Friday, May 29, 2009


In 2002, British viewers of the BBC put Winston Churchill, Princess Diana and 19th century engineer Brunel at the top of their list of national heroes. Then,, last year, Russian viewers of Moscow’s “Rossiya” channel offered Aleksandr Nevsky, Stolypin and Stalin as their favorite national heroes.

I was reading an article about only what could be termed Russian Exceptionalism when I read the above paragraph...I spewed coffee all over. I wonder what the world would think if a listing like that had been made for Germans and - forgive me German readers, truly - it had come out Arminius, Frederick the Great and Hitler?

Speaking of German What-if's and of a great deal better taste:

When Benno Ohnesorg was shot on June 2, 1967 by a policeman in West Berlin during a demonstration against the Shah of Iran, the young German student became a martyr for a generation of left-wing activists. The killing triggered the radicalization of the mass protest movement in West Germany, which directed its anger against the police, the government and the conservative establishment. The poignant image of a woman cradling Benno Ohnesorg's head as he lay dying on the ground became etched in Germans' minds. But now it has emerged that the police officer who pulled the trigger was actually a spy working for the Stasi, East Germany's dreaded secret police. The revelation has stunned Germans and thrown a whole new light on Germany's past.

A researcher working for a government agency that manages the old communist regime's secret police records stumbled across the new information as she was carrying out research on another project. The former West Berlin cop, Karl-Heinz Kurras, has a bulging Stasi file of some 7,000 pages. Kurras, it turns out, was a member of the East German SED Communist Party as well as an active Stasi agent. He joined the West Berlin police at the age of 22 in 1950, but five years later he switched sides and went to the authorities in East Berlin. Kurras wanted to move to East Germany but he was persuaded to stay with the police in West Berlin and spy for the Stasi under the cover name of "Otto Bohl". For years, Kurras delivered sensitive information about Allied soldiers and police officers to his controllers in East Berlin. According to government officials, he was rewarded handsomely for his services. One payment alone in 1966, for instance, came to 4,500 German marks, worth just over $1000 at the time.

So what-if "Bohl" is unmasked by accident by the East German government. What would the impact be? There's a news story about it here. I am a little unconvinced that it would derail the student movement as it was. There was plenty of gunpowder laying around and something was going to light that boomski.

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