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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Motive unknown - German military officer and politician with the Green Party
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: October 1, 1992
Date of birth: March 26, 1923
Victim profile: His longtime companion, Petra Kelly, 44, a founder of Germany's Green party
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Bonn, Germany
Status: Committed suicide by shooting himself the same day
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Gert Bastian (March 26, 1923 - October 1, 1992) was a German military officer and politician with the Green Party.

Born in Munich, Bastian volunteered to fight for Germany in World War Two at the age of nineteen. He served on the Eastern Front being wounded by a bullet in the right arm and in the head by a grenade fragment. He was also hit by American machine gun fire in France. After the war he started a business which failed and he rejoined the military.

From 1956 to 1980 Bastian served in the Bundeswehr or German Federal Armed Forces, retiring as a divisional commander with the rank of Major General.

During this period Bastian's politics changed radically. In the 1950s he had been a member of the Christian Social Union in his native Bavaria. Yet Bastian was also an opponent of the planned stationing of Medium-Range missiles with nuclear warheads in Europe and joined the peace movement.

In 1981 he was the joint founder of a group called "Generals for Peace" set up by the East German Ministry for Public Security.

Bastian was, from March 29, 1983 until February 18, 1987, an elected member of the Greens in the German Federal Parliament. Between February 10, 1984 and March 18, 1986, he was an independent member of Parliament having separated from the Green's Parliamentary group several times over his opposition to the rotation principle for leadership then enforced in the Greens. He was then deselected by the Green Party.

In the eighties Bastien was, together with his partner Petra Kelly of one of the most important partners of the GDR opposition in the West.

Bastian was found dead in Bonn on October 19, 1992 together with Petra Kelly. According to the police report Bastian shot Kelly dead in her sleep with his old service weapon and afterwards killed himself. No accurate time of death could be determined because of the delay in finding the corpses. He was buried in a north Munich cemetery.

It is widely rumored that Bastian shot Kelly to prevent her finding out about his work for the East German Security Services including spying on her.



Lover's Secret Past Seen as Key to Peace Activist's Violent End

A new biography of Greens founder Petra Kelly rules out the 'double suicide' theory

By Marjorie Miller - Los Angeles Times

November 08, 1994

BONN — Petra Kelly died in bed beside an open book--"Letters from Goethe to Charlotte von Stein"--at the hand of her lover and co-founder of the German Greens Party, Gert Bastian. She was asleep when Bastian shot her in the head at point-blank range before killing himself on the stairway outside the bedroom.

Such a violent death for one of the world's best known peace activists, murdered by a 69-year-old retired NATO general known for his gentleness, was so astonishing that some devotees still refuse to believe it two years later.

Well, accept it, friend and fellow activist Sara Parkin writes in "The Life and Death of Petra Kelly" (Pandora, London), which is appearing in bookstores just as the Greens have made a comeback in Germany's Parliament with Kelly's notable absence.

It was not only the powder burns on Bastian's hand that led police to discount the possibility of a third person as the killer, Parkin says. Kelly's bedroom walls were covered with an unbroken pattern of bloodstains, evidence that no third person could have been in the room.

Police at first termed the Oct. 1, 1992, deaths a "double suicide," as if the two had had some sort of pact. There was never any evidence to support such a theory, however, and virtually everyone who knew Kelly ruled out that she would have chosen to die.

"Furthermore," Parkin writes of her activist, media-conscious friend, "even by the most remote of possibilities that Petra should have wanted to end her life, we knew she would not dream of doing so without sending us all (and the press) a fax."

Why, then, did Bastian kill the woman he loved, from whom he was inseparable to the point that people said their names as one: PetrandGert?

Parkin, a former leader of the British Green Party, tries like several German authors before her to answer this question. She has her theories after a year of examining Kelly's life and death, but they remain just that. Bastian also left no telling faxes, letters or suicide note.

The world knew Kelly as a feisty and tireless campaigner for peace and environmental issues. She was the feminist face of Germany's anti-nuclear movement in the 1980s and of the "anti-party" Greens Party, which spearheaded Europe's most powerful environmental movement.

Less well known was that, when Kelly died at 44, she and Bastian were so estranged from the Greens that their bodies lay three weeks in their Bonn home before anyone noticed the two were missing. Many of Kelly's colleagues had grown tired of her stardom--her waifish looks and perfect, biting English made her a media darling. She was disorganized and difficult to work with--a driven activist.

But most important, perhaps, was that Kelly held to the notion of a Greens anti-party that made no tactical alliances with Germany's traditional political parties. After losing all their parliamentary seats in the 1990 elections, most Greens wanted to become a mature political party that could share in power.

