At 10:19 PM on September 26, 1980, a bomb that had been deposited in a trash can exploded at the main entrance to the Munich Oktoberfest. 13 people were killed and 213 injured. That was 40 years ago, it was the worst attack in the history of the Federal Republic.
The hitman was quickly identified: 21-year-old geology student Gundolf Köhler from Donaueschingen in Baden-Württemberg had detonated the explosive and died in the process. At that time there was no right-wing terrorist attack. And that should last for so long.
Now the journalist Ulrich Chaussy sits in a beer garden in Munich, taps an old edition of his 1985 book “Oktoberfest – An Attentat” and says: “There was already a lot in it.” The 68-year-old employee of Bayerischer Rundfunk is one of two stubborn investigators who always stuck with the case.
The other is the lawyer Werner Dietrich, who represents the victims of the attack. Chaussy first encountered the topic in 1982 when he interviewed Dietrich. Both were annoyed by how quickly the federal prosecutor’s office had decided that Köhler was the sole culprit. “The mechanisms of look away and suppress were fully developed then,” Chaussy says today, “it resembled the NSU.”
The researchers’ attitude: Köhler was a frustrated individual perpetrator. He failed an exam, he couldn’t land with women. And so he drove to Munich with the bomb in his Ford Consul to kill himself and kill as many other people as possible.
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That Köhler had participated in the neo-Nazi “Wehrsportgruppe Hoffmann” did not escape the detectives – according to their report, however, there was no connection with the attack. Was he tired of life? Shortly before that, he had deposited money into a loan agreement for a construction company and found musicians who would start a band with him.
But what was the motive?
Chaussy says, “Koehler was not socially isolated, he had a social life.” The author was amazed when the investigation files were leaked to him. According to witnesses, Köhler’s car had been seen in Munich – with several occupants. More than 40 cigarette butts from six different brands were discovered in the ashtray of the car.
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Witness Frank Lauterjung said he saw Koehler arguing with two men on the scene 30 minutes before the explosion. A witness described how Köhler and another man had an argument just before the explosion. Chaussy recalls, “In this case, nothing has progressed for the next 20 years.”
FRG 1980: The worst RAF terror was over. Shortly before the federal election, Chancellor-candidate Franz Josef Strauss (CSU) divided the country. Right-wing extremist terrorists organized in other European countries and in Germany. But especially in CSU-dominated Bavaria, the enemy was always left behind.
Aid fund for victims
But what was the motive of Gundolf Köhler and possible other perpetrators? “This post is very difficult to read,” says Chaussy. He doesn’t know either. Perhaps chaos must arise to introduce a right-wing dictatorship. “Maybe the attack wasn’t planned that way,” Chaussy says. “I’m sure Koehler didn’t want to die.”
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The investigation, which was only resumed at the end of 2014, ended in July 2020 with the result that Köhler acted out of “extreme right-wing motivation”. No accomplices were discovered and Chaussy no longer expected that.
However, he would like to see a commission of inquiry in the state parliament or the Bundestag with the aim of “exposing the system of the cover-up at the time”. This week, the federal government, the Free State and the city of Munich reached an agreement on an aid fund for the injured and survivors of 1.2 million euros.