The Cold War Era
These posts are not to promote any paramilitary group
it is merely showing incidents that the RGJ might have been caught up in their during the cold war era whilst serving abroad.
The Baader-Meinhof Group
Dates of operation 1970 to 1998
Motives Armed resistance and proletarian revolution
Active region(s) West Germany
Major actions Numerous bombings and assassinations
Notable attacks West German Embassy siege, German Autumn
Status Final action and confrontations in 1993. Disbanded on the 20th April 1998.
The Red Army Faction (RAF; German: Rote Armee Fraktion), in its early stages commonly known as the Baader-Meinhof Group (or Baader-Meinhof Gang; German: Baader-Meinhof-Bande, Baader-Meinhof-Gruppe), was a West German far-left militant group. The RAF was founded in 1970 by Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, Horst Mahler, and Ulrike Meinhof. The West German government considered the Red Army Faction to be a terrorist organization.
The Red Army Faction existed from the year 1970 to 1998, committing numerous terrorist acts, especially in late 1977, which led to a national crisis that became known as “German Autumn”. It was held responsible for thirty-four deaths, including many secondary targets, such as chauffeurs and bodyguards, and many injuries in its almost thirty years of activity. Although better-known, the RAF conducted fewer attacks than the Revolutionary Cells (German: Revolutionäre Zellen, RZ), which is held responsible for 296 bomb attacks, arson and other attacks between 1973 and 1995.
Although Meinhof was not considered to be a leader of the RAF at any time, her involvement in Baader’s escape from jail in 1970 and her well-known status as a German journalist led to her name becoming attached to it.
There were three successive incarnations of the organization,
the “first generation” which consisted of Baader and his associates,
the “second generation” RAF, which operated in the mid to late 1970s after several former members of the Socialist Patients’ Collective joined, and
the “third generation” RAF, which existed in the 1980s and 1990s.
On the 20th of April 1998, an eight-page typewritten letter in German was faxed to the Reuters news agency, signed “RAF” with the submachine-gun red star, declaring that the group had dissolved.
The Red Army Faction’s Urban Guerrilla Concept is not based on an optimistic view of the prevailing circumstances in the Federal Republic and West Berlin.
—The Urban Guerrilla Concept authored by RAF co-founder Ulrike Meinhof (April 1971)
The origins of the group can be traced back to the student protest movement in West Germany. Industrialised nations in the late 1960s experienced social upheavals related to the maturing of the “baby boomers”, to the Cold War, and the end of colonialism. Newly found youth identity and issues such as racism, women’s liberation and anti-imperialism were at the forefront of left-wing politics.
Many young people were alienated from both their parents and the institutions of state. The historical legacy of Nazism drove a wedge between the generations and increased suspicion of authoritarian structures in society (some analysts see the same occurring in post-fascism Italy, giving rise to “Brigate Rosse”).
In West Germany there was anger among leftist youth at the post-war denazification in West and East Germany, which was perceived as a failure or as ineffective, as former (actual and supposed) Nazis held positions in government and economy. The Communist Party of Germany had been outlawed since 1956. Elected and unelected government positions down to the local level were often occupied by ex-Nazis. Konrad Adenauer, the first Federal Republic chancellor (in office from 1949 to 1963), had even appointed the former Nazi-sympathiser Hans Globke as Director of the Federal Chancellery of West Germany (in office from 1953 to 1963).
The radicals regarded the conservative media as biased – at the time conservatives such as Axel Springer, who was implacably opposed to student radicalism, owned and controlled the conservative media including all of the most influential mass-circulation tabloid newspapers. 1966 saw the emergence of the Grand Coalition between the two main parties, the SPD and CDU, with former Nazi Party member Kurt Georg Kiesinger as chancellor. This horrified many on the left and was viewed as monolithic, political marriage of convenience with pro-NATO, pro-capitalist collusion on the part of the social democratic SPD. With ninety-five percent of the Bundestag controlled by the coalition, an Extra-Parliamentary Opposition (APO) was formed with the intent of generating protest and political activity outside of government. In 1972 a law was passed, the Radikalenerlass, which banned radicals or those with a ‘questionable’ political persuasion from public sector jobs.
Some radicals used the supposed association of large parts of society with Nazism as an argument against any peaceful approaches:
They’ll kill us all. You know what kind of pigs we’re up against. This is the Auschwitz generation. You can’t argue with people who made Auschwitz. They have weapons and we haven’t. We must arm ourselves!
—Gudrun Ensslin allegedly speaking after the death of Benno Ohnesorg. (Many commentators doubt the authenticity of this quote.)
The radicalized were, like many in the New Left, influenced by:
Sociological developments, pressure within the educational system in and outside Europe and the U.S., together with the background of counter-cultural movements.
The writings of Mao Zedong adapted to Western European conditions.
Post-war writings on class society and empire as well as contemporary Marxist critiques from many revolutionaries such as Frantz Fanon, Ho Chi Minh, and Che Guevara, as well as early Autonomism.
Philosophers associated with the Frankfurt school (Jürgen Habermas, Herbert Marcuse, and Oskar Negt in particular and associated Marxian philosophers.
RAF founder Ulrike Meinhof had a long history in the Communist Party. Holger Meins had studied film and was a veteran of the Berlin revolt; his short feature How To Produce A Molotov Cocktail was seen by huge audiences. Jan Carl Raspe lived at the Kommune 2;
Horst Mahler was an established lawyer, but was also at the center of the anti-Springer revolt from the beginning. From their own personal experiences and assessments of the socio-economic situation they soon became more specifically influenced by Leninism and Maoism, calling themselves ‘Marxist-Leninist’ though they effectively added to or updated this ideological tradition. A contemporaneous critique of the Red Army Faction’s view of the state, published in a pirate edition of Le Monde Diplomatique, ascribed to it ‘state-fetishism’ – an ideologically obsessive misreading of bourgeois dynamics and the nature and role of the state in post-WWII societies, including West Germany.
