On the Death of Horst Herold: The Terrorist Hunter
Horst Herold headed the Federal Criminal Police Office for twenty years. He became a successful terrorist hunter, but also the "last prisoner of the RAF". Now the ex-BKA boss died at 95 years.
An exceptional man took over the management of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) in Wiesbaden in 1971. From Nuremberg, where the lawyer Horst Herold had been a prosecutor, judge, head of the police department and police chief, he had a reputation as a "commissioner of computers". In the Stone Age of electronic data processing, he had already made the computer a daily work tool for the police.
With his concept of "criminal geography" he had achieved amazing results: he had all the data on crime scenes electronically recorded and calculated from statistical crime probabilities. From this he derived constantly updated operational plans of the patrolmen, which he sent to the possible focal points.
From the BKA, a hitherto low-skilled and poorly organized department, Herold, born in 1923 in Sonneberg, Thuringia, soon turned into a powerful, high-tech police department. He perfected crime forensics and developed sophisticated methods of electronic detection, the "dragnet". What he called "social cybernetics", which at the time seemed suspect to many, is today a profiled instrument of police investigators as "profiling".
"The most unusual and intelligent criminologist of his time"
His admirers among police colleagues and politicians praised Herold's "creative conceptions" and "historical achievements" for internal security. Even political opponents such as Federal Interior Minister Gerhart Baum (FDP) respected Herold as "exceptional", if not "brilliant" police. On the other hand, the methods he invented for the search for a teaser, especially the "dragnet" developed by him, also provoked opposition.
"Even though he has been described as a 'giant', 'crazy Marxist' and 'technocrat', Herold was without a doubt the most unusual and intelligent criminologist of his time," said his biographer Dorothea Hauser, a historian. Another biographer, Dieter Schenk, himself a detective for decades and last Criminal Director in the BKA, praised his former boss, who had "revolutionized the work of the police, achieved considerable success in the fight against terrorism and made with his visions the BKA at the time the world's most modern headquarters of crime control ".
19 picturesHorst Herold: Rasterfahnder, visionary and Kriminalphilosoph
After taking office, it took barely a year before he had brought the first generation of the "Red Army Faction" (RAF) with their leaders Andreas Baader, Ulrike Meinhof and Gudrun Ensslin behind bars. "With the strong support of the BKA," he concluded after his departure, around 300 terrorists were arrested during his ten-year tenure.
Herald reached the pinnacle of his reputation as the central head of operations after the abduction of the employer's president Hanns-Martin Schleyer in September 1977. The BKA chief conducted in the crisis team police and politicians, border guards and intelligence agencies.
But "even the mighty, with utmost precision working apparatus of dragnet" was "at the end of human error is not immune," summarized biographer Hauser: A telex with the appropriate reference to the Schleyer hiding place in a skyscraper near Cologne was in the Wust at the special commission notices incoming notifications. Without this sloppiness, Herold would have proved the efficiency of his search method.
But after the horrors of the "German Autumn" the dismantling of "Doctor Allwissend" began. Herald became the bogeyman of a nation now seeking a way to overcome the leaden time. In the run-up to the 1984 Orwell Year, the West Germans discovered data protection.
The SPIEGEL also attacked Herold. After a series of articles in 1979 about a threatening surveillance state ("The steel network invades us") was a polemical essay by the writer Hans Magnus Enzensberger "on privacy, democracy and police computer" published title, "The Sunshine State of Doctor Herold".
His critics would not have understood him, Herold complained again and again. The "negative dragnet", which sort out all persons not considered perpetrators, is in fact the highest form of data protection. In a lecture on police and human rights at the United Nations in 1980, he himself warned of the dangers of the "big brother": "they are no longer just literature, but real," which is why he demanded clear legal rules for policing. Herold never wanted the glassy man.
However, the minister of the interior, Baum, who has been in office since 1978, seized the opportunity to stand out against his subordinates as a champion of civil rights. And Herold as a direction-bound official was not allowed to defend himself against the unfounded criticism.
Discouraged and injured, Herold asked in the fall of 1980 for his premature departure. With orders and eulogies he was adopted in April 1981.
Since then, the pensioner, for a long time still the most endangered person of the Republic, lived in a prefabricated house on the site of a federal border guard barracks in the Upper Bavarian Rosenheim - as "the last prisoner of the RAF", as he called himself. Only last year he returned to Nuremberg. There he died on Friday, just two months after his 95th birthday, after a short illness.