Was the Stasi Involved in RAF Murders?

The Wall Street Journal has raised a few eyebrows with this piece, in which they suggest that the Stasi had a role in the Herrhausen and Rohwedder assassinations, which are usually attributed to the RAF:

According to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, the murders of Mr. Herrhausen and others attributed to the Red Army Faction bear striking resemblance to methods and tactics pioneered by a special unit of the Stasi. The unit reported to Stasi boss Erich Mielke and actively sought in the waning years of the communist regime to imitate the Red Army Faction to mask their own attacks against prominent people in Western Germany and destabilize the country.

"The investigation has intensified in recent months," said Frank Wallenta, a spokesman for the Federal Prosecutor. "And we are investigating everything, including leads to the Stasi."

If those leads turn out to be true, it would mean not only rewriting some of the most dramatic episodes of the Cold War, but would likely accelerate a broader soul-searching now under way in Germany about the communist past.

In building a reunified country, many Germans have ignored discussion of the brutal realities of its former communist half. When the former East Germany is discussed, it’s often with nostalgia or empathy for brothers hostage to Soviet influence.

I’m sure the last paragraph will raise a hackle or two, but overall, it’s an interesting piece. A sampling of the German reaction can be found here (G).  The article raises as many questions as it answers, though, including the following:

1.  Did an official give the Wall Street Journal reporter access to still-confidential Stasi files?

2.  If so, why did they pick a WSJ reporter?

a.  Because he asked?*

b.  Because the investigators wanted to reach an international audience? 

c.  Because the officials thought they could rely on the staunchly anti-Communist WSJ to handle the story in a way they would find appropriate? (Note that the WSJ’s right-wing editorial page is generally thought to have little influence on its reporting, which is often critical.  Note also, however, that the paper was recently bought by Rupert Murdoch).

3.   What exactly is the German prosecutors’ theory?

a.  Stasi agents themselves, not RAF members committed these crimes? (DNA evidence puts Wolfgang Grams at the scene of several RAF actions in the late 1980s and early 1990s);

b.  The RAF members who committed the crimes were actually Stasi agents; or

c.  The Stasi provided more intensive weapons and training assistance to the RAF members than was previously thought?

I’d be interested in your thoughts. [h/t Bro.]

* Why has an foreign journalist seemingly been the first to publicize this angle?

One thought on “Was the Stasi Involved in RAF Murders?

  1. It is no secret that the Stasi was protecting, if not cooperating closely, with the RAF. There is evidence that the Stasi knew of (and most likely assisted) the terrorists’ training in Palestine/Jemen in the 1970s. Many terrorists fled to the GDR around 1980s where they were given complete new identities. Thus it wouldn’t come as a surprise if the Stasi was pulling strings in the Herrhausen assassination, and the very questions you raise as to how exactly they were involved will have to be answered by the prosecutors.

    Note that the Rohwedder assassination was carried out in 1991, i.e. at a time where the GDR had ceased to exist, so any (previous) direct involvement of the Stasi in this murder is unlikely, also because Rohwedder probably became a target only in his function of head of the Treuhandanstalt.


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