It is claimed that property destruction during the Watts Riots in the United States in 1965 influenced the practical and ideological approach of the RAF founders as well as some of those in Situationist circles.
The writings of Antonio Gramsci and Herbert Marcuse were drawn upon. Gramsci wrote on power, cultural and ideological conflicts in society and institutions—real-time class struggles playing out in rapidly developing industrial nation states through interlinked areas of political behaviour, Marcuse on coercion and hegemony in that cultural indoctrination and ideological manipulation through the means of communication (“repressive tolerance”) dispensed with the need for complete brute force in modern ‘liberal democracies’.
His One-Dimensional Man was addressed to the restive students of the sixties. Marcuse argued that only marginal groups of students and poor alienated workers could effectively resist the system. Both Gramsci and Marcuse came to the conclusion that the ideological underpinnings and the ‘superstructure’ of society was vitally important in the understanding of class control (and acquiescence). This could perhaps be seen as an extension of Marx’s work as he did not cover this area in detail. Das Kapital, his mainly economic work, was meant to be one of a series of books which would have included one on society and one on the state, but his death prevented fulfilment of this.
Many of the radicals felt that Germany’s lawmakers were continuing authoritarian policies and the public’s apparent acquiescence was seen as a continuation of the indoctrination the Nazis had pioneered in society (Volksgemeinschaft). The Federal Republic was exporting arms to African dictatorships, which was seen as supporting the war in Southeast Asia and engineering the remilitarization of Germany with the U.S.-led entrenchment against the Warsaw Pact nations.
Ongoing events further catalyzed the situations. Protests turned into riots and on the 2nd of June 1967, when Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, visited West Berlin. There were protesters but also hundreds of supporters of the Shah, as well as a group of fake supporters armed with wooden staves, there to disturb the normal course of the visit. These extremists beat the protesters.
After a day of angry protests by exiled Iranian radical Marxists, a group widely supported by German students, the Shah visited the Berlin Opera, where a crowd of German student protesters gathered. During the opera house demonstrations, German student Benno Ohnesorg was shot in the head by a police officer while attending his first protest rally. The officer, Karl-Heinz Kurras, was acquitted in a subsequent trial. It has now been discovered that this officer had been a member of the West Berlin communist party SEW and had also worked for the Stasi, though there is no indication that Kurras’ killing of Ohnesorg was under anyone’s, including the Stasi’s, orders.
Along with perceptions of state and police brutality, and widespread opposition to the Vietnam War, Ohnesorg’s death galvanised many young Germans, and became a rallying point for the West German New Left. The Berlin Movement the 2nd of June, a militant-Anarchist group, later took its name to honour the date of Ohnesorg’s death.
On the 2nd of April 1968 Gudrun Ensslin and Andreas Baader, joined by Thorwald Proll and Horst Söhnlein, set fire to two department stores in Frankfurt as a protest against the Vietnam war. They were arrested two days later.
On the 11th of April 1968 Rudi Dutschke, a leading spokesman for protesting students, was shot in the head in an assassination attempt by the right-wing extremist Josef Bachmann. Although badly injured, Dutschke returned to political activism with the German Green Party before his death in a bathtub in 1979, as a consequence of his injuries.
Axel Springer’s populist newspaper Bild-Zeitung, which had run headlines such as “Stop Dutschke now!” was accused of being the chief culprit for inciting the shooting. Meinhof commented: “If one sets a car on fire, that is a criminal offence. If one sets hundreds of cars on fire, that is political action.”
Formation of the RAF
World War II was only twenty years earlier. Those in charge of the police, the schools, the government — they were the same people who’d been in charge under Nazism. The chancellor, Kurt Georg Kiesinger, had been a Nazi. People started discussing this only in the 60’s. We were the first generation since the war, and we were asking our parents questions. Due to the Nazi past, everything bad was compared to the Third Reich. If you heard about police brutality, that was said to be just like the SS. The moment you see your own country as the continuation of a fascist state, you give yourself permission to do almost anything against it. You see your action as the resistance that your parents did not put up.
— Stefan Aust, author of Der Baader Meinhof Komplex
All four of the defendants charged with arson and endangering human life were convicted, for which they were sentenced to three years in prison. In the June of 1969, however, they were temporarily paroled under an amnesty for political prisoners, but in November of that year, the Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) demanded that they return to custody. Only Horst Söhnlein complied with the order; the rest went underground and made their way to France, where they stayed for a time in a house owned by prominent French journalist and revolutionary, Régis Debray, famous for his friendship with Che Guevara and the focus theory of guerrilla warfare. Eventually they made their way to Italy, where the lawyer Mahler visited them and encouraged them to return to Germany with him to form an underground guerrilla group.
The Red Army Faction was formed with the intention of complementing the plethora of revolutionary and radical groups across West Germany and Europe, as a more class conscious and determined force compared with some of its contemporaries. The members and supporters were already associated with the ‘Revolutionary Cells’ and Movement 2nd June as well as radical currents and phenomena such as the Socialist Patients’ Collective, Kommune 1 ( or K1 was the first politically motivated commune in Germany ) and the Situationists. ( who where an international organization of social revolutionaries )
Baader was arrested again in the April of 1970, but on 14th of May 1970 he was freed by Meinhof and others. Baader, Ensslin, Mahler, and Meinhof then went to Jordan, where they trained in the West Bank and Gaza with Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) guerrillas and looked to the Palestinian cause for inspiration and guidance. But RAF organisation and outlook were also partly modeled on the Uruguayan Tupamaros movement, which had developed as an urban resistance movement, effectively inverting Che Guevara’s Mao-like concept of a peasant or rural-based guerrilla war and instead situating the struggle in the metropole or cities.