Those pragmatists control the party now and led it to success in the Oct. 16 federal election, where the Greens won 7% of the vote and were returned to the Bundestag as the third largest party.

The Greens today do not have a figure as attractively strong as Kelly appeared to be. Parkin had been drawn to Kelly's charisma, but in researching her book, she discovered a bird-like woman who, at the end of her life, had become such an Angst- ridden wreck that she could scarcely venture out of her nest without the support of Bastian.

"I knew Petra was a fairly anxious person," Parkin said in a telephone interview from her home in France. "But I didn't realize she was clinically anxious, that she had an anxiety neurosis. And I didn't realize the extent to which it handicapped her. Gert Bastian in many ways masked that. He did everything. . . . I also don't think people realized he was dependent on her."

Bastian resigned his NATO post in 1980 to protest a decision to put first-strike nuclear weapons in Germany and joined the Greens movement, where he met Kelly. In 1983, the two were part of the Greens' first delegation to enter the Bundestag.

Soon the married Bastian had given up his parliamentary seat and any life of his own to become Kelly's aide de camp--her manager and bag carrier living almost full time in her home.

Bastian complained to friends of his chaotic life with Kelly, but both had said repeatedly that they could not live without each other. And friends believed them.

The dependence alone did not seem to be reason enough to kill Kelly. So what was it?

Parkin says that no one really got to know the quiet Bastian who lived in Kelly's shadow and, Parkin now believes, suffered tremendously from experiences he kept secret. Bastian had been a soldier on the Russian Front in World War II but always denied he knew anything about the Third Reich's atrocities.

"The Russian Front was where the Final Solution began," Parkin pointed out. "Millions died. . . . the special units were put in to round up the Jews and gypsies. Now, an ambitious, rapidly promoted, decorated officer can't say he didn't know. And he did say that. He said, 'I was lucky.' And I just don't believe it."

Parkin believes that the principled Kelly represented salvation for Bastian, a kind of redemption for his sins. And she strongly suspects that Bastian feared losing Kelly over another secret.

Bastian also denied that he ever had had any contact with the former East German security police. Investigators looking into his and Kelly's deaths determined there was nothing in his Stasi file.

The writer believes that Bastian's denials don't ring true. While she has no reason to believe that he was a major spy, she writes: "It is improbable the Stasi would have been allowed to overlook a NATO general openly expressing doubts about Western European security policy."

At the time of Kelly's death, the Greens were pushing for access to their Stasi files. On the morning that he murdered Kelly, in fact, Bastian had returned a telephone call from a Greens colleague who informed him that party members' files would soon be opened.

"The police definition of what was significant might be quite different than Petra's definition. A minor event in the 1970s that he had lied about would have been in her mind a gross betrayal," Parkin said.

The public may never know. Bastian's wife reportedly has decided not to open his file.


Who killed Petra Kelly?

By Mark Hertsgaard -

January/February 1993

Last October 19, German police entered an unimposing row house on the outskirts of Bonn, and made a gruesome discovery: the decomposing, bullet-pierced bodies of Petra Kelly, a founder of Germany's Green party, and Gert Bastian, Kelly's longtime companion. Conspiracists sniffed a double murder, possibly by neo-Nazis or by government agents. After investigating, however, police raised an even more troubling possibility. Mother Jones interviewed author Mark Hertsgaard, who recently traveled to Bonn to look into the case.

Describe the discovery of the bodies.

Police were summoned by the concierge, who had gone inside at the request of Kelly's grandmother and Bastian's wife [he was still married, though he had been with Kelly for more than ten years. No one had heard from the couple for several weeks. When police entered, the electric typewriter was still on downstairs. In it was a letter that Bastian was writing to his attorney. The subject was utterly banal, a minor legal matter. Bastian had stopped typing in the middle of the German word mussen, for "must." He had typed mus ... The police went upstairs and found Bastian sprawled in the hallway. By his hand was his gun, a derringer special, which holds only two bullets. One had been shot downward into the middle of his forehead from above. In the bedroom they discovered Petra Kelly's body on the bed. The other bullet had been fired into her left temple from a distance of no more than two inches, and had killed her instantly.

So who killed them?

We'll probably never know for sure, but the Bonn police are almost certain it was not a third party. They've taken no position on whether it was a joint murder-suicide, but they seem to have no doubt that Gert Bastian pulled the trigger both times. The only fingerprints in the entire house were Kelly's and Bastian's. Bastian had powder burns on his hand. That fact, combined with the peculiar trajectory of the bullet that killed Bastian, convinced police that he had killed her and himsell

Doesn't the unfinished letter suggest a plausible alternative explanation-that he heard something, possibly an intruder?

