Der Spiegel cover, May 25th, 2009.

Stasi masterminds of West Germany's '68?

Published on 25 May 2009 at 17:04
Der Spiegel cover, May 25th, 2009.

The Der Spiegel headline has sent shockwaves across Germany: “Killing links Left to the Stasi – The truth about the shot that changed West Germany.” Over the last few days, controversy has erupted over a historical detail that may transform perceptions of modern Germany. It has now been revealed that Karl-Heinz Kurras, the policeman who shot dead a student protester, Benno Ohnesorg, in West Berlin on 2 June, 1967, was a Stasi ("Staatssicherheit," or East German secret service) agent and a member of the ruling East German SED party. The death of Ohnesorg proved to be a turning point in the radicalization of the 1968 student protests. This latest revelation “will require us to revise our understanding of recent history,” reports the weekly magazine.

The policeman, whom the supporters of the ’68 movement have long believed to be an incarnation of the oppressive power wielded by the West German government was in fact motivated by socialist beliefs. Today saw the emergence of many questions in the German press: Did the Stasi attempt to radicalize the student protest movement? Or even more improbably: Was the 1968 movement the unwitting instrument of an East German attempt to undermine the government of its western neighbour? There is no evidence to prove that Karl-Heinz Kurras was following Stasi orders. “But this major date in history, which had come to symbolize the dawning of a new Germany with more democracy, more women’s rights and more freedom, has now been tainted with sinister Stasi associations,” reports Der Spiegel.

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