Many members of the RAF operated through a single contact or only knew others by their codenames. Actions were carried out by active units called ‘commandos’, with trained members being supplied by a quartermaster in order to carry out their mission. For more long-term or core cadre members, isolated cell-like organisation was absent or took on a more flexible form.
In 1969 the Brazilian revolutionary Carlos Marighella published his Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla. He described the urban guerrilla as:
…a person who fights the military dictatorship with weapons, using unconventional methods. … The urban guerrilla follows a political goal, and only attacks the government, big businesses, and foreign imperialists.
The importance of small arms training, sabotage, expropriation, and a substantial safehouse/support base among the urban population was stressed in Marighella’s guide. This publication was an antecedent to Meinhof’s ‘The Urban Guerrilla Concept’ and has subsequently influenced many guerrilla and insurgent groups around the globe.
Although some of the Red Army Faction’s supporters and operatives could be described as having an anarchist or libertarian communist slant, the group’s leading members professed a largely Marxist-Leninist ideology.That said, they shied away from overt collaboration with communist states, arguing along the lines of the Chinese side in the Sino-Soviet split that the Soviet Union and its European satellite states had become traitors to the communist cause by, in effect if not in rhetoric, giving the United States a free pass in their exploitation of Third World populations and support of “useful” Third World dictators. Nevertheless, RAF members did receive intermittent support and sanctuary over the border in East Germany during the 1980s.
Anti-imperialism and public support
The Baader-Meinhof Gang drew a measure of support that violent leftists in the United States, like the Weather Underground, never enjoyed. A poll at the time showed that a quarter of West Germans under forty felt sympathy for the gang and one-tenth said they would hide a gang member from the police. Prominent intellectuals spoke up for the gang’s righteousness (as) Germany even into the 1970s was still a guilt-ridden society.
When the gang started robbing banks, newscasts compared its members to Bonnie and Clyde. (Andreas) Baader, a charismatic, spoiled psychopath, indulged in the imagery, telling people that his favourite movies were Bonnie and Clyde, which had recently come out, and The Battle of Algiers. The pop poster of Che Guevara hung on his wall, (while) he paid a designer to make a Red Army Faction logo, a drawing of a machine gun against a red star.
— Stefan Aust, author of Der Baader Meinhof Komplex
When they returned to West Germany, they began what they called an “anti-imperialistic struggle”, with bank robberies to raise money and bomb attacks against U.S. military facilities, German police stations, and buildings belonging to the Axel Springer press empire. In 1970, a manifesto authored by Meinhof used the name “RAF” and the red star logo with a Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine gun for the first time.
Despite killing 34 people, Baader-Meinhof garnered a degree of support from the West German population. According to Fred Siegel, the group of militants began to be accepted, if not always admired, by “guilt-ridden liberals”, who saw its panache as a countercultural critique of West Germany’s “boring bourgeois life” and who resented their nation’s association with the American war in Vietnam. Siegel asserts that Baader-Meinhof seized on this sentiment and carefully cultivated an outlaw image, wholesaling the ideal of authentically acting out one’s impulses, in order to break through “the fascism of convention”, just as its heroes abroad like Che Guevara supposedly “broke through the iron wall of American imperialism.” Drawing on its New Left counterparts in the United States, the group even began to borrow such phrases as “burn baby burn,” “right on”, and “off the pigs”.
After an intense manhunt, Baader, Ensslin, Meinhof, Holger Meins, and Jan-Carl Raspe were eventually caught and arrested in the June of 1972.
Custody and the Stammheim trial
After the arrest of the protagonists of the first generation of the RAF, they were held in solitary confinement in the newly constructed high security Stammheim Prison in the north of Stuttgart. When Ensslin devised an “info system” using aliases for each member (names deemed to have allegorical significance from “Moby Dick”), the four prisoners were able to communicate again, circulating letters with the help of their defence counsels.
To protest against their treatment by authorities, they went on several coordinated hunger strikes; eventually, they were force-fed. Holger Meins died of self-induced starvation on the 9th of November 1974. After public protests, their conditions were somewhat improved by the authorities.
The so-called second generation of the RAF emerged at the time, consisting of sympathizers independent of the inmates. This became clear when, on 27th February 1975, Peter Lorenz, the CDU candidate for mayor of Berlin, was kidnapped by the Movement 2nd of June (allied to the RAF) as part of pressure to secure the release of several other detainees. Since none of these were on trial for murder, the state agreed, and those inmates (and later Lorenz himself) were released.
On the 24th of April 1975, the West German embassy in Stockholm was seized by members of the RAF; two of the hostages were murdered as the German government under Chancellor Helmut Schmidt refused to give in to their demands. Two of the hostage-takers died from injuries they suffered when the explosives they planted detonated later that night.
On the 21st of May 1975, the Stammheim trial of Baader, Ensslin, Meinhof, and Raspe began named after the district in Stuttgart where it took place. The Bundestag had earlier changed the Code of Criminal Procedure so that several of the attorneys who were accused of serving as links between the inmates and the RAF’s second generation could be excluded.
On the 9th of May 1976, Ulrike Meinhof was found dead in her prison cell, hanging from a rope made from jail towels. An investigation concluded that she had hanged herself, a result hotly contested at the time, triggering a plethora of conspiracy theories. Other theories suggest that she took her life because she was being ostracized by the rest of the group.