Possibly. There's one other fact that might support that theory: the upstairs second-floor balcony door was unlocked. But there were no strange footprints or signs of entry.

Isn't it unusual to shoot oneself down through the forehead? Might not an intruder have shot Bastian from that angle?

Yes. But the larger question remains: How did the powder burns get on Bastian's hand? Police found no other bullet holes in the house, and they related the angle of the shot to his military background. Of course, every secret service in the world knows how to stage a murder-suicide, but it would have had to have been a perfect murder.

Why even suspect a conspiracy?

Petra Kelly was known all over the world as the personification of green politics; Bastian had been her inseparable partner since the early 1980s - first, and most visibly, against the deployment of nuclear missiles, and later on a whole series of other political activities.

Had they threatened the neo-Nazis in any direct way?

Bastian had written some letters in the newspapers.

Any signs Kelly was suicidal?

No one who knew her well gives that the slightest credence.

What was Bastian like?

He had an odd history. In World War II, he fought for the Nazis, failed in private business after the war, and went back into the military in 1956. He was a member of CSU - the far-right party - until 1963, when he began a long political transformation that by the 1980s landed him with the Greens. He later resigned, protesting that they were being too soft on communists by just focusing on U.S. missiles.

Why was Petra so attracted to him?

He was the fourth father figure in her life. Her actual father abandoned her at the age of 7. When she was in Brussels after college, she had a well-publicized affair with the president of the European Community - an older man by at least 20 years, married. Later came another affair with an Irish labor leader - also much older, also married. At the time of their deaths, Bastian was the last - he was 69, married; she was 44.

Could Bastian have been suicidal?

Their closest friends felt it possible. In the spring he'd been hit by a taxi and ended up on crutches for months. He had a feeling of frailness and mortality. There were professional troubles, too. They had no office space, no money. Bastian was essentially Kelly's father and wife. "Baggage-carrier" is the translation of a German word that describes the role he played for her. She responded to hundreds of letters a week. He handled all their logistics. In fact, he was hit by the taxi while running out to get her some bananas because she hadn't eaten all day - even though it was he who was to give a speech that night. Petra had often said that without Gert she could not make it in life. Behind her charismatic public presence was a person very anxious about life, desperately, afraid of being alone, who didn't even ride in different taxis than he. She had said to a friend, "I'm destroying Gert's life and I can't do without him." But she couldn't stop. He was clearly depressed about the rise of violence and the nationalist sentiment in Germany, the breakup of Yugoslavia. It seemed to both of them that after the advances of the 1980s, history was going backward. He wrote a letter decrying this, saying it reminded him of the Germany of his youth. So the psychological scenario is that he was depressed and tired and sick and could not go on, and realized that if he were to go, he had to take her with him.

Was there any kind of suicide note left behind?


Mark Hertsgaard's profile of Petra Kelly appears in the January issue of Vanity Fair. He is a regular contributor to Mother Jones.


The Death of Petra Kelly

Chloe Aridjis

Dec 27, 2004

Over the past few decades, as environmental movements around the world have strengthened and solidified, the influence of grass roots activism has been repeatedly called into question. Both critics and collaborators have asked themselves whether all change should ideally be initiated from the base of society - that is, from its grass roots - or whether there are other methods of incurring reform.

Perhaps some causes are simpler to fight at grass roots level than others; once green parties are formed, governments may be more inclined to treat them as political radicals rather than as civic representatives, and take them even less seriously. Grass roots implies more freedom, and far less (if any) rules or boundaries, aside from that of passive disobedience. The most current issue affecting our society is of course that of genetically modified foods, and it is through the surge and wrath of public opinion that Western governments have finally turned around and addressed the matter. Biotechn-ological corporations such as Monsanto were duly exposed, and the effect has been seismic as damning information continues to be disseminated throughout the world. Edward Goldsmith, founder and co-editor of The Ecologist (which devoted an entire issue to Monsanto), firmly believes in the power of public debate. When I spoke to him on the issue of grass roots, he remarked that since all governments are now controlled by industry - the result of our behemothian global economy - the only way to make a government take heed of environmental issues is by the power of public opinion. Yet though this may be the case, and the solution, not everyone is willing to take that brave step forwards.

