Geschichte | Geographie | Wirtschaft | Gesellschaft


Anna Maria Stoffel, 2002 | Basel Stadt, BS


Is there only one History? Maybe. Depending on personal experiences, everyone has their own story. Four people who played a role during the open drug scenes Zurich experienced in the 1990s were interviewed to gain their personal recollections. Each interviewee has their own perspective on why the measures introduced at the open drug scene at the Platzspitz Park failed to prevent a further one from arising. Although everyone saw the benefits of the measures introduced at the following drug scene at the Letten, each interviewee gave different opinions. But ultimately, these measures led Switzerland to devise its current liberal drug approach. In this study, an in-depth look into the two open drug scenes is taken and the measures the municipal and the national governments took to close them. The incorporation of interviewees gives the study a personal touch on how the government succeeded but also failed to provide significant measures.


The paper critically analyzes the differences of the measures introduced at the Platzspitz and the Letten and compares their significance. It also includes the personal recollections of people who helped devise these measures and people who experienced the measures› detriments and benefits. The essay portrays drug addicts› misery, the helplessness of the judicial system, and finally, the teamwork of doctors, politicians, and the police to end the drug scenes.


The technique of Oral History was the main methodology used to obtain information. The first interviewee is Monika Stocker, a former Zurich politician of the political party Grünen, who devised measures with her team to end the Letten drug scene. The second interviewee is Pascal Messerli: the current Basel City president of the political party Schweizer Volkspartei, the party most opposed to the measures. The third, André Seidenberg, a physician who was a pioneer in drug politics and advocated for drug dispensing. The final interviewee is Markus Röthlisberger, an ex-drug addict who consumed at the Platzspitz. Although ‘Oral History’ is useful, it has flaws regarding the credibility of a person’s memories. To prevent this, secondary literature was consulted. (Example of secondary literature: Zürcher’s Needle-Park: Ein Stück Drogengeschichte und -politik by Peter J. Grob).


In the perspective of Stocker, the most significant measure introduced was the 1995 measure: the ‹Kontakt und Anlaufstellen.› Through these centers, addicts received medical aid and a substitute for heroin. Former drug addict Röthlisberger talked about the need for a substitute to prevent further scenes. He strongly criticizes the «Rückführaktion» measure, where all non-Zurich inhabitants were sent back to their municipality. Messerli talked about the reluctance of the SVP and how in retrospect, the SVP is aware of the benefits of the methadone and heroin distribution. A further aspect Messerli discussed was Switzerland’s federal political approach. It is evident; if only one canton acts, the drug scenes will move; it must be a national task. Seidenberg’s perspective, the most necessary measure is access to low-threshold methadone and heroin dispensing. By having this available for addicts, we will prevent further drug scenes. All interviewees appear to see the necessity of having a methadone and heroin dispensing program.


The conclusions display the necessity of methadone and heroin dispensing while also portraying the difficulty of Oral History. Each interviewee has different opinions regarding the measures’ significance. Seidenberg emphasized the need for methadone and heroin. Alternatively, Messerli believes we should not be too reluctant to dispense opioids. The opinions on the “Rückführaktion” varied. Stocker recalled how beneficial it was for everyone, while Röthlisberger said it was detrimental for addicts as the municipalities were unable to aid. Interpreting the interviews was challenging. Nevertheless, it showed me that people’s perspectives on History are shaped by their individual experiences and actions.


The essay shows the importance of discussing drug politics. It is a problem every society faces, and how they handle it is incredibly fragile. We need to continue adapting and improving our approaches to aid addicts.
I wished to have interviewed more people regarding this topic because multiple sides of the story are still missing. I wanted to interview a politician who is still opposed to opioid dispensing or a police officer who had to ensure order at the Platzspitz and Letten. This would have completed the essay and given it a better scope



Würdigung durch den Experten

Dr. Francis Müller

In ihrer Arbeit «Needle Park» setzt sich Anna Maria Stoffel mit der offenen Drogenszene in Zürich der 1990er-Jahre auseinander. Mit der Methode der Oral History führt sie Interviews mit vier Personen durch, von denen drei in unterschiedlichen Rollen im Geschehen involviert waren und einem vierten, der die damals ergriffenen Massnahmen der lokalen Politik kritisch beurteilt. Die Arbeit leistet einen Beitrag zur Frage, wie Gesellschaften mit dem Konsum von bewusstseinsverändernden Substanzen umgehen möchten und wie die Politik auf diese sozialen Tatsachen reagieren soll.






Gymnasium am Münsterplatz, Basel
Lehrer: Daniel Bächli