During the trial, more attacks took place. One of these was on the 7th April 1977, when Federal Prosecutor Siegfried Buback, his driver, and his bodyguard were shot and killed by two RAF members while waiting at a red traffic light. Buback, who had been a Nazi member during WWII, was considered by RAF as one of the key persons for their trial. Among other things, two years earlier, while being interviewed by Stern magazine, he stated that “Persons like Baader don’t deserve a fair trial”. In February 1976, when interviewed by Spiegel he stated that “We do not need regulation of our jurisdiction, national security survives thanks to people like me and Herold (chief of BKA), who always find the right way…”
Eventually, on the 28th of April 1977, the trial’s 192nd day, the three remaining defendants were convicted of several murders, more attempted murders, and of forming a terrorist organization; they were sentenced to life imprisonment.
Stammheim Prison was built especially for the RAF and was considered one of the most secure prison blocks around the world at the time. The prisoners were transferred there in 1975 (three years after their arrest). The roof and the courtyard was covered with steel mesh. During the night the precinct was illuminated by fifty-four spotlights and twenty-three neon bulbs. Special military forces were guarding the roof, including snipers. Four hundred police officers along with the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution patrolled the building. The mounted police officers oscillated on a double shift. One hundred more GSG-9 units reinforced the police during the trial. BKA agents guarded the front of the court area. Finally there were helicopters flying around the area.
The accredited correspondents of the media had to pass the first police road block 400 meters away from the court. The police noted their data and the number-plate, and photographed their cars. After that they had to pass three verification audits, and finally they were undressed and two judicial officials thoroughly searched their bodies. They were allowed to keep only a pencil and a notepad inside the court. Their personal items including their identities were held by the authorities during the trial. Every journalist could attend the trial only twice (2 days). The Times questioned the possibility whether a fair trial could be conducted under these circumstances which involved siege-like conditions. Der Spiegel was wondering whether that atmosphere anticipated “the condemnation of the defendants who were allegedly responsible for the emergency measures”.
During the visits from lawyers and, more rarely, relatives (friends were not allowed), three jailers were observing the conversations the prisoners had with their visitors. The prisoners were not allowed to meet each other inside the prison, until late 1975 when it was established a meeting time (30 minutes, twice per day), during which they were obviously guarded.
Trial manipulation and false witnesses
The judges and their pasts are considered important by supporters of the accused. Judge Weiss (Mahler’s trial) had judged Joachim Raese (president of the Third Reich’s court) as innocent seven times. When he threatened Meinhof that she would be put into a glass cage she answered caustically, “So you are threatening me with Eichmann’s cage, fascist?” (Adolf Eichmann who was an SS colonel, was held inside a glass cage during his trial in Israel). Siegfried Buback, the RAF’s main trial judge in Stammheim, had been a Nazi Party member. Along with Federal Prosecutor Heinrich Wunder (who served as senior government official in Ministry of Defense), Buback had ordered the arrest of Rudolf Augstein and other journalists regarding the Spiegel scandal in 1962. Theodor Prinzing was accused by defense attorney Otto Schily that he had been appointed arbitrarily displacing other judges.
During several points in the Stammheim trial, the microphones were turned off while defendants were speaking, they were often expelled from the hall, and other actions were taken. It was later revealed that the conversation they had between them as well with their attorneys were recorded. Finally it was reported by both the defendants’ attorneys and some of the prison’s doctors, that the physical and psychological state of the prisoners held in solitary confinement and white cells was such that they couldn’t attend the long trial days and defend themselves appropriately. By the time the Stammheim trial began in early 1975, some of the prisoners had already been in solitary confinement for three years.
Two former members of RAF, Karl-Heinz Ruhland, and Gerhard Müller, testified under BKA’s orders, as revealed later. Their statements were often contradictory, something that was also commented on in the newspapers. Ruhland himself later reported to Stern that his deposition was prepared in cooperation with police. Müller was reported to “break” during the third hunger strike in the winter 1974/75 which lasted 145 days. Prosecution offered him immunity for the murder of officer Norbert Schmidt in Hamburg (1971), and blamed Baader, Meinhof, Ensslin and Raspe instead. He was eventually freed and relocated to USA after getting a new identity and 500,000 DM.
The government hastily approved several special laws for use during the Stammheim trial. Lawyers were excluded from trial for the first time since 1945, after being accused of various inappropriate actions, such as helping to form criminal organisations (Section 129 – Criminal Law). The authorities invaded and checked the lawyers’ offices for possible incriminating material. Minister of Justice Hans-Jochen Vogel stated proudly that no other Western state had such an extensive regulation to exclude defense attorneys from the trial. Klaus Croissant, Hans-Christian Ströbele, Kurt Groenewold, who had been working preparing for the trial for three years were expelled the second day of the trial. On the 23rd of June (1975), Croissant, Ströbele (who had already been expelled) and Mary Becker were arrested, and in the meantime police invaded several defense attorneys’ offices and homes, seizing several documents and files. Ströbele and Croissant were remanded and held for 4 weeks and 8 weeks accordingly. Croissant had to pay 80,000 DM, to report weekly to police station as well as having his transport and identity papers seized.
The defense lawyers and prisoners were not alone to be affected by measures adopted for the RAF-trial. On the 26th of November 1974 an unprecedented mobilization by police and GSG-9 units, to arrest 23 suspected RAF members, included invasion to dozens of homes, left-wing bookstores, and meeting places, and arrests were made. However none of the guerrillas were found. BKA’s chief, Horst Herold stated that despite the fact that “large-scale operations usually don’t bring practical results, the impression of the crowd is always a considerable advantage”.
On the 16th of February 1979 Croissant was arrested (on the accusation of supporting criminal organisation – section 129), after France denied his request for political asylum, and was sentenced to a prison term of two and half years to be served in Stammheim prison.
Defence strategy on trial
The general approach by defendants and their attorneys was to highlight the political purpose and characteristics of RAF.