Those individuals who have risked their lives to voice public concerns have occasionally met an early end, even in our 'safe' democratic Western societies. There is perhaps no better example of such a valiant and generous spirit in the environmental movement than Petra Kelly, co-founder, most visible member and erstwhile spokes-person of the German Green Party. Although a parliamentary representative for the Greens in the mid-1980s, she was always wary of 'shared power', and believed it was nearly impossible to solve problems at government level. The force of all change, she insisted, had to originate within the grass roots movement. By vehemently adhering to this premise she alienated herself from many of her fellow activists to such a degree that by October 1992, it took three weeks for people to even realise she was missing.

For many, Petra Kelly's assassination remains a mystery to this day. The fact that the Bonn police closed the investigation within 24 hours after her corpse was discovered, and, despite international pressure, have refused to reopen it, suggests a possible cover-up. Once, when asked in a newspaper questionnaire how she wished to die, she answered, "Not alone." This poignant reply took on a sinister resonance years later, when she and her partner of more than a decade, Gert Bastian, were found shot dead in their Bonn townhouse.

Although the bodies were not instantly identifiable due to the degree of decomposition, the shattering truth emerged within a few hours: Germany's most charismatic and passionate environmentalist had been killed with one shot in her left temple, while Bastian, an ex-General and Commander of 12th Tank Division, had perished from the impact of a single bullet through his forehead. There were no signs of struggle or disarray.

The following day, newspapers around the world, echoing the hypothesis put forward by the Bonn police and the German government, propagated two possible explanations: double suicide or murder/suicide. Either way, Bastian would have had a hand in both deaths. Friends and family around the world were left in a profound state of shock and speculation. A farewell note was never found: perhaps this was the most damning lack of evidence for those who insisted on a double suicide theory. It was almost implausible that someone as politically-minded and compassionate as Petra Kelly would choose to end her life without leaving a written testament, without making one final point, without taking leave of her beloved grandmother. As for Bastian, he too was an advocate of non-violence (having defected from the German army in 1979 in protest against NATO's plan to deploy nuclear missiles on German soil), and it was hard to imagine him turning a gun on Kelly and himself.

Aside from the absence of a farewell note, more alarming signs pointed to the possibility of a third party's presence: inexplicably, the alarm system to the house had been turned off; the front door keys lay on the floor at the entrance; the upstairs balcony door was found unlocked. When they entered the house, police and relatives were met by an ominous hum: that of Gert Bastian's electric typewriter, which had been running for at least 18 days. Still in the machine, a sheet of paper revealed the contents of his last letter; he had only typed ten lines, when in the middle of the world "mü¤en" (we/they have to, must), something interrupted him. To not even finish a word - he got as far as "mü¤" - suggests that a loud noise or movement may have interrupted him.

From here it is not difficult to imagine a possible scenario: It was late at night, or possibly during the early hours of the morning of 1st October (when the letter was dated), and Gert sat at his typewriter. He and Petra had returned that evening from a conference on Global Radiation Victims in Berlin. (Incidentally, Gert had that same day purchased a year-long senior citizens' railway pass). Exhausted, Petra went straight to bed in her track suit, in which she was found. In his study on the ground floor of their house Gert continued working, until he heard a loud bang from the first floor, coming from the direction of the couple's bedroom.

Gert slowly mounted the winding staircase, as he was enfeebled by an injury to his knee received in a car accident the previous March. He met the killer in the hallway outside of the bedroom. The gunman quickly moved towards him and at close range shot the defenseless 69-year-old general in the forehead. The gun used was a Derringer calibre .38, one which Bastian had kept from his army days.

Although gunpowder was found on his hands, it could easily have been planted. The police ascribed the 'unusual method' in which he shot himself (in the forehead, rather than in the temple or through the mouth) to a 'certain technical knowledge' acquired during his army days.

The corpses lay until they were discovered at roughly 9:30 pm on 19 October. Forensic evidence shows that Petra Kelly was asleep at the time of her death. At her side lay her reading glasses and an open book, Letters from Goethe to Charlotte von Stein . There is nothing to suggest she was prepared to die.

At the time of her death Petra had been nominated for the Andrei Sakharov Award, a prize of $100,000, with which, if she won, she planned to open a human rights office in Germany. My parents, who head the environmental Group of 100, were friends of Petra and Gert. On 12 September they received a fax from Gert requesting support for the nomination; marked 'Confidential', it mentioned Petra's 'tireless and continued efforts on behalf of indivisible human rights, ecology and peace... [Her] dream of opening a small but effective human rights office in Germany could come true with this award. She has been struggling with so little resources...'

