Probe into former West Berlin cop’s Stasi past opened

Amid calls for a fresh investigation, Berlin’s interior senator Ehrhart Körting has opened a probe into the Stasi past of a former West Berlin police officer who infamously shot a student protester in 1967.

Probe into former West Berlin cop's Stasi past opened
Photo: DPA

Speaking in the interior committee of the Berlin parliament on Monday, Körting said he had ordered authorities to reassess Karl-Heinz Kurras’ pension claims and examine his documents at the Office for Stasi Files (BStU).

The authorities “should check to see what proof the Office for Stasi Files has” and what “consequences it could lead to,” Körting said.

On June 1, 1967, Kurras, a West Berlin police officer, shot dead 26-year-old student Benno Ohnesorg during a violent anti-Iran demonstration in front of the German Opera House in Berlin’s Charlottenburg district. The killing made Ohnesorg a martyr and fuelled explosive leftist student protests against what they saw as a repressive state in the following years.

The circumstances of the incident have remained vague through the years. Kurras, now 81 and living in Berlin’s Spandau district, has been twice acquitted of negligent homicide in Ohnesorg’s death, once soon after the shooting in 1967 and again in 1970.

But last week, new evidence emerged showing that Kurras had worked as a spy for former Communist East Germany’s secret police – the Stasi.

The Office for Stasi Files in Berlin claims that Kurras may have been an unofficial agent for the Stasi beginning in the mid-1950s. He allegedly committed to spy on the West German police for the Stasi as an unofficial informant or IM under the pseudonym Otto Bohl. Further documents also show he was a member of the East German socialist party.

Over the weekend, several politicians called for a fresh investigation of the Kurras case in light of the new information.

Former German Interior Minister, Otto Schily, said the new Stasi revelations meant the case had to be “politically and legally re-evaluated.”

“The files require a very precise re-examination,” he said.

The chairman of the interior committee in the Berlin Parliament, Peter Trapp, called for a comprehensive investigation into the possible Stasi past of West German police.

Trapp said it was “unsatisfactory” that former West Berlin police officers had not been examined for a possible Stasi past after reunification in 1990.

“Those who were active as underground agents have to be revealed,” Trapp said.

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Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.