On the 13th and 14th of January 1976 the defendants readied their testimony (about 200 pages) where they were analyzing the role of imperialism and its furious struggle against the revolutionary movements in the countries of the “third world”. They also expounded the fascistization of West Germany and its role as an imperialistic state (alliance with USA over Vietnam). Finally they talked about the task of urban guerillas and they undertook the political responsibility for the bombing attacks. Finally their lawyers (following Ulrike Meinhof’s proposal) requested that the accused be officially regarded as prisoners of war.
On the 4th of May (5 days before Meinhof’s death) the four defendants requested to provide data about the Vietnam War. They claimed that since the military intervention in Vietnam by U.S (and indirectly FRG), had violated international law, the U.S. military bases in FRG were justifiably targets of international retaliation. They requested several politicians (like R. Nixon and H. Schmidt) as well as some former US agents (who were willing to testify) to be called as witnesses.
Later when their requests were totally rejected, US agents Barton Osbourne (ex-CIA, ex-member of the Phoenix Program), G. Peck(NSA), and Gary Thomas gave an extensive interview (organized by defense lawyers) on 23 June 1976 where they explained by which ways FRG support was crucial for US operations in Vietnam. Peck concluded that RAF “was the response to criminal aggression of the U.S. government in Indochina and the assistance of the German government. The real terrorist was my government.”. Thomas presented data about the joint operations of FRG and US secret services in Eastern Europe. He was also observing Stammheim trial and referred to a CIA instructor teaching them how to make a murder look like a suicide.
The above statements were confirmed by the well-known CIA case officer Philip Agee.
On the 30th of July 1977, Jürgen Ponto, the head of Dresdner Bank, was shot and killed in front of his house in Oberursel in a botched kidnapping. Those involved were Brigitte Mohnhaupt, Christian Klar, and Susanne Albrecht, the last being the sister of Ponto’s goddaughter.
Following the convictions, Hanns Martin Schleyer, a former officer of the SS and NSDAP member who was then President of the German Employers’ Association (and thus one of the most powerful industrialists in West Germany) was abducted in a violent kidnapping. On the 5th of September 1977, Schleyer’s convoy was stopped by the kidnappers reversing a car into the path of Schleyer’s vehicle, causing the Mercedes he was being driven in to crash. Once the convoy was stopped, five masked assailants immediately shot and killed the three policemen and the driver and took Schleyer hostage. One of the group (Sieglinde Hofmann) produced her weapon from a pram she was pushing down the road.
A letter then arrived with the Federal Government, demanding the release of eleven detainees, including those from Stammheim. A crisis committee was formed in Bonn, headed by Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, which, instead of acceding, resolved to employ delaying tactics to give the police time to discover Schleyer’s location. At the same time, a total communication ban was imposed on the prison inmates, who were now allowed visits only from government officials and the prison chaplain.
The crisis dragged on for more than a month, while the Bundeskriminalamt carried out its biggest investigation to date. Matters escalated when, on the 13th of October 1977, Lufthansa Flight 181 from Palma de Mallorca to Frankfurt was hijacked. A group of four PLO members took control of the plane (named Landshut). The leader introduced himself to the passengers as “Captain Mahmud” who would be later identified as Zohair Youssef Akache. When the plane landed in Rome for refueling, he issued the same demands as the Schleyer kidnappers, plus the release of two Palestinians held in Turkey and payment of US$15 million.
The Bonn crisis team again decided not to give in. The plane flew on via Larnaca to Dubai, and then to Aden, where flight captain Jürgen Schumann, whom the hijackers deemed not cooperative enough, was brought before an improvised “revolutionary tribunal” and executed on the 16th of October. His body was dumped on the runway. The aircraft again took off, flown by the co-pilot Jürgen Vietor, this time headed for Mogadishu, Somalia.
A high-risk rescue operation was led by Hans-Jürgen Wischnewski, then undersecretary in the chancellor’s office, who had secretly been flown in from Bonn. At five past midnight (CET) on 18 October, the plane was stormed in a seven-minute assault by the GSG 9, an elite unit of the German federal police. All four hijackers were shot; three of them died on the spot. None of the passengers were seriously hurt and Wischnewski was able to phone Schmidt and tell the Bonn crisis team that the operation had been a success.
Half an hour later, German radio broadcast the news of the rescue, to which the Stammheim inmates could be listening on their radios. In the course of the night, Baader was found dead with a gunshot wound in the back of his head and Ensslin was found hanged in her cell; Raspe died in the hospital the next day from a gunshot wound to the head. Irmgard Möller, who had several stab wounds in the chest, survived and was released from prison in 1994.
On the 18th October 1977, Hanns-Martin Schleyer was shot to death by his captors en route to Mulhouse, France. The next day, on the 19th of October, Schleyer’s kidnappers announced that he had been “executed” and pinpointed his location. His body was recovered later that day in the trunk of a green Audi 100 on the rue Charles Péguy. The French newspaper Libération received a letter declaring:
After 43 days we have ended Hanns-Martin Schleyer’s pitiful and corrupt existence… His death is meaningless to our pain and our rage… The struggle has only begun. Freedom through armed, anti-imperialist struggle.
The events in the autumn of 1977 are frequently referred to as Der Deutsche Herbst (“German Autumn”).
The “Death Night”
look up: Ulrike Meinhof
The official inquiry concluded that the group made a collective decision to commit suicide on a predetermined night. However, the autopsy and police reports contained several contradictory statements.
It has been questioned how Baader and Raspe managed to obtain a gun in the high-security prison wing specially constructed for the first generation RAF members. Independent investigations showed that the inmates’ lawyers were able to smuggle in weapons and equipment despite the high security, something that the lawyers themselves denied, arguing that every meeting with their clients was observed by jailers. The claims were based primarily on the testimonies of Hans Joachim Dellwo, brother of RAF prisoner Karl-Heinz Dellwo, and Volker Speitel, the husband of RAF member Angelika Speitel, who were arrested on the 2nd October 1977 and charged of belonging to a criminal organisation. The fact that they both received lighter sentences and after their release they were given new identities raises the inquiry if they were acting under police pressure and immunity proposal as it was the case with the ex-RAF members and perjurers Karl-Heinz Ruhland, and Gerhard Müller. However based on these testimonies, the defense attorneys Armin Newerla and Arndt Muller were tried in 1979 and one year later they were convicted of weapon smuggling receiving three and a half years and four years and eight months sentences respectively.
