Munich bomb sets off fierce debate over law and order
Bonn — The terrorist bomb that killed 12 at Munich's October Festival a week before West Germany's Oct. 5 election has detonated a fierce conflict between two opposing concepts of law and order.
The first view -- favoring strong police investigative and arrest powers -- is championed by conservative chancellor candidate and Bavarian Premier Franz Josef Strauss.
The second view -- subordinating police powers to observance of civil rights -- is championed by the Liberal federal Interior Minister Gerhart Baum.
In the wake of the Munich violence Strauss accused Baum of "belittling terrorism" and of "systematically paralyzing and demoralizing our intelligence services" with his civil-rights curbs on collection of dossiers and coordination between various intelligence services. His press spokesman called Baum a "risk for the internal security of the Federal Republic."
Ironically, however, it was Baum who last January outlawed the small Bavarian neo-Nazi group that is suspected of connection with the Munich attack -- after the law-and-order Bavarian authorities had let the group conduct armed, uniformed "war games" without hindrance for some six years. (The six members of this Hoffmann Military Sport Group who were apprehended shortly after the Munich explosion were released a daylater for lack of evidence.)
The obverse accusation by leftists of the conservatives (and even of the federal law-enforcement system as administered under the Socialist-Liberal coalition) has been that they are "blind in one eye" -- that they have assiduously pursued leftist anarchist extremists while tolerating rightist extremists. Police and investigative agencies argue that such a priority has been necessary, given the surge of lethal leftist terrorist acts in 1977 and the absence of lethal rightist terrorist acts until this year.
Strauss has further reproached the Socialist-Liberal federal government for allegedly "ransoming" some of about two dozen East Germans who, after being released to West Germany from East German jails, are said to have joined rightist radical groups in this country. Baum has demanded that Strauss produce proof of this charge; the government rejected a similar conservative accusation in 1978 that the East German Secret Service was steering rightist extremists in West Germany.
In the pattern of previous Liberal interior ministers, Baum has been a particular target of the conservatives for some time.
Most recently he has been attacked for appearing as an equal on the same public platform with reformed terrorist Horst Mahler -- and for allegedly letting two leftist anarchist terrorists slip out from their Hamburg surveillance net. Earlier Baum was also attacked by conservatives for relaxing the guidelines that had banned hiring of loosely defined "radicals" for any government job, from security to teaching to mail delivery.
The Liberals traditionally pride themselves on defending civil rights, and Strauss's Christian Social Union in particular regards such emphasis as disastrous in the minister who is responsible for domestic security. Baum's predecessor was chewed up in the job and had to retire from politics altogether after only a few years in office.
Another sharp difference in attitudes on law and order was revealed a few days before the bomb went off in Munich. At a political rally in front of the Munich. At a political rally in front of the Munich City Hall, Strauss told the head of the police unit that was protecting the rally to get rid of a banner reading "Stop Strauss." Munich police Vice-President Georg Wolf declined to do so, explaining that there was nothing illegal about the banner -- and Strauss ordered Wolf replaced as head of the unit. This was sdone -- and the incident has been sharply criticized by Social Democrats and Liberals as impermissible political interference with professional police conduct.