(March 26, 1923 - October 1, 1992) was a German military officer
and politician with the Green Party.
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.
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.
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.
eighties Bastien was, together with his partner Petra Kelly of
one of the most important partners of the GDR opposition in the
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
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
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.
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
"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 - MotherJones.com
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
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
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
Bastian had written some letters in the
Any signs Kelly was suicidal?
No one who knew her well gives that the
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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