Postcard from... Berlin


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The Independent Online

His brutal gunning down of an innocent Berlin student sent shock waves across Germany and inspired a 1960s generation of under-30s to rise up and rebel against their once-Nazi parents.

The 26-year-old student was Benno Ohnesorg, a father to be. His killer was a West Berlin policeman called Karl-Heinz Kurras. On the evening of 2 June, 1967, Kurras used his service pistol to kill Ohnesorg with a shot to the head fired from nearly point-blank range during violent left-wing protests over the visit of the Shah of Iran to the city.

For the left, Kurras became a national symbol of “fascist oppression”, not least because, as a result of a police cover-up, he was never convicted for  the shooting.

The mystery surrounding him deepened in 2009 when it emerged that the self-confessed weapons junkie had for years worked in West Berlin as an informant for communist East Germany’s Stasi secret police. Kurras’s secret police file showed, however, that after Ohnesorg’s killing, the Stasi dropped him.

His former Stasi minder claimed in 2009 that Kurras’s actions were a mystery to him and that East Berlin never asked him to carry out the killing. Theories have since abounded that Kurras was operating independently and believed that by shooting Ohnesorg he would help destabilise West Germany. Or was he ordered to do it? We may never know.

Kurras, it emerged this week, died last December, taking his secrets to the grave.