It was late in the evening of September 26, 1980 when a bomb exploded in the midst of the crowd at the main entrance of the Munich Oktoberfest at 10:19 p.m. It was hidden in a wastebasket. The effects of the bomb are terrible: eight people are killed immediately, five succumb to serious injuries in the next few days, and more than 200 other people are wounded. A family loses two children. Another victim lies in the clinic for a year and is operated on 16 times.
Even decades after the worst terrorist act in German post-war history, the events are still present among those affected. »My clients suffer psychologically, and that increases every year when the Oktoberfest comes. A client leaves the city during this time. For them the wound has not healed. You and the other clients still want to know who it is thanks to them that their lives have been destroyed or impaired, «says Werner Dietrich, who represents some of the victims as a lawyer and has campaigned for the investigation to be resumed.
Because the investigations into the Oktoberfest attack shed a bright light on the conditions in the Federal Republic of Germany in general and in Bavaria in particular: the judiciary and the police are blind to the right eye – a line of tradition that continues until the NSU murders.
The alleged assassin – Gundolf Köhler, a 21-year-old geology student from Donaueschingen, was also killed in the bomb explosion. He was a supporter of the Wehrsportgruppe Hoffmann, a neo-Nazi paramilitary organization that was banned in 1980. Initially, the investigations are also going in this direction: on September 28, 1980, two days after the attack, the then Attorney General Kurt Rebmann said at a press conference: “According to the investigations so far, the 21-year-old geology student Gundolf Köhler from Donaueschingen comes in as the perpetrator Consideration. He was killed in the attack. We do not assume that Köhler acted as a sole perpetrator, the investigations have shown that Köhler was a member of the military sports group Hoffmann. “
It is unclear whether Köhler was really a member, the leader of the military sports group, the graphic artist Karl-Heinz Hoffmann, denies this to this day. What is certain, however, is that Köhler was at least an active sympathizer of the paramilitary group. So there was an exchange of letters between Köhler and Hoffmann in 1976, which also included establishing a local group in Donaueschingen. In addition, Köhler was recorded as an active supporter in the card index of the military sports group in 1977 and 1979. According to a note from Hoffmann on the 1979 card index, Köhler had participated in two exercises.
Still, the investigation continues in a completely different direction. Now Gundolf Köhler is seen as a lone perpetrator who detonated the bomb not for political reasons, but out of lovesickness and frustration. This version is valid for 30 years. At the time of the attack, there was a federal election campaign, and the Bavarian Prime Minister Franz Josef Strauss had dismissed the Hoffmann group as harmless weirdos after the 1980 ban. Strauss wanted to distinguish himself in public as a security politician against the left. Right-wing violence did not fit into his worldview.
Investigations in this direction were not carried out, and here too the parallels to the NSU murders can be seen. Lawyer Werner Dietrich campaigned for the resumption of the proceedings in 1983 and 2008, initially in vain. There were no longer any important pieces of evidence in the evidence rooms. The BR journalist Ulrich Chaussy has also researched for years. His conclusion: To this day, central questions about the most momentous attack in German history have not been clarified. One could say nothing at all because the investigative activities had been blocked by the authorities in various ways, above all by the Bavarian state security chief Hans Langemann.
Only on the 30th anniversary of the attack in 2010 did Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann speak of a right-wing extremist motive for the assassin. And the state government has long refused to provide the victims of the attack with comprehensive financial support. Although the Free State had made aid funds available as early as 1980, the majority of the victims were left empty-handed.
Due to the persistence of Dietrich and Chaussy, the public prosecutor finally resumed the investigation in 2014. According to the Federal Prosecutor’s Office in Karlsruhe, within five and a half years, around 770 traces are processed, more than 1,000 interrogations carried out and over 300,000 pages of files viewed. However, no specific information relevant to criminal law was found. In July of this year, the investigations into the Oktoberfest attack 40 years ago were finally stopped.