Peter UrbachQ. The narrator of Red Army Faction Blues, Peter Urbach, was an agent provocateur who infiltrated Kommune 1. What can you tell us about him?

He’s real, just like Brian Clough. My symbol and cipher.

He came from Poland, apparently, and he didn’t fit in from the start, which just goes to show how pure the intentions were, how trusting and idealistic these people were, at the start. He was married with kids – the epitome of that nuclear family K1 was so opposed to. And very working class, with a job – or at least a cover – on the East German-run railway service that ran through West Berlin at the time. But the rich, well-educated members of K1 were in thrall to a genuine prole. Especially such a charismatic one, who could make things happen.

It’s quite curious – the more I researched and got my sequence of events straight, the more Peter Urbach kept pushing himself forward. He was everywhere: taking care of practical things and chivvying along the subversion at Kommune 1; putting the earliest bombs in the backpack of SDS leader Rudi Dutschke; driving Fritz Teufel and Bommi Baumann around Berlin with a van full of molotov cocktails, in search of the villa of newspaper magnate Springer; turning up outside the intellectual Republican Club with a case full of grenades. Later, shooting up Dieter Kunzelmann and many more with cheap heroin and having Andy Baader and the disgraced lawyer Horst Mahler – the key figures in the development of what quickly became the demented and dangerous Red Army Faction/Baader-Meinhof Gang – dig up cemetery plots in a vain search for a cache of WW2 pistols. To name but a few of his wheezes.

And then, all of a sudden he turns up as a key prosecution witness for the West German government in the first Red Army Faction trial, of Horst Mahler alone, in 1971. But his testimony is rubbished, and he subsequently disappears forever. I like to think that much of that spirit of the times – Imagination is seizing power – rubbed off tremendously on him too. He wouldn’t have done what he did otherwise. Wherever he might be.

It’s strange too, that as I was finalising this book, the stories of Mark Kennedy and other police officers who’d been put under deep cover to infiltrate left-wing protest groups in the UK were unravelling. What on earth could have been the reasoning there?

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