Something unusual happened over the last several days. Probably hasn't made it much to the English language press, but it's all over the German press.
It turns out that history wasn't quite what it seemed...
Let's go back a few years to Berlin, back to 1967. To be exact, June 1967. The Shah of Persia came to Berlin and was met by fairly large-scale protests, led by Iranian communists who found supporters amongst the various student radicals of the day. He had come to Berlin, among other things, to see the "Zauberflöte".
On 2 June 1967, one student, Benno Ohnesorg, was shot at close range and killed by Karl-Heinz Kurras, a "Kriminalobermeister", which would basically be the equivalent of a detective, criminal division in the US. The shooting was, as said, at close range, apparently without any particular provocation, and it led to riots over the next several days and, most importantly, it led to a significant radicalization of German students, with the "Bewegung 2. Juni" or "Movement of 2 June" leading the way to the Baader-Meinhoff band that terrorized Germany for the next several decades.
That's the history we know. Or at least know if you're interested in German history.
It's been changed now ... slightly.
It turns out that Kurras wasn't merely a detective, but also a member in good standing of the SED, the East German communist party, and what is euphemistically called an "Inoffizielle Mitarbeiter", or unofficial employee of the East German State Security organ.
Wow. In other words, the catalyst for the radicalization of German university students into extreme left-wing activity was, apparently, instigated by East Germany.
To put it in perspective: this would be like finding out that the Kent State shootings had been organized by the Cubans.
To give you an idea of what sort of effects this radicalization had: the family of Benno Ohnesorg were represented in court by Horst Mahler and Otto Schily. When Kurras was found not guilty - no one could prove that his claim of being attacked by 12 men in a courtyard was false - both men left to go their seperate ways: Mahler went on to form the RAF with the Baader-Meinhof Gang, while Schily went on to become the chief defense attorney for the RAF until he was one of the grounding members of the German Green party, and was a member of the German government under Gerhard Schröder from 1998-2005 as the Minister for Internal Affairs. Mahler was arrested in 1970 for Grand Larceny (he robbed banks to get money for the RAF) and was sentenced to 14 years in jail, defended by Otto Schily. Both men were radicalized by the trial, which they saw as a farce of justice.
Mahler got a new attorney in 1980. His name? Gerhard Schröder, who was later Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. Mahler remained a radical, but took a turn to the right, joining the NPD, a nationalist party, in 2000, leaving them in 2003: he is currently back in jail, disbarred, for repeatedly denying the Holocaust and trying to incite racial hatred.
The body of Ohnsorg was transported to his home in Hannover via the transit lines through East Germany, accompanied by thousands of students from all over Germany: the East German government got the names and addresses of all such students, who were recruited by the dozens to work "inofficially" for the East German government.
It is impossible to understate how the murder of Benno Ohnesorg radicalized a young German populace that was fed up with the existing German system and wanted desperately to remake Germany. Most professors of that day had been professors under the Nazis as well, and while de-nazification largely worked, the kind of mentality that existed in those days was one that did not take lightly to change, even when needed. The German youth of 1967 - who themselves call themselves "68ers" - was dissatisfied with the safe and boring life that was ahead of them, wanting to break free.
But instead of the Summer of Love, as we saw in the US and to a lesser extent in the UK, we now see how the catalyst for change was trumped, created not by the hated system, but rather, most likely, instigated by the East German communists.
This can't be directly proved: there are no protocols of discussions amongst the East German Security Services to do this, nor is there any political documentation that this was ordered by the East German communists.
But the fact that Kurras was, basically, an East German spy, throws a rather different light on it all.
When I studied in Germany in the early 1980s, there were about 40 different left-wing groups at the University of Freiburg. For me, it was great entertainment to attend the U-Asta (independent student union) meetings, where left-wing splinter groups literally spend all of their time denouncing each other, rather than actually doing anything. Hugely entertaining.
When the wall fell, their financing dried up and they dissapated within just a few months. The vast majority had been financed, directly or indirectly, by East Germany, and without the money, the fires of revolutionary spirit turned out to burn a tad less brightly.
The history of Western Europe in the 1960s and 1970s has yet to be really written. Perhaps more exactly: we still haven't found out what actually went on to the extent that we can actually write that history, since so much is turning out rather differently than was expected. The generally accepted history of that time period needs to be significantly reviewed and rewritten to find out exactly how much of the outrage expressed by the radicals was actually not so much outrage, but direct action paid for by the Soviets and their various helpers in Eastern Europe. I dare say that not a few holy cows will have to be gored before the truth finally is revealed...