An unusual Bavarian rebel

Hans Well (born in 1953 in Willprechtszell/Upper Bavaria) was the founder and songwriter of the legendary “Biermösl Blosn”, a traditional bavarian folk trio with subversive lyrics. These days, he is playing with his children as the “Wellbappn”. His usage of bavarian language and traditional bavarian folk music is second to none and always targets authorities, while standing up for a liberal, tolerant and environmentally friendly Baviera.

Hans Well in Munich, August 2019
Christoph Pleininger/Alerta

Mr. Well, you did extensive research about the foundation of the Bavarian Republic1founded after a peaceful revolution in November 1918 for your audiobook “Red Bavaria”. What did you learn about the Republic?

Generally speaking, the people were ready for something new. It was extraordinary if you look at the duration of the revolution. Bavaria is a successful example with a revolutionary government nearly in power for half a year. Also, Bavaria was the first federal state in Germany to introduce women’s right to vote, the eight hour work day or democracy itself. It shouldn’t be forgotten that this was all achieved during a very difficult time period: People were starving in the cold winter’s of the war, the economy was basically non-existent. There were no real structures left nor infracture and to make such a peaceful transition work is a huge feat.

If you look back at this part of the Bavarian history, it is something that the Bavarians could be proud of. But the contrary is the case: it is nearly fogotten.

Nothing would happen if the CSU2conservative Bavarian people’s party, literally “Christian-Social-Union” would acknowledge that. All of the achievments from back then are part of our democracy today, for example the different administrators and politicians from the communities up to the parliament. This system hsa become undisputely established. It is nothing but arrogance when the Bavarian governor Marks Söder does not mention the name Kurt Eisner3socialist and founder of the Bavarian Republic. He was assassinated in February 1919 during the 100th anniversary festivities of the Bavarian Republic. I could have thrown up in disgust. It was the second assassination of Eisner.

During the student movement in the 1960s, you went to a college in Munich. On the other hand, you grew up in a very big family in the country side. How did you experienec this time?

There were a lot of demonstrations against the Emergency Law and the classes got suspended. The teachers told us: Educate yourself and go to the demonstrations. We listened to the speeches and it didn’t matter how political you had been or not, you knew what this was all about. It became obvious that a too strong state can be dangerous and in Germany, we got to know that the hard way. There must be a certain balance in society.

The demonstrations you mentioned all took place in Munich. How did the people react in the countryside?

Well, the farmers and people said: Up against the wall and shoot them! (laughs) That used to be a christian attitude! I was one of the few people who went to college and that alone was reason enough that people looked at me badly. Words like “intellectual” or “student” were basically insults. But some things started to change. My father was a teacher and on the far-right side, even after 1945. Through the student movement, he realised that if you beat up children or are very strict with them they won’t end up being good human beings. You will get broken people, but what we need is confident and independent-minded people.

Today, a young generation once more is on the streets. This time, it is about the climate crisis. Have you atteneded one of the “Fridays For Future” demonsrations?

Yes, I have been there a few times and I always thought it was very moving. In Munich, the students deliver their speeches on top of an old fire fighters truck. And when the demonstrations starts moving, around twenty students pull the truck along the way, ’cause obviously it shouldn’t consume any diesel! I think that’s charming and every time I see it, I think it’s great. Some of these children are twelve or thirteen years old and the reasons why they are demonstrating can’t be more obvious: It is nothing less than their future! My wife is Indian and I once experienced a monsoon there. If something like that should happen here in Germany, and it will happen eventually, then say your prayers! There won’t be any trees left, no more houses, because they weren’t built for that. That will be the future of our children and now they still might have the chance to weaken the climate change. But if you are governed by people like in Germany who sign the Climate Treaty of Paris and then do fuck all, it is more than understandable that the children go mad at some point.

Biermösl Blosn – Have you already read? (1982)

Have you heard what the mayor said
What would come with the nuclear power plant?
A swimming pool, a golf course and waste disposal park
Trade and business tax many thousands of marks

Have you realised, how they fucked us over?
What have we lost, what have we won?
Now, we all have a lot of money in the bank
For our children but they are all ill

All your life, you’ve been very passionate about the environment. With your brothers, you parodied the Bavarian anthem and caused a huge scandal in the early 80s. What changed so radically in the 70s that the environment became so important?

Mostly, the anti-nuclear power movement which started to get going back then. The reprocessing plant in Wackersdorf was one of the reasons behind it. You started to learn more about it and soon you realised: That can’t be right. It wasn’t about how safe nuclear power plants truly are but the main problem of it all: The nuclear waste. There is no real possibilty to get rid off it. It will still be radioactive in thousand years. Which government will take the responsibilty for this long time? Bavaria takes the easy way out: We won’t take any nuclear waste. At the same time, they run nuclear power plants here but the others should take the waste. That is typical for Bavarian politics. All those opposed to nuclear power organsied themselves in a movement which later also helped forming the Green Party.

You just mentioned Wackersdorf. In 1986, you played against the reprocessing plant at one of the biggest festivals ever in Germany, together with many other famous German musicians. Can you describe the atmosphere that day?

I had never played in front of 100 000 people. It was fantastic. And they thought: Hell no, they are playing music for conservatives, when we started playing a ländler. There were some very sceptical looks in the audience but once they listened to the lyrics, they stood up and cheered. I will never forget that. We were very good at that time and had many lyrics about the topic. One song, for example, parodied choirs with the title “Stand together in the storm” and the end was: “Turn off, turn off/Franz Josef Strauß”4govern of Bavaria from 1980 – 1988, controversial conservative politician. When 100 000 people get so excited it is a fantastic feeling.