It was called “the shot that changed the republic.”
The killing in 1967 of an unarmed demonstrator by a police officer in West Berlin set off a left-wing protest movement and put conservative West Germany on course to evolve into the progressive country it has become today.
Now a discovery in the archives of the East German secret police, known as the Stasi, has upended Germany’s perception of its postwar history. The killer, Karl-Heinz Kurras, though working for the West Berlin police, was at the time also acting as a Stasi spy for East Germany.
It is as if the shooting deaths of four students at Kent State University by the Ohio National Guard had been committed by an undercover K.G.B. officer, though the reverberations in Germany seemed to have run deeper.
“It makes a hell of a difference whether John F. Kennedy was killed by just a loose cannon running around or a Secret Service agent working for the East,” said Stefan Aust, the former editor in chief of the weekly newsmagazine Der Spiegel. “I would never, never, ever have thought that this could be true.”
Germany – as a nation – left a deep impression on me with its capacity for introspection, and it’s something I missed when we left. My understand is that Germany has become less so these days, but my connection to the country is almost non-existent now, and I could be wrong. In any event, I’m very much looking forward to the resulting conversation. If you’re interested in more, I suggest Der Spiegel (in English).