Karl-Heinz Kurras (born December 1, 1927 in Barten, East Prussia, died December 16, 2014 in Berlin) was a Berlin police inspector who served during the Cold War. Kurras is known primarily for fatally shooting unarmed student Benno Ohnesorg during a demonstration on June 2, 1967, outside Deutsche Oper against the state visit of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran. Kurras was acquitted of any wrongdoing in a series of controversial trials, due to which he became a prominent hate figure of the left-wing German student movement of the 1960s as well as the German New Left. They suspected that Kurras was under protection from many right-wing figures (many of whom had served in posts under Nazism prior to 1945) in the West German police and justice system and who were resentful towards the left-wing students. The incident is considered pivotal for the rise of left-wing terrorism in West Germany during the 1970s, culminating with the Movement 2 June and the Red Army Faction.
In 2009, it was revealed that he had also committed espionage for the East German Stasi during the 1950s and 1960s, but due to the publicity Kurras was receiving for his trials, the Stasi cut its ties to him.
Kurras approached the East German communist regime in 1955, expressing a desire to defect. He was convinced to remain in West Berlin and to work as an informant for the Stasi. As a spy he handed over confidential information from the West Berlin police to the East German authorities. He secretly became a member of East Germany's ruling Socialist Unity Party (SED) in 1964.
After he had been acquitted of any wrongdoing in shooting Ohnesorg in 1967, the Federal Court of Justice subsequently ruled that the first court had failed to consider all the available evidence and ordered a new trial. Kurras was acquitted a second time and thus became a hate figure for increasingly radicalized West German Marxists.
In 1971 he rejoined the police force and was subsequently promoted to Detective Chief Inspector (German: Kriminaloberkommissar). He retired from the Berlin Police in 1987.
In an interview in 2007, he defended his decision to use lethal force against Ohnesorg, whom he accused of attacking him. He boasted, "Anyone who attacks me is destroyed. Off. Lights out. That is how you must see that." (German: "Wer mich angreift, wird vernichtet. Aus. Feierabend. So ist das zu sehen.")
Stasi informant revelations
In May 2009, it was revealed that Kurras was an informant for the East German secret police, the Stasi. There is no evidence, however, of a link between the shooting of Ohnesorg and Kurras' espionage activities. When asked about the exposure of his Stasi and Communist past, he stated that he was not ashamed of having been a member of the East German communist party.
In January 2012 an investigation carried out by federal prosecutors and Der Spiegel magazine ruled that the shooting of Ohnesorg was not in self-defence. Newly examined film and photographic evidence also implicated fellow officers and superiors, proving that the West Berlin police covered up the truth in order to protect one of their own. Additionally, medical staff who carried out the post-mortem on Ohnesorg were pressured to falsify their report. However, for reasons of double jeopardy, charges were deemed unlikely to be refiled.
- Uwe Soukup: Wie starb Benno Ohnesorg? Der 2. Juni 1967. Verlag 1900, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-930278-67-1.
- Heinrich Hannover: Die Republik vor Gericht 1954–1995. Erinnerungen eines unbequemen Rechtsanwaltes. Aufbau-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-7466-7053-5 (Aufbau-Taschenbücher 7053).
- Helmut Müller-Enbergs, Cornelia Jabs: https://web.archive.org/web/20150218164655/http://www.deutschlandarchiv.info/download/article/416 Der 2. Juni 1967 und die Staatssicherheit. In: Deutschland Archiv. Zeitschrift für das vereinigte Deutschland. 3, 42, 2009, ISSN 0012-1428, S. 395–400.
- Armin Fuhrer: Wer erschoss Benno Ohnesorg? Der Fall Kurras und die Stasi. be.bra verlag, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-89809-087-2.
- Uwe Soukup, Karl Heinz Roth, Karl-Heinz Dellwo: 2. Juni 1967. Laika-Verlag, Hamburg 2010, ISBN 978-3-942281-70-6. (Bibliothek des Widerstands) (1 Medienkombination: Buch und DVD-Video).
- Sven Felix Kellerhoff: Die Stasi und der Westen. Der Kurras-Komplex. Hoffmann und Campe, Hamburg 2010, ISBN 978-3-455-50145-2.
- Marc Tschernitschek: Der Todesschütze Benno Ohnesorgs: Karl-Heinz Kurras, die Westberliner Polizei und die Stasi. Tectum, Marburg 2013, ISBN 978-382-88312-1-6