Sent less than a month before their assassination, this document reinforces the belief that both of them still harboured ambitious plans for the future and, despite recent financial hardship, retained their optimism. The spring of 1992 had not been easy for either Petra or Gert; Gert was knocked down by a taxi while crossing the street, Petra suffered a breakdown a few days later. Both of them checked into the Black Forest Clinic and for the first time in years they acknowledged the need to rest from their strenuous activities. '...I broke down - very upset over Gert's operation & accident & my whole exhaustion and low blood pressure gave in!' Petra wrote to my parents that May. She would rarely sleep more than four or five hours a night, and was often likened by journalists and friends to a candle burning at both ends. Her slight frame and the dark circles around her eyes, which betrayed a chronic kidney disorder, gave her the appearance of frailty - yet she spoke with tireless energy. Up until her death Petra would receive some 200 letters a day, many simply addressed 'Petra Kelly, Germany.'

In 1980 she signed the 'Krefeld Appeal,' the founding document of the German Peace Movement, which called on the government to reverse its decision to deploy new missiles on German soil. It was then that Petra met one of her fellow protestors, Gert Bastian. Before long the two became a couple, and Gert left his wife and daughter. Those who knew Petra and Gert usually recall him as watchfully lingering in the background; he was, however, her emotional, ideological, and political ally, and the only real constant in an overwrought, anxiety-ridden life.

My family met them in September 1991, at a conference in Mexico organised by the Group of 100. Among the dozens of writers and environmentalists present, Petra proved to be one of the most driven and impassioned. Yet even when she was working, Gert was by her side; his English was weak, and she would translate the world around them into German.

Most of Petra's remarks during the symposium still seem relevant today, particularly regarding power-sharing for the Greens. The current coalition government in Germany, in which the Green Party plays a prominent role, includes several individuals from Petra's past. One of the main figures with whom she disagreed in the 1980's was Joschka Fischer, former Greens leader and now Germany's foreign minister. Another more controversial figure is Oskar Lafontaine, the country's former finance minister and former leader of the Social Democratic Party (who has occasionally been referred to as 'the most dangerous man in Europe').

During the discussions in Mexico, Petra condemned Lafontaine's recent exportation of two severely polluting coal-fired power plants to India - alarming, as the plants had been closed down in Germany thanks to pressure from the Greens. "And that's why I've become so pessimistic," she concluded, "I've seen us becoming adaptable."

One can say with near certainty that Petra would be deeply disappointed by the current state of German politics, both nationally and abroad. Many of her friends and sympathisers find it disconcerting that all the energy she channeled into convincing other members of the Green Party about the dangers of compromise have been rendered futile by today's coalition government.

In her last interview with the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, she said of her work, "Es ist alles Sisyphusarbeit, was wir machen." (Everything we do is like the labour of Sisyphus). She was referring to the Greek myth of the hero Sisyphus, condemned to an eternity of rolling a rock up a hill, from the top of which the rock immediately rolls down again. The myth has an equally disturbing yet even more unfortunate interpretation, examined by Albert Camus: that of suicide.

Ultimately, Petra's work possessed elements of both. She was indefatigable until the last, despite the number of times she had to return to square one. And her death was, most likely, a consequence of her work.

Theories as to why Petra and Gert may have been murdered abound: among the suspects are nuclear power coalitions, the Stasi or the KGB (some say Gert was a secret agent), neoNazis (a few weeks before they died Gerthad published a letter denouncing the rise of xenophobic violence in Germany), the Chinese mafia (they were both highly active in the Tibetan cause, and Petra was a close friend of the Dalai Lama). They had received death threats in the past, and at one point the Bonn police declared Petra Kelly their top security risk. They offered her armed protection but she declined, stating that her commitment to non-violence was greater than her fear of being attacked.

When I spoke to someone in the Bonn police press office, he did not voice a single doubt as to Gert Bastian's active role in their deaths. Gunpowder had been found on his fingers, and that said it all: the humming typewriter, unlocked balcony door and switched off alarm system "added nothing" to the case. He said the investigation had been closed within 24 hours because the "answer" was so obvious...

Working at grass roots level implies limited budget and private spaces, and Petra Kelly ran all her campaigns out of their home. Her office was a room upstairs with an endlessly ringing fax machine. In the end, her adherence to a low-profile, modest existence made her vulnerable and exposed in ways she would not have been, had she remained part of a political party. On their way home from Berlin to Bonn the night of 1 October 1992, Petra and Gert had stopped to pay tribute at the Sachenshausen memorial to victims of the Holocaust. Little did they suspect that within a few hours they too would join the dead. To this day their case remains closed, but the grass roots movement continues to flourish.

Limb by Limb Magazine


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