chapter in West German history in impressive, unpretentious fashion. A precise picture of the social climate leading up to the German Autumn emerges from painstakingly researched documents, such as records from the interior ministry and the university, press photos and TV reports, trips to Stammheim prison and to Italy, as well as from conversations with former SPK – sometimes RAF – members, lawyers and state police. The skilled interview techniques produce genuine encounters with those in front of the camera, as they look back on their lives and the SPK and dig out old papers, the question of their resistance hanging in the air – all different layers of Kroske’s historiography. (Birgit Kohler)

Gerd Kroske was born in 1958 in Dessau. After training as a concrete craftsman, he delivered telegrams, and later moved into cultural work with young people. Kroske studied Cultural Sciences at the Humboldt University in Berlin, and Directing at the Academy for Film and Television Konrad Wolf in Potsdam-Babelsberg. From 1987 to 1991, he worked as a writer and dramaturge at the DEFA documentary studio. Gerd Kroske has been making his own films since the autumn of 1989, and has worked as a freelance writer and director since 1991. He founded the realistfilm production company in 1996.

What could have contributed to such radicalisation?

The impetus for SPK KOMPLEX came from reading a letter in which Gudrun Ensslin criticises the Sozialistische Patientenkollektiv (socialist patients collective – SPK). Referring to herself and other members of the Red Army Faction (RAF), she writes: ‘…in recent years, each of us had not too little, but too much SPK in us’. This formulation referred to a failure.
Gudrun Ensslin wrote the letter in 1972 in Stuttgart-Stammheim prison. Dr Wolfgang Huber, who founded the SPK in 1970, was held in the same building, in Cell No. 109, awaiting his trial.
From the beginning, part of the SPK’s peculiar symbiosis between a social-therapeutic experiment and agitation – the founding members had chosen the name themselves – was that the members and patients who belonged to this group experienced rejection and defamation in society because of it and were later even persecuted. All of this led to the smashing of the SPK and the willingness of some of its members to live in the underground from then on and to join the RAF.
At the beginning of my work on the film, this constellation seemed incomprehensible. It cleared up with the question: In the search for self-determination for psychiatric patients and their sympathisers, what could have contributed to such radicalisation?
While shooting the film, it became increasingly clear to me that the persecution of the SPK and its vehement defence were not about an internal conflict between psychiatry professors and a young assistant physician at the University of Heidelberg, but that this was a deeply politically motivated process. It is important to me to raise the question of how concrete social interests can be turned into political tools in situations of upheaval. (Gerd Kroske)

The protagonists

Lutz Taufer
Grew up in post-war Germany. Studied in the mid-1960s, joined the student movement in June 1967, later active in the SPK, then in committees against isolation torture. In 1975, with the Kommando Holger Meins, attack on the German embassy in Stockholm; instead of the demanded release of prisoners, there were four deaths. Twenty years in maximum-security prison, twelve hunger strikes. Released in 1995. Starting in 2000, work in Brazilian favelas focusing on solidarity economy and the Theatre of the Oppressed. Since 2012, Lutz Taufer has lived in Berlin and served on the executive board of Berlin’s Weltfriedensdienst (world peace service). His autobiography “Über Grenzen – vom Untergrund in die Favela” (crossing borders – from the underground to the favela) was published in 2017.

Carmen Roll
Born in Attendorf in 1947, studied social pedagogy in Heidelberg. Active in the SPK since 1971. Co-defendant in the SPK trial on charges of participation in a criminal organisation (Article 129), she managed to flee. She joined the RAF, lived in illegality and was arrested together with Thomas Weisbecker (deceased) in March 1972. After four years in prison for membership in two criminal organisations (SPK and RAF), she was released from Stuttgart-Stammheim in 1976. She moved to Trieste, Italy and, as a nurse and social worker, worked there together with the Italian psychiatrist Franco Basaglia to dissolve the large psychiatric clinics in Italy, later worldwide on behalf of the WHO. Today she advises cooperatives and communal health centres on creating macrostructures. Here, for the first time, she talks about her own life story in front of the camera.

Karl-Heinz Dellwo
Born in Oppeln in 1952, was a commercial trainee, seaman, relief driver, among other things. In 1973, he was a squatter in Hamburg and was sentenced to a year in prison for it. Afterwards active in various committees against isolation torture. As a member of the RAF (Kommando Holger Meins), in 1975 he took part in the occupation of the German embassy in Stockholm, for which he was sentenced. After twenty years in prison, of which he spent a total of more than twelve months on hunger strike, he was released in 1995. Karl-Heinz Dellwo lives in Hamburg and works as the commercial consultant for a start-up company and as director of the Laika publishing house. His critical analysis of the ‘concept of the urban guerrilla’ appeared in 2007 in his book “Das Projektil sind wir” (the projectile is us).

Ewald Goerlich
Born the son of a specialist physician in Reutlingen in 1949, studied Physics and Mathematics in Heidelberg und Stuttgart, later Medicine in Algiers and Paris. In the SPK, he assumed the function of a therapist in the individual and group agitation. Goerlich was active in the SPK’s flyer and agitation work in Heidelberg. After ten months in remand on charges of participation in a criminal organisation (Article 129), in 1972 he managed to flee to Algeria, where he received political asylum. Then he lived illegally in France. In 1979, he turned himself in to the police in Paris. His trial was resumed in Karlsruhe at the end of the 1970s. He was sentenced to time served on remand. Since then, Ewald Goerlich has lived as a cardiologist in France.

