Horst Mahler, a former far-left lawyer now doing time in prison for Holocaust denial, has admitted to another strange twist in his head-spinning political career: He worked as an informant for East Germany's secret police -- the Stasi -- from 1967 to 1970.
Mahler has made a point of outraging the German public since the '60s. A former lawyer for the radical-left Red Army Faction (the "Baader-Meinhof gang"), he now belongs to the NPD, Germany's largest far-right party. On Sunday evidence emerged that he was an "inoffizieller Mitarbeiter" (IM), or unofficial collaborator, for the Stasi during three crucial years of his left-wing agitation. He's reportedly admitted to state investigators that the reports are true.
The Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported Sunday that it had documents implicating Mahler. But the Bild am Sonntag is not a neutral player -- the German left in those days marched against Bild as well as its parent company, Axel Springer -- and the Berlin state attorney's office said Monday it had no new evidence. But the left-leaning Berliner Zeitung reported Tuesday morning that Mahler has admitted his collaboration to investigators.
The Benno Ohnesorg Question
Mahler was a prominent figure in West Germany's so-called '68 student movement which was angered by residual Nazism in West Germany and by the government's involvement in the Vietnam War. When a left-wing protester named Benno Ohnesorg was shot dead in 1967 by a West Berlin police officer, students catalyzed around the conviction that West Germany was a "fascist" state. Mahler helped lead the way.
The shot that killed Ohnesorg has long been considered a turning point in German politics. The 1970s saw the rise of the Baader-Meinhof gang and a rash of anti-government terrorism from the radical left. Two years ago a fresh investigation revealed that the West Berlin officer who fired the gun, Karl-Heinz Kurras, worked for the Stasi. The revelation sparked a furious rewriting of Cold War political history, starting with still-unproven speculation that Kurras killed Ohnesorg on orders from East Berlin.
The revelations about Mahler arise from this investigation. One veteran of that era, Gerd Koenen, who's written a number of moderate-minded books about Germany's "red decade," believes Kurras did not receive a direct order to commit murder. But, he says, "the East German government organizations clearly wanted to trigger unrest. In this respect, an agent planted within the ranks of the West German police had to play the role of the agitator and tough cop, if only for reasons of self-preservation."
Mahler, in any case, appears to have handed information about the '68 movement and the RAF's terrorist plans to the foreign-espionage department led by Markus Wolf, the notorious East Berlin spymaster. Rumors about his collaboration have circulated since the 1960s, but concrete evidence has been lacking until now.
Mirko Röder, Mahler's lawyer, responded to the initial revelations by saying to Bild am Sonntag, "If the prosecutors' findings point to him being an IM, I'm surprised how deeply the Stasi were able to infiltrate the political incidents of West Germany back then."