As regards Möller, only a total commitment to her cause could have allowed Möller to have herself inflicted the four stab wounds found near her heart. She claims that it was actually an extrajudicial killing, orchestrated by the German government, in response to Red Army Faction demands that the prisoners be released.
A few more questions that were raised regarding the death night were:
The autopsy concluded that Baader shot himself to the neck, 3 cm above the hairline in a direction that made the bullet come out through the forehead from a straight trajectory, with a 7.65 calibre pistol which is considered implausible. Moreover the investigation carried out by the ballistic expert Dr Roland Hoffman using Baader’s gun, showed that the bullet must have been fired from a distance of between 30 and 40 centimetres, which is considered likely impossible. The only case according to Hoffman that such small amount of gunpowder that was found, would fit the shoot by contact scenario would be if a silencer was used, however apparently the gun had no silencer when the body was found.
The fact that three bullets were found inside Baader’s cell is considered suspicious. The first explanation given was that Baader signaled the other prisoners. However the cells were soundproof and the jailors who were posted a few meters from the cells didn’t hear any suspicious sound, so it remains in question how the other prisoners could have communicated.
There was no gunpowder traces on Raspe’s hands, even though it is considered impossible to fire a gun without leaving gunpowder on ones hands, something that it is always mentioned in autopsy reports. Baader had gunpowder on his right hand, despite the fact that he was left-handed.
There were no fingerprints found on either Raspe’s or Baader’s gun or the kitchen knife Moller used to stab herself four times, according to official statements. The public prosecutor’s office argued that due to the large amount of blood that covered the weapons, the traces couldn’t be determined. However later Mr. Testor who was the head of the investigation team for the events in Stammheim, argued that there was no blood on Raspe’s pistol, and stated: “If the weapons had been polished with a cloth before the act, then no usable traces could have remained after only being used once”. Finally Raspe was still holding the gun inside his hand when he was found, something considered at least unusual.
As regards Ensslin, there were similar questions to Meinhof’s case. There are arguments that the chair she allegedly used to hang herself was too far away from her body to have been used, and that the cable used to hang herself was such that it would most likely not tolerate the weight of a fallen body. Finally Ensslin had written to their lawyers: “I am afraid of being suicided in the same way as Ulrike. If there is no letter from me and I’m found dead; in this case it is an assassination.”
Finally the international commission that had been formed to investigate Ulrike Meinhof’s death, and hadn’t been dissolved at the time, noticed that on both nights (8th–9th May 1976; the night Meinhof had supposedly committed suicide), and 17th–18th October 1977, an auxiliary was in charge of surveillance rather than the usual guard. They also discovered an uncontrolled entrance to the seventh floor which led to the roof. The authorities claimed they were unaware of this until 4th November 1977.
The RAF since the 1980s
The dissolution of the Soviet Union was a serious blow to Leninist groups, but well into the 1990s attacks were still being committed under the name “RAF”. Among these were the killing of Ernst Zimmermann, CEO of MTU Aero Engines, a German engineering company; another bombing at the US Air Force’s Rhein-Main Air Base (near Frankfurt), which targeted the base commander and killed two bystanders; the car bomb attack that killed Siemens executive Karl-Heinz Beckurts and his driver; and the shooting of Gerold von Braunmühl, a leading official at Germany’s foreign ministry. On the 30th of November 1989, Deutsche Bank chairman Alfred Herrhausen was killed with a highly complex bomb when his car triggered a photo sensor, in Bad Homburg. On 1st April 1991, Detlev Karsten Rohwedder, leader of the government Treuhand organization responsible for the privatization of the East German state economy, was shot dead. The assassins of Zimmermann, von Braunmühl, Herrhausen and Rohwedder were never reliably identified.
After German reunification in 1990, it was confirmed that the RAF had received financial and logistic support from the Stasi, the security and intelligence organization of East Germany, which had given several members shelter and new identities. This was already generally suspected at the time.
In 1992, the German government assessed that the RAF’s main field of engagement now was missions to release former RAF-members. To weaken the organization further the government declared that some RAF inmates would be released if the RAF refrained from violent attacks in the future. Subsequently the RAF announced their intention to “de-escalate” and refrain from significant activity.
The last action taken by the RAF took place in 1993 with a bombing of a newly built prison in Weiterstadt by overcoming the officers on duty and planting explosives. Although no one was seriously injured this operation caused property damage amounting to 123 million German Marks (over 50 million euros).
The last big action against the RAF took place on the 27th June 1993. A Verfassungsschutz (internal secret service) agent named Klaus Steinmetz had infiltrated the RAF. As a result Birgit Hogefeld and Wolfgang Grams were to be arrested in Bad Kleinen. Grams and GSG 9 officer Michael Newrzella died during the mission. While it was initially concluded that Grams committed suicide, others claimed his death was in revenge for Newrzella’s. Two eyewitness accounts supported the claims of an execution-style murder. However, an investigation headed by the Attorney General failed to substantiate such claims. Due to a number of operational mistakes involving the various police services, German Minister of the Interior Rudolf Seiters took responsibility and resigned from his post.
On the 20th of April 1998, an eight-page typewritten letter in German was faxed to the Reuters news agency, signed “RAF” with the machine-gun red star, declaring the group dissolved:
“Almost 28 years ago, on the 14th of May 1970, the RAF arose in a campaign of liberation. Today we end this project. The urban guerrilla in the shape of the RAF is now history.” (German: Vor fast 28 Jahren, am 14. Mai 1970, entstand in einer Befreiungsaktion die RAF. Heute beenden wir dieses Projekt. Die Stadtguerilla in Form der RAF ist nun Geschichte.)
