I’ve been fascinated by Horst Mahler – who, it has just emerged, may have been a Stasi informant in the 1960s – since I wrote a profile of him for The Times in 2003. The son of a Nazi, he became a socialist lawyer in the 1960s and represented leaders of the West German student movement such as Rudi Dutschke. After its collapse, he founded the Red Army Faction (RAF), the West German left-wing terrorist group, and spent the whole of the 1970s in prison until he was released with the help of another young left-wing lawyer named Gerhard Schröder. Just after Schröder became Germany’s Social Democrat chancellor in 1998, Mahler became a neo-Nazi and represented the far-right NPD. He is now in prison serving a seven-year sentence for denying the Holocaust – a criminal offence in Germany. But what, if anything, does his strange political journey tell us?
Speaking of iconic images of the West German student movement, this is one of the most famous photos in the history of the Federal Republic. The student lying on the ground is Benno Ohnesorg, who has just been shot dead by a West Berlin police officer on 2 June, 1967. The woman cradling Ohnesorg’s head is Friederike Dollinger, at the time a history student and now a schoolteacher in Munich (the taz had a nice story about her a couple of years ago). The students had been protesting against a visit to West Berlin by the Shah of Iran.