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Socialists' Patients Collective

DisbandedGroup is active.
First AttackMarch 2, 1970: The SPK attempted to blow up a train leading into the Heidelberg city in 1971, however, the police arrested members of the SPK and prevented the bomb from detonating. [1]
UpdatedJuly 19, 2012

Narrative Summary

The Socialists' Patients Collective was the product of a therapy group at Heidelberg University, which Dr. Wolfgang Huber and his wife, Urdula Schaefer, created. Huber believed that his patients' mental disorders was caused by the capitalist system, and that these disorders could only be cured by a Marxist society. After the university attempted to fire Huber, his patients organized the SPK, held protests, occupied the hospital administration offices, and convinced the university to retain him. Thus, Huber was given four rooms to lead and instruct his new organization, but only after a series of blackmail, including collective suicide. [2]

The SPK was made official in 1970, when the group began actively promoting illness as a protest against capitalism and opposing medical doctors as the alleged ruling class of capitalism. The SPK's support base was formed by a revolutionary class organized by sickness, which would be radicalized to struggle against the status quo. This allowed men and women of all socio-economic classes to join the movement while maintaining solidarity with other radical groups. [3]

However, the community was slowly turning against the SPK, despite the group's growth. Due to the city's disapproval of the group, as well as the University's poor opinion of the SPK, funding and meeting space was cut, and the SPK was forced to move its therapy sessions into the homes of its members. [4]

During group therapy sessions, which were designated as "Working Circles", the SPK organized its patients into sessions incorporating discussions around a range of issues, including Marxist theory and explosives. However, once the SPK had grown to a sufficient size and strength, Dr. Huber began to carry out low-scale attacks on government and corporate structures. This led to his arrest in June of 1971, and subsequently, to the group's dissolution. While some members joined the Red Army Faction, others attempted to keep the SPK alive by changing its title to the Information Zentrum Rote-Volks-Universitat (IZRU), which was more of an activist, rather than a terrorist, organization. [5]


  1. Jean-Paul Sartre (Unknown to Unknown): A philosopher and economist, Sartre's ideology was a powerful force behind the creation and continuation of the SPK. While Sartre was not directly involved with the group, he provided many insights about the organization for the press and biographers who would begin to compile more information about Huber and his cause. In addition, Sartre wrote an "Open Letter to the SPK," which was strongly suggested his support for the group. [6]
  2. Dr. Wolfgang Huber (1968 to 1971): Huber, a professor and researcher at the psychiatric-neurological clinic at Heidelberg University, created the SPK out of a therapy group for mentally-ill patients suffering from what he diagnosed as capitalist society. After he was fired from the university for refusing to collaborate with the conservative practices of his peers with the Psychiatric Department, Huber's wife, along with the therapy patients rallied and occupied the University in order to convince the board to retain him. Huber proceeded to expand the group until his arrest in 1971, after which the group was slowly dissolved into comparatively harmless activist groups against capitalism. [7]
  3. Ursula Schaefer (1968 to 1971): Schaefer worked alongside her hudband, Dr. Wolfgang Huber, and was instrumental in rallying the patients under Huber's care into the SPK. Her involvement in the SPK diminished in 1970 and came to an end after her husband's arrest. [8]
  4. Ingeborg Muhler (1973 to Unknown): Muhler was a lawyer in Manheim, Germany along with being an active member of the SPK. After Huber was imprisoned, Muhler inherited his authority for the group and claimed to be the sole practitioner of the group's "pro-illness" original orientation.[9]

Ideology & Goals

The SPK wished to establish a "'free space' for political" theory by construing medical sicknesses as the result of capitalism. Capitalism, Huber emphasized, was a machine that produces a surplus population who are physically and psychologically sick. For society to be cured, it must undergo a fundamental social revolution, violently attacking the bourgeoisie as an intrinsic part of the therapeutic process. Thus, illness was transformed into a weapon against society—a message that is epitomized in many of the SPK's slogans. [10]

"Therapy through violence
Bomb for mental health
Kill for inner peace."

as well as:

"The system as made us sick.
Let us strike the death blow to the sick system."

Citizens and students of all socio-economic classes joined in this movement, aiming to strongly articulate feelings of policial oppression. The group used Heidelberg University in order to target students with their youthful and radical movement, which was a reversal of social reality—"destroy that which is destroying you." [11]

Name Changes

Size Estimates


The SPK was designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and by Germany. 


After Huber was reinstated at Heidelberg University, the SPK used further threats of suicide and self-starvation in order to compel the university to furnish them with money and weapons, including 500 explosives, varying in type. Each working circle had access to the university's resources—electronics for radio transmission, cameras fo photography, wiring for explosives, rooms to practice martial arts, etc. Although many within Heidelberg University criticized the SPK's activity, the group was still furnished with funding, salaries and meeting space until approximately 1971. In effect, the SPK was able to—for a short period of time—transform part of the university into a terrorist-development center by not only using the university's funds, but also allowing other students and mental patients to join the circles. [13]

Geographical Locations

The SPK was concentrated within Heidelberg University, occasionally leaving the campus to carry out bombings in German cities nearby. Once the collective was forced to leave the university, the group moved into the homes of its members, but continued to stay in Heidelberg. 

Targets & Tactics

Huber was able to divide his medical patients into "working circles," an organizational scheme to incorporate discussions around a multiplicity of issues. These included the explorations of Marxist theory, mysticism, radical forms of psychotherapy, the productivist ethic, repressive sexuality and dialectics. These working circles were also designated certain terrorist development activity, including education on explosives, radio communications, photography, surveillance, and self-defense techniques. [14]

The SPK targeted anything the group considered to be affiliated with capitalism, the German government, or corporations. This included highways, railways, government buildings, and state colleges/universities. Each attack would ideally be assigned to one or a few Working Circles, depending on what kind of attack was necessary.[15]

Major Attacks

  1. June 24, 1971: A mysterious shooting at Heidelberg Police station was attributed to both the Baader-Meinhof group or the SPK. (1).[16]
  2. 1972: The Working Circle of Explosives attempted to blow up a train carrying government officials, but the Circle's plans were foiled. (0 killed).[17]
  3. 1974: The SPK set the State Psychiatric Clinic near Heidelberg on fire. (0 killed).[18]
  4. April 1975: The SPK occupied the West Germany embassy in Stockholm. (2 killed).[19]

Relationships with Other Groups

The SPK was often publicly linked the the Baader-Meinhof group, although it was found that all those allegations were false. In reality, the Baader-Meinhof Group and the SPK had similar targets, but different intentions and ideologies, and rarely collaborated. 

After Huber's arrest, many SPK members joined the Red Army Faction, which was a much larger and more successful organization with vaguely similar ideologies.  

Community Relationships

The SPK was publicly denounced by the Heidelberg University, and failed to get mass support from Heidelberg or adjoining cities. Their main support base consisted of the mentally ill, the poor, and the rebellious youth, all of whom were socially rejected. Thus, without any kind of community funding, the group was relatively easily weakened by the local police. 


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  16. ^ Deleuze and Gattari
  17. ^ Baader-Meinhof group
  18. ^ Heathen World
  19. ^ Islamic Terrorism: Myth or Reality

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