In response to this statement, former BKA President Horst Herold said, “With this statement the Red Army Faction has erected its own tombstone.”
Horst Mahler, a founding RAF member, is now a vocal Neo-Nazi and Holocaust denier. In 2005, Mahler was sentenced to 6 years in prison for incitement to racial hatred against Jews. He is on record as saying that his beliefs have not changed: Der Feind ist der Gleiche (The enemy is the same).
In 2007, amidst widespread media controversy, the German president Horst Köhler considered pardoning RAF member Christian Klar, who had filed a pardon application several years before. On 7 May 2007, pardon was denied; regular parole was later granted on 24th November 2008. RAF member Brigitte Mohnhaupt was granted release on five-year parole by a German court on 12th February 2007 and Eva Haule was released 17th August 2007.
Faction versus Fraktion
The usual translation into English is the Red Army Faction; however, the founders wanted it not to reflect a splinter group but rather an embryonic militant unit that was embedded in or part of a wider communist workers’ movement, i.e. a ‘fraction’ of a whole.
RAF versus Baader-Meinhof
The group always called itself the Rote Armee Fraktion, never the Baader-Meinhof Group or Gang. The name correctly refers to all incarnations of the organization: the “first generation” RAF, which consisted of Baader and his associates, the “second generation” RAF, and the “third generation” RAF, which existed in the 1980s and 90s.
The terms “Baader-Meinhof Gang” and “Baader-Meinhof Group” were first used by the media and the organization was generally known by these during its first generation, and applies only until Baader’s death in 1977. The organization never used these terms for themselves, but the German media used them to avoid legitimizing the movement. Although Meinhof was not considered to be a leader of the gang at any time, her involvement in Baader’s escape from jail in 1970 led to her name becoming attached to it.
Assaults attributed to the RAF
On the 22nd of October 1971 in Hamburg;
Police officer killed
RAF members Irmgard Möller and Gerhard Müller attempted to rescue Margrit Schiller who was being arrested by the police by engaging in a shootout. Police sergeant Heinz Lemke was shot in the foot, while Sergeant Norbert Schmid, 33, was killed, this became the first murder to be attributed to the RAF.
On the 22nd of December 1971 in Kaiserslautern;
Police officer killed
German Police officer Herbert Schoner, 32, was shot by members of the RAF in a bank robbery. Four militants escaped with 134,000 Deutschmarks.
On the 11th of May 1972 in Frankfurt am Main;
The bombing of US Army V Corps headquarters and the officers’ mess Terrace Club
US Army LTC Paul A. Bloomquist was killed and 13 others wounded.
On the 12th of May 1972 in Augsburg and Munich;
The bombing of a police station in Augsburg and the Bavarian State Criminal Investigations Agency in Munich
5 police-officers wounded. This was claimed by the Tommy Weissbecker Commando.
On the 16th May 1972 in Karlsruhe;
The bombing of the car of the Federal Judge Buddenberg
His wife was driving the car and was wounded. This was claimed by the Manfred Grashof commando.
On the 19th May 1972 in Hamburg;
The bombing of the Axel Springer Verlag. The building was not evacuated even though warnings about the bombing were made by the RAF.
17 people where wounded. Ilse Stachowiak was involved in the bombing.
On 24th May 1972 in Heidelberg;
The bombing outside of Officers’ Club followed by a second bomb moments later in front of Army Security Agency (ASA), U.S. Army in Europe (HQ USAREUR) at Campbell Barracks. Known involved RAF members: Irmgard Möller and Angela Luther, Andreas Baader, Ulrike Meinhof, Gudrun Ensslin, Holger Meins, Jan-Carl Raspe.
3 died in this bombing they where (Ronald A. Woodward, Charles L. Peck and Captain Clyde R. Bonner), 5 people where also wounded. This was claimed by 15 July Commando (in honour of Petra Schelm). Executed by Irmgard Moeller.
On the 24th of April 1975 in Stockholm;
The West German embassy siege and murder of Andreas von Mirbach and Dr. Heinz Hillegaart
4 peopled died in this incident 2 were RAF members.
On the 7th of May 1976 in Sprendlingen near Offenbach;
Police officer killed
Officer Fritz Sippel was 22-year-old he was shot in the head when checking an RAF member’s identity papers.
On the 4th of January 1977 in Giessen;
An attack against the US 42nd Field Artillery Brigade at Giessen.
In this failed attack against the Giessen army base, the RAF sought to capture or destroy nuclear weapons present. A diversionary bomb attack on a fuel tank failed to fully ignite the fuel.
On the 7th April 1977 in Karlsruhe;
The assassination of the federal prosecutor-general Siegfried Buback
The driver and another passenger were also killed in this incident. This was claimed by the Ulrike Meinhof Commando. This murder case was brought up again after the 30-year commemoration in the April of 2007 when information from former RAF member Peter-Jürgen Boock surfaced in media reports.
On the 30th July 1977 in Oberursel (Taunus);
The killing of Jürgen Ponto
The director of Dresdner Bank, Jürgen Ponto, was shot in his home during an attempted kidnapping. Ponto later died from his injuries.
On the 5th September 1977 in Cologne;
Hanns Martin Schleyer, chairman of the German Employers’ Association, was kidnapped and later murdered on 18th of October 1977 en route to Mulhouse
Also 3 police-officers and the driver are killed during the kidnapping.
On the 22nd of September 1977 in Utrecht, Netherlands;
A shooting outside a bar
Arie Kranenburg (46), Dutch policeman, was shot and killed by RAF Knut Folkerts.
