The course of Germany’s political life took a lame twist on the night of 2 January 1976, when, dressed as fishermen, members of the Verfassungsschütz (Federal Ministry for the Defense of the Constitution), at the urging of the Bundesnachrichtendiesnt (German Federal Security Service), installed in a hut standing at the edge of the woods outside of Overath-Marialinden by Cologne – the hut where Klaus Traube was lodging – a battery-operated transmitter about the size of a five-mark coin. The bugging operation carried the code name, “Object Müll.” At the time, the governing coalition in Germany was a fairly paranoid, 100% proponent of nuclear energy, and government authorities suspected that Traube – the executive director at Interatom heading the SNR 300 nuclear reactor project – had contacts with terrorists and leftist political organizatons. The accusations turned out to be completely bogus, and in 1978, once news of the illegal surveillance operation captured headlines, Bundesinnenminister (German Secretary of State) Werner Maihofer was forced to step down from his cabinet position.
For Klaus Traube, the bugging incident revived brutal memories. At the age of seventeen, shortly before the end of WWII, he had been freighted to a concentration camp by the Nazis. Although Traube has never gone so far as to trace any similarities between the practices of the Hitler regime and those of the post-Krieg government in Bonn, he does harbor an extreme dislike for secret services. He relates, “After the bugging episode, my social outlook took a big turn to the left.”
Still, if Klaus Traube were to write a short portrait about himself today, he would “leave out all that old junk,” instead devoting the space to his fresh work on such themes as “automobile mania” and the “nuclear power phase-out.”
“After the bugging episode, my social outlook took a big turn to the left.”
But we have chosen this other course, for “the making of Professor T.” is a part of the history of the German Federal Republic, to be located under the subchapter: “West Germany’s Ecological Crisis.”
Before becoming a director at Interatom, Klaus Traube had been employed as a nuclear reactor specialist at both AEG in Germany and at General Dynamics in San Diego. Following the bugging incident, he became the Director of the Institute for Communal Energy Economy at the University of Bremen (from 1990 to his retirement in 1997), where he championed energy solutions that neither made use of nuclear fuel nor used fossil fuels to any excess. His large scope of publications range from accounts of energy use price models, to “Growth or Asceticism,” to “Phase-out Scenarios,” to the “Plutonium Economy,” to “Chernobyl and its Consequences,” and finally to “Auto Traffic 2000.” More than 40 technical/scientific articles have secured Traube’s reputation as a scientist, making him one of the energy sector’s most valuable information resources. His analysis of CO2 pollution was used as the official scientific reference by the German parliament.
Today, Klaus Traube maintains that the Red/Green German coalition, during the nuclear phase-out talks, is much too ready to make compromises. But to his mind it is even more scandalous how the coalition so easily accommodates the notions of Gerhard Schröder, “the Chancellor of Cars,” and allows German automobile makers every excess of horsepower and drivers on the Autobahn every ecstasy of speed.
Klaus Traube’s long anger has remained young due to the ecological deafness of the majority of parliamentarians. The horror vision of a “nuclear state,” one that dismisses all democratic rights in order to shelter a dangerous and inhumane technology – this horror vision, which he and his friend and colleague, Robert Jungk, saw looming on the horizon, has thankfully not become a reality. This triumph has many reasons. Today, we can honor and shake hands with one of them.
English translation: Craig Reishus