My political activities got me into serious trouble in school, especially after my family moved from cosmopolitan Frankfurt to the rather parochial city of Darmstadt. The move had the effect of a cultural shock on me, as I transferred from an integrated school where nearly all of the teachers had far-left leanings to your run-of-the-mill secondary school. After just two days, I decided to quit and re-enrolled at another secondary school in Darmstadt that was named after Georg Büchner, a nineteenth-century writer with something of a revolutionary track record. I immediately set up a branch of the ROTE ZELLE and began to distribute my paper ROTES BANNER. Unsurprisingly, the paper included scathingly critical articles about conservative teachers. The school’s director summoned me and gave me the choice of either suspending circulation of the paper or being suspended from school. As I had no intention to quit doing what I was doing, I had to quit the school. Things hardly got better at Victoria-Schule, my next school. My report card from eighth grade suggests as much. It shows a “5” (“inadequate”) in “conduct.” The thing was, the range for “conduct” only extended from 1 to 5 (rather than using the regular scale of 1 for “excellent” to 6 for “insufficient,” with 1 to 4 being passing, and 5 to 6 being failing grades in Germany). Most girls got a “1,” most boys a “2,” with particularly unruly behaviour earning the student a “3.” No one ever sunk as low as “5” – except for yours truly. Several so-called “class conferences” were convened over my case, associated with the looming threat of being kicked out of this school, too. I was lucky though, because the headmistress of the school was open to leftist ideas and showed some sympathy. Indeed, even some of the teachers were actually sympathetic to my cause.
My performance in eighth grade was nothing to write home about, and the report card that did get sent home shows it. My key interests were extracurricular, as I spent my entire spare time at Communist group meetings or composing leaflets and similar. I simply had no time for school. Why would I? My mind was made up: I was going to become full-time revolutionary, sort of like Lenin.
However, my grades did eventually improve in tenth and eleventh grade. I started doing more for school, and ended up excelling in almost every subject, making me one of the best students at that school. My majors were math and biology, my elective subject was physics. Unsurprisingly, I always scored an “excellent” in social studies, often knowing more about a given issue than the teachers. Not infrequently, classes would turn onto a debating matches between me and the German or social studies teacher.

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