Deutsche Welle reports:
New information indicates that the killer in the controversial shooting of student protester Benno Ohnesorg in Berlin in 1967 was a West German policeman who was also working for the East German Stasi secret police.
Sifting through reams of old files from the communist state security apparatus in East Germany, two historians, Helmut Mueller-Enbergs and Cornelia Jabs, say they accidently uncovered information that the policeman, Karl-Heinz Kurras, was a so-called unofficial employee of the East German Ministry for State Security (MfS) and a member of the country’s Socialist Unity Party (SED).
According to Der Spiegel,
It was one of the most important events leading up to the wave of radical left-wing violence which washed over West Germany in the 1970s.
Deutsche Welle asks the obvious question:
What would have happened to the German student protest movement of the late 1960s had people known that Ohnesorg’s killer had been a spy for communist East Germany?
My question is, what happens to the group memory of the German Left now that people do know that one of its iconic moments was not all it seemed to be – was in fact the opposite of what it seemed to be?
Perhaps not much. Since the Stasi files were opened there have been plenty of revelations. But that works both ways: the steady drip, drip has worn away the stone of the German Left’s own perception of its history. This resonates with me despite the fact that I did not know who the unfortunate Benno Ohnesorg was. I may have been precocious as a young leftwinger in the 1970s but not even my precocity extended to knowing the names of demonstrators killed by West German police brutality (as it seemed) when I was three years old. But though I might not have known about him, I knew – or thought I knew – there were many like him, all over the world. I knew that those better informed than I, the sort of admirable people whose book-lined shelves showed as background to their talking heads on BBC2, they knew about all such victims. Only it turns out that in this case they did not know the whole story.
I wonder if this revelation will have a similar effect on Germans of a certain age and intellectual profile as the revelation that members of CND such as Vic Allen really were Soviet spies had on me?
(ADDED LATER) Forgive me for coming back to a post after pressing “publish”, but I realise the line above gives the wrong impression, and there is more I want to say. The effect of the revelation that what the right wing press had hinted about CND – that it had been infiltrated – was the truth did not astound me. I had already changed my allegiance. If anything, it made me laugh. Well waddya know: the very thing that I clearly remembered thinking was a smear so ridiculous that not even the Torygraph smearers could really believe it, turns out to be a fact. But that laugh was my last laugh against my old self. From then on I thought of my former self as having been not just misguided but fooled.