Once upon a time there was a man who thought he was king and his subjects had to obey him. Among the subjects, however, there was a man who wanted to protect his people from the orders of the Man who thought he was king and whose decrees at times were reckless and dangerous. And when the man who thought he was king once again had one of his nuclear intoxications, the man who wanted to protect his people rose up and … Readers from Bavaria have already guessed who we are talking about, because what sounds like a fairy tale was an unpleasant reality in the 1980s. We are talking about the autocratic Bavarian prime minister Franz-Josef Strauß and Hans Schuierer, the undaunted county manager of County Schwandorf.
People like Hans Schuirer base their actions on values they hold. People like Strauß have values as well. Near the village of Wackersdorf these values collided. The nuclear reprocessing plant, the bone of contention between the prime minister and the county manager, was never built.
On June 6, 1989, the Bavarian Ministry of the Environment announced that there would be no nuclear reprocessing plant at Wackersdorf, thereby ending a state of emergency in the Upper Palatinate region of Bavaria that had lasted for years. Helicopters tossed teargas canisters at people who had never participated in a demonstration but now simply wanted to protect themselves and their homeland. For the first time in the history oft he Federal Republic of Germany, the police used the dreaded CS teargas (even against children), which the US military had stopped using in Vietnam after international protests. There was a war; three people died, hundreds were injured.
To stand your ground against violence from above takes enormous strength, a strength you cannot muster alone. The popular resistance in the woods around the Wackersdorf site was supported by Hans Schuierer, the county’s top politician. The upright county manager refused to issue a building permit, demonstrated along with his wife Lilo and supported the protesters in constructing their makeshift village. All this amounted to treason. With its conservative majority the Bavarian government managed to pass a „Lex Schuierer“ (Bavarian Administrative Code, sec. 3 b), which enables the State to overrule the office oft he county manager. Schuierer himself, a member of the opposition Social Democrats, was to be impeached. The proceedings lasted for four years before they were stayed by the Regensburg regional court.
Hans Schuierer had become a symbolic figure. Trained as a bricklayer, he was nobody’s fool. Franz-Josef Strauß accused him of „sabotage“ and told him the nuclear reprocessing plant was „no more dangerous than a bicycle wheel factory“.
In 2005 Hans Schuirer was awarded Germany’s highest civilian medal, the Bundesverdienstkreuz. In 2011 he was made a honorary citizen of Schwandorf, a town near Wackersdorf. In 2014, we are honored to give him the Nuclear-Free Future Award for Lifetime Achievement.