The activist in court

Jan Birk committed trespass. The house where the 63-year-old man broke the trespass is the atomic bomb depot in Büchel in the Eifel. There are 20 tactical nuclear bombs on the airfield, probably of type B-61. The fact that they are there is proven, we do not know more precisely, because the German government does not give exact information about the NATO nuclear weapons stored in underground silos on the base.

Entered the military area

Jan Birk, together with 16 other peace activists, entered the military compound on 30 April 2019. They have cut barriers and displayed banners calling on the government to make Germany free of nuclear weapons and to disarm it. You thus to disturb the operation of the air force squadron 33 of the Bundeswehr. In the so-called emergency, this has the task of dropping the atomic bombs where the NATO leadership wants to hit the enemy. So, according to current scripts, for example, in Moscow. Germany’s obligation to participate in a nuclear war is called “nuclear participation” in NATO wording. The PR narrative underlying this expression has often been criticized.

Jan Birk gets up at the end of the trial and tells the judge: “I come from Schleswig Holstein, I was born in Oldenburg, which is the German translation of the originally Slavic name Starigrad.“Then he sums up his CV: school visits in various German states and at the German school in Paris, agricultural studies at the University of Kiel, semester abroad in Japan, community service in elderly care, two years of development work with the Ecumenical Peace Service Eirene in Niger and finally since 1989 work in the environmental office of the city of Preetz in Schleswig Holstein and numerous honorary positions in trade unions and agriculture.

Responsibility for the community

And further to the judge: “Why am I telling you this? On the one hand, I would like to make it clear to you which Vita has led me to believe that peaceful coexistence of peoples is possible. On the other hand, I would like to make it clear to you that I am convinced that every person – and I too – bears a personal responsibility for our community and for the future. And that I accept this responsibility.”

In Germany, all surveys have shown for years that a large majority of people do not want to have nuclear weapons in the country. In Switzerland, this political will would probably be enforceable by means of the referendum, but Germany does not know any direct democracy at federal level. In addition, Germany is not sovereign in terms of war and military. Nuclear weapons and their use are under NATO command in the so-called emergency. For decades, the German government has ignored all political efforts to remove nuclear weapons. All attempts by the legislature to make Germany free of nuclear weapons – most recently in 2010 with the approval of all parties – have obviously failed due to the US veto.

Packaging artists in government

This has been the case since the Second World War, that is, since the Occupation Statute of 1949, the Troop Statute of 1951 and the Residence Agreement of 1954. With the effort to cover this fact with legal gibberish, German governments from Bonn to Berlin have proven themselves to be true packaging artists.

Street protests against German rearmament have been a tradition since the 1980s, when the peace movement opposed the deployment of US missiles carrying nuclear warheads. The campaign “Büchel is everywhere! atomwaffenfrei jetzt " was awarded the Aachen Peace Prize in 2019. But it is only a few brave people who go to Büchel to protest the military exercises, which they call” preparing for nuclear war.” Jan Birk is one of those few.

Appeal to the Basic Law

He told the judge that with the atomic bombs in Büchel, the government was violating the German Basic Law and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Therefore, he feels obliged to civil disobedience for reasons of conscience:

“I bought a bolt cutter and went to Büchel. My intention was to disrupt the activities of the Bundeswehr as effectively as possible, eliminating any action that would cause physical harm to another person.“He told the soldiers at the military airfield:” We do not want to be defended at any price – that is, at the price of our own destruction and at the price of the uninhabitability of parts of this earth.“It must be clear to everyone that there is nothing to defend after the use of nuclear weapons.

One Trillion dollars for retrofitting

The Campaign for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which is backed by 500 organizations worldwide, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017, and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons entered into force on 22 January 2021. But it has only symbolic power, because the nuclear powers and the NATO states have not signed this treaty. And after the US decision to spend $ 1 trillion on” updating " its nuclear arsenal over the next three decades, the US has decided to spend $ 1 trillion on nuclear weapons. 1 trillion $), nuclear rearmament goes into the next phase of escalation.

A total of 16 people took part in the action with Jan Birk in April 2019. Characteristic of all is that they trust in law and order. At some point on the way through the instances, they hope, a German court will have to recognize the legitimacy of the resistance to nuclear war. Jan Birk has completed a course in nonviolent communication. On the phone, he tells me: “I tried as much as possible to approach the judge.“He describes the atmosphere in the courtroom as surprisingly friendly. The judge had turned, and even the prosecutor had conceded Birk “noble goals”.


At the end of his plea, the defendant quotes Immanuel Kant: “Act in such a way that the maxim of your will could at any time simultaneously apply as a principle of general legislation.“And he concludes with Luther’s” I stand here and can’t help it.“The judge sentences the man for trespassing to 30 daily rates of 30 euros each. Jan Birk will appeal.

“I grew up between bookshelves,” he tells me later on the phone. His Childhood was a little nomadism. The father worked at IBM and often had to change places of work. A family in whose past in the 20th century all cvs could be found from left to right. Birch’s brother studied Sinology in China and married a Jewish rabbi. One thing in particular impressed him in Büchel:

“That people from all over Germany, most of whom I did not know before, come together there to protest against the nuclear war.”

When I ask him what historical figures were role models, he is the first to mention Lev Tolstoy. Which is not amazing. The great Russian writer and Christian preacher against the war would probably be one of those who go to Büchel with a bolt cutter today.