On the 24th of September 1978 in a forest near Dortmund;
The murder of a police officer
Three RAF members (Angelika Speitel, Werner Lotze, Michael Knoll) were engaged in target-practice when they were confronted by police. A shoot-out followed where one police-man (Hans-Wilhelm Hans, was shot dead, and one of the RAF terrorists (Knoll) was wounded so badly that he later died from his injuries.
On the 1st November 1978 in Kerkrade;
Gun-battle with four custom officials
19 year old Dionysius de Jong was shot to death, and Johannes Goemanns (24) who later died of his wounds, when they were involved in a gun-fight with RAF members (Adelheid Schulz and Rolf Heissler) who were trying to cross the Dutch border illegally.
On the 25th of June 1979 in Mons, Belgium;
Alexander Haig, the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO escapes an assassination attempt
A land mine exploded under the bridge on which Haig’s car was traveling, narrowly missing Haig’s car and wounding three of his bodyguards in a following car. In 1993 a German Court sentenced Rolf Clemens Wagner, a former RAF member, to life imprisonment for the assassination attempt.
On the 7th of August 1981 in Kaiserslautern, Germany;
USA Force Security Police Officer Sgt. John Toffton was attacked in Kaiserslautern by Christian Klar and Brigitte Mohnhaupt and unknown third party. Security Police Officer USAF on his way to work from his residence on Stadion Strasse near Eisenbahn Strasse and Mozart Strasse riding a yellow Ross Grand Tour bicycle when he was attacked. Security Police Officer survived the attack with little injury. Mohnhaupt the driver and Klar fled the scene in a green VW Fast Back with German Plates. Unknown third party swinging a club was injured or killed. A large amount of blood and broken eyeglasses was found at the scene, none of the blood was from the victim.
On the 31st of August 1981 in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany;
A large car-bomb exploded in the HQ USAFE and HQ 4th ATAF parking lot of Ramstein Air Base.
On the 15th of September 1981 in Heidelberg;
An unsuccessful rocket propelled grenade attack against the car carrying the US Army’s West German Commander Frederick J. Kroesen. Known involved RAF members: Brigitte Mohnhaupt, Christian Klar.
On the 2nd of July 1982 in Nuremberg;
A unsuccessful sniper attack against US Army Nuclear Storage Site NATO-23. Four civilians (two adults and two children) were killed the next day in an accidental shooting by American troops who had been placed on high alert after the attack. Known involved RAF members: Christian Klar.
A family of 4 hunting who where mushrooms came through a fence downed by storms the day after the sniper incident and were killed by members of the 3/17th Field Artillery Battalion after being shot at just hours before. The 3/17 FA Battalion were guarding the NATO 2-3 Nuclear storage site at the time. The unit was fired upon several times the night before by Christian Klar. Two US soldiers were slightly wounded and one was killed.
On the 18th of December 1984 in Oberammergau, West Germany;
A unsuccessful attempt to bomb a school for NATO officers. The car bomb was discovered and defused.
A total of ten incidents followed over the next month, against US, British, and French targets.
On the 1st of February 1985 in Gauting;
Shooting took place
Ernst Zimmerman, head of the MTU is shot in the head in his home. Zimmermann died twelve hours later. This assassination was claimed by the Patsy O’Hara Commando.
On the 8th of August 1985 in Rhein-Main Air Base (near Frankfurt);
A Volkswagen Passat exploded in the parking lot across from the base commander’s building.
Two people wherte killed: Airman First Class Frank Scarton and Becky Bristol, a U.S. civilian employee who also was the spouse of a U.S. Air Force enlisted man. A granite monument marks the spot where they died. Twenty people were also injured. Army Spec. Edward Pimental was kidnapped and killed the night before for his military ID card which was used to gain access to the base. The French terrorist organization Action Directe is suspected to have collaborated with the RAF on this attack. Birgit Hogefeld and Eva Haule have been convicted for their involvement in this event.
On the 9th of July 1986 in Straßlach (near Munich);
Shooting of Siemens manager Karl Heinz Beckurts and his driver Eckhard Groppler.
On the 10th of October 1986 in Bonn;
The Killing of Gerold von Braunmühl#
Senior diplomat of the German Foreign Office was shot by two people in front of his residence on Buchholzstraße.
On the 30th of November 1989 inBad Homburg vor der Höhe;
The bombing of the car carrying the chairman of Deutsche Bank Alfred Herrhausen
This case remained open for a long time, as the delicate method employed baffled the German prosecutors, as it could not come from guerillas like the RAF. Also, all suspects of the RAF were not charged due to alibis. However, the case received new light in late 2007 by the German authorities that Stasi, the former East German secret police, played a role in the assassination of Herrhausen, as the bombing method was the exactly the same one that had been developed by the Stasi.
On the 13th of February 1991 in Bonn;
A sniper attack on U.S. embassy
Three Red Army Faction members fired automatic rifles from across the Rhine River at the U.S. Embassy Chancery. No one was hurt in this incident.
On the 1st of April 1991 in Düsseldorf;
The Assassination of Detlev Karsten Rohwedder, at his house in Düsseldorf
Detlev Karsten Rohwedder was the chief of the Treuhandanstalt, the agency that privatized the former East German enterprises after the German reunification.
On the 27th of March 1993 in Weiterstadt;
Attacks by RAF with explosives at the construction site of a new prison.
This led to the capture of two RAF members three months later at a train station, and a shoot-out between RAF member Wolfgang Grams and a GSG 9 squad; GSG9 officer Michael Newrzella was killed before Grams allegedly was shot, while Birgit Hogefeld was arrested. Damage 123 million Deutschmarks (over 50 million euros). The attack caused a four-year delay in the completion of the site that had been short before commissioning in 1993.
Sourced from Wikipedia