Reason Writers Around Town: Michael C. Moynihan on the West German 'Fascist' that Was Made in the East


Writing in The Weekly Standard, Senior Editor Michael C. Moynihan looks at the police murder that helped trigger the 1968 German student movement. Previously believed to have been killed by a "fascist pig," new evidence discovered in East German archives shows that the shooter, Karl-Heinz Kurras, was a longtime agent of the East German secret police:

To future Baader-Meinhof leader Gudrun Ensslin, the shooting demonstrated that West Germany was a "fascist state [that] means to kill us all." Ensslin, a 27-year-old pastor's daughter, provided a tidy apothegm for those who would join terror organizations like the 2nd of June Movement (a tribute to Ohnesorg) and the Red Army Faction: "Violence is the only way to answer violence."

And it is this narrative that has persisted—until last week. According to new documents uncovered by two German researchers, Karl-Heinz -Kurras was not the "fascist" cop of popular indignation, but a longtime agent of the East German Ministry for State Security (Stasi) and a member of the East German Communist party. In a rare moment of justified breathlessness, the ever-excitable German tabloid Bild called the discovery the "revelation of the year."

While there is no evidence that Kurras acted as an agent provocateur in shooting Ohnesorg, it is doubtless true that had his political sympathies—and his covert work for the Stasi—been known in 1967, the burgeoning radical student movement would have been deprived of its most effective recruiting tool. As Bettina Roehl, the journalist daughter of terrorist Ulrike Meinhof, argued in Die Welt, the glut of post-Ohnesorg propaganda helped establish "the legend of an evil and brutal West Germany," while simultaneously minimizing the very real brutality of Communist East Germany.

Read the whole article here.