Wolfgang Grams (1953 - 1993)
I've got two main sources for this biography – one's an official biography I found on the web (www.black-box-brd.de) - the other is a personal account by Birgit Hogefeld (www.nadir.org/nadir/archiv/Repression/bad_kleinen/07portrait.ht m). Hogefeld and Grams went underground together. She herself says that there is probably no one who knew Wolfgang Grams as well as she did. Her (translated) quotes will appear as blockquotes in the following.
Wolfgang Grams represents one of the two portrayed forces in the German documentary "Black Box BRD" - the state and the revolutionary-terrorist group Red Army Faction (RAF). As a member of the RAