Heinz Kluncker

For Heinz Kluncker, a young boy in Nazi Germany, the evils of that regime came through to him in the form of being forbidden to listen to foreign radio stations.

"I loved jazz, but I could not listen because you were not allowed. If they caught you listening to a foreign radio station--there was no jazz in Germany--they would kill you. So if you wanted to listen, you had to listen with headphones," Kluncker says.

As Kluncker grew older, Nazi ideology came closer to home and, and he became an opponent of the government. Kluncker says he did not accept Nazi ideology and disliked the marching exercises required of all youth in the Third Reich.

"As a young man. I was thinking why so many grown-ups believed in the Nazi ideology and why do your parents not believe. And why is someone in your family in prison. And, as I'm told, my mother was tortured by the Gestapo. And when she told me this, I was in the army-we had a draft army during the war. And I says, `I see no reason to defend this system with a weapon,'" Kluncker says.

So Kluncker deserted the German army in 1944 and escaped to the United States, where he remained in an prison camp until the end of the war. After the war Kluncker returned to his homeland, where he became an official of West Germany's Social Democratic Party and halped start labor unions.


Now an international labor leader, Kluncker is spending the semester at the Kennedy Schol as the first Jerry Wurf fellow. Kluncker, who hails from Stuttgart, is conducting a seminar series on international labor issues. The study group will analyze various labor issues--including deregulation and bargaining--and the relationship between worker organizations in the East and West.

"There was a need to have a medium of contact among workers to tell people in Russia that we are a majority of German people in favor of creating peace, but we do not agree with their political structure--we are not in favor of a communist dictatorship," Kluncker says.

There is a specific need in the West to contact--and to exchange experiences with--the grassroots of the people. Labor is a good instrument among both sides to create contacts among people," Kluncker says.

Kluncker has not limited his work to Germany. He has traveled throughout Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia and South America to organize unions in all trades. He was active in Poland's Solidarity movement and has visited Turkish prisons to support jailed union activists.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, Kluncker served as acting president of the International Union Association, an organization of national unions, and he is currently honorary president of Public Services International, a free-world labor organization. Kluncker has also been a leader in the International Labor Organization, representing the labor view in conferences which draw representatives from labor, management, and government.

Kluncker also says that his stay in Cambridge will give him the chance to meet others who will "share their feelings and understandings [with me] about certain world problems, and I can, if they want, give my practical experience on issues of labor concern."

Kluncker calls his semester stay at the IOP an "amazing experience" that will give him the opportunity to reflect and to learn. "From time to time, you get used to the system you live with," he says. "And you don't have time while you are working hard to think over, 'Are you in the right direction? Why is this so? And why not?"

"And this opportunity gives you the opportunity to analyze where you are and to think again where you want to go and how to reach your objectives," Kluncker says.