Marieluise Becker-Busche
Studied Law in Heidelberg and, together with her then-husband Eberhard Becker (deceased), founded the law firm Laubscher-Becker-Becker in Heidelberg, which first took on political mandates and criminal cases later on. After her husband was excluded from the SPK proceedings, she represented several accused SPK clients. During the proceedings, Becker joined the RAF. Later, Marieluise Becker-Busche joined Hans-Christian Ströbele, Otto Schily and others as the sole female attorney for the Bader-Meinhof Group in the Stammheim proceedings. Later, she worked as a criminal defence attorney; in the meantime, she is an attorney for family law.

Hans Bachus
Born in Königsberg in 1942, started studying Medicine in 1967 and later Law in Heidelberg. In October 1970, he joined the SPK and was active in the photo technology working group. In spring of 1971, he left the SPK and offered himself as key witness to federal prosecutors. His testimony led to several major raids, indictments and the arrests of eleven SPK members. Then he trained as a photographer and worked as a photography consultant and later as a self-employed photographer.

Alfred ‘Shorty’ Mährländer
Born in Berlin in 1942, trained as a commercial employee in a teaching materials sales company. At the end of the 1960s, Mährländer joined the Umherschweifende Haschrebellen (vagabond hash rebels) and later the Tupamaros and the Bewegung 2. Juni (2nd June movement). After a gunfight with a police officer during a ‘logistical mission’ at Dr Wolfgang Huber’s home in June 1971, he was arrested on suspicion of murder. His complicity in the deed could not be proven, but he was found guilty of possessing forged identity documents. Since then he has worked in the backstage area for Berlin concert organisers and for bands on tour.

Edgar Seitz
The later head of the Criminal Investigation Department of Heidelberg’s former police department, took part in the raid by the Wiesenbach Special Commando. Former head of the State Security in Heidelberg, now retired.

Kurt Groenewold
Attorney since 1965, criminal defence lawyer especially in political criminal proceedings. With his attorney colleague Croissant, he defended several SPK clients and later the accused in the Baader-Meinhof trial. Suspected of taking part in and founding an information system between the prisons of the imprisoned RAF members, Groenewold was excluded from the proceedings and disbarred. Later this ruling and his disbarment were rescinded. Founder of the magazine “Strafverteidiger” (criminal defence lawyer). Kurt Groenewold is currently working on a lexicon of political criminal trials.

Wilhelm Gohl
Presiding judge in the first (1972) and second (1973) SPK trials in Karlsruhe. His court decisions, especially those in political criminal trials, were documented, including in the book “Die Gefahr geht vom Menschen aus” (1976, the danger comes from a person), whose title is a quotation of Gohl’s. After a successful career culminating in his position as a district court president, Wilhelm Gohl is now retired.

Jürgen Schreiber
Journalist and author (Stuttgarter Zeitung, Frankfurter Rundschau, GEO, Merian, Zeit-Magazin etc.). In spring 1972, he and his colleague Reiner Wochele wrote an article in the Stuttgarter Zeitung ‘Aus dem sprachlosen Gefängnisalltag des Dr. Huber’ (from the speechless everyday prison life of Dr Huber). Schreiber became known for, among other things, his research for the book “Ein Maler aus Deutschland” (a painter from Germany), in which he traces the tragic entanglements of the family of painter Gerhard Richter during the Nazi era.

Dagmar Welker
Born in Heidelberg in 1943, photographer, primarily on the editorial board of the Rhein-Neckar- Zeitung. The events around the SPK are documented in her photographic work. She permitted us unlimited access to her extensive photo archive.

Antonella Pizzamiglio
Lives as a photographer in Italy, became known for fashion and advertising photography. For the group around Franco Basaglia, she documented the dissolution and transformation of earlier large psychiatric clinics in Italy, Greece and Albania. She is currently represented in a permanent exhibition on the former clinic grounds in San Giovanni, Trieste, with photos showing the closing of the psychiatric facility on the Greek island Leros, which she accompanied from 1989 onwards. These pictures recently drew renewed attention because the former psychiatric grounds on Leros became a registration centre for refugees. (Realistfilm)

Production Gerd Kroske. Production companies realistfilm (Berlin, Germany), Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (Potsdam, Germany). Written and directed by Gerd Kroske. Director of photography Susanne Schüle, Anne Misselwitz. Editing Olaf Voigtländer, Stephan Krumbiegel. Music Klaus Janek. Sound design Volker Zeigermann. Sound Johannes Schmelzer-Zieringer, Benedikt Gaussling, Malte Audick. Commissioning editor Rolf Bergmann.

World sales Deckert Distribution


1989: Cassiber (30 min.), Leipzig im Herbst / Leipzig in the Fall (50 min.). 1990: La Vilette (52 min.), Kehraus / Sweeping (28 min.). 1991: Kurt – oder du sollst lachen / Kurt – You Shall Laugh (30 min.). 1994: Vokzal-Bahnhof Brest / Terminus Brest (91 min.). 1997: Kehrein, kehraus / Sweep it Up, Sweep it Down (70 min.), Galeria (101 min.). 2000: Der Boxprinz / The Boxing Prince (97 min.). 2004: Autobahn Ost / Highway East (90 min.). 2006: Die Stundeneiche / The Our Oak (60 min.), Kehraus, wieder / Sweep it Up, Again (100 min.). 2007: Wollis Paradies / Wolli in Paradise (60 min.). 2008: Schranken / Bounds (95 min.). 2012: Heino Jaeger – Look Before You Kuck (120 min.). 2014: Striche ziehen / Drawing a Line (96 min.). 2015: Grenzpunkt Beton / Circuit End Point (20 min.). 2018: SPK Komplex / SPK Complex.

Funded by:

  • Logo Minister of State for Culture and the Media
  • Logo des Programms NeuStart Kultur