Accident or Provocation?

May 27, 2009

This NY Times story about the political turning point that came in 1967 raises some very interesting questions.  The shooting of an unarmed demonstrator by a West German police officer energized the European left, especially in Germany, and led eventually to the movement that shifted German politics from a conservative to a progressive stance.  Now, it turns out, the cop (who was acquitted of manslaughter charges and returned to duty) was in fact a sleeper agent for the East German Stasi.

There’s no evidence at this point that the shooting was intentional, or ordered by the East German government.  And it’s certainly the case that a not-insignificant percentage of West Germans had been recruited by Stasi.  Perhaps it was simply a case of an accidental shooting which happened to be committed by a Stasi agent.

However, the public exposure of the officer’s loyalties (for which he is reportedly unapologetic) have caused Germans to rethink the events the propelled the Bonn government to adopt the more leftist, progressive approach for which they are known today.  One wonders if, as seems possible, the shooting was a deliberate act by the Stasi to destablize West Germany.  If so, it would represent the single most efficient operation to effect a political reorientation in history.  One bullet, one life, no blowback, and a seismic shift in West German political attitudes (and by extension, European political attitudes).  Pretty slick.