Kohl turns his fire on the Greens

IN THE "German autumn" of 1973, a young revolutionary named Joschka Fischer lent his Volkswagen to a terrorist working for Carlos The Jackal. The car, as he was to learn much later, was used to transport weapons stolen from American barracks in Frankfurt, including the gun that snuffed out the life of a senior politician in 1981.

Mr Fischer gave statements to the police, pleaded his innocence in public as he embarked on a parliamentary career, and thought he had cleared his name by the time he was appointed Environment Minister of the Land of Hesse in 1985. The story ended there.

Until today. For Mr Fischer, the former firebrand, is now a foreign minister in waiting, and his murky past therefore the stuff with which elections are fought. In their desperate struggle to hold on to the reins of power, Chancellor Helmut Kohl's Christian Democrats have Mr Fischer in their sights.

The Greens, the party led by the unwitting gun-runner, are central to opposition plans to unseat Mr Kohl. In the latest opinion polls, the Social Democrats are between four and six points ahead of the Chancellor's Christian block.

The lead represents a swing of between eight and 10 per cent over the result four years ago, but it will not be enough. It is almost inconceivable that Gerhard Schroder, the self-declared Blairite champion of the SPD, might be able to form a government alone after September's general elections. His most likely coalition partners are Mr Fischer's mob. The Greens are expected to net about seven per cent of the votes.

The Chancellor's men have conducted a red scare campaign against Mr Schroder, and tried to appeal to Germans' fear of "criminal foreigners", but all to no avail. The gap has narrowed, but only slightly.

Mud is simply not sticking to Mr Schroder. The suggestion that the coupon- clipping chancellor candidate, widely derided on the left as a capitalist lackey, is in league with crypto-communists is preposterous. And a tough law and order campaign unveiled by Mr Schroder's team last week took the sting out of charges that the new government would be soft on crime, whatever its colour.

The government campaign has therefore been switched abruptly to the Greens, arguably the weak link in the putative Red-Green coalition. And since Mr Fischer is generally seen as the sole guarantor of sanity in a party strangely drawn to loony tunes, he has been drawing most of the fire.

In Christian Democrat election adverts, the Green leader is described as a "street-fighter" who in 1976 had called for the use of Molotov cocktails against the state. More importantly, the Christian Democrats' leader in the Hesse parliament, Franz-Josef Jung, urged Mr Fischer last week to "shed light" on his role in the 1981 murder of the Hesse Economics Minister, Heinz Herbert Karry.

Not that there is much to add to revelations that first appeared in 1985 and were re-heated in the pro-Kohl press at the weekend. Yesterday's Focus magazine, the only important weekly not to have defected to the Schroder camp, gives chapter and verse.

Focus cites official documents to show that Mr Fischer had given his car to a friend named Hans-Joachim Klein in October 1973. Klein is believed to have participated in the kidnapping of OPEC ministers in Vienna in 1975.

There is no suggestion that Mr Fischer knew of the guns in his boot. In the press not sympathetic to Mr Kohl, the Green leader is quoted as saying that Klein, a car mechanic, had been given the Volkswagen to fix the engine, and had inexplicably kept the vehicle beyond the appointed date.

End of story? - Hardly. There are still eight weeks to go till election day.

Club legend Paul Scholes is scared United could disappear into 'the wilderness'
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

HR Advisor - East Anglia - Field-based

£35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: To be considered for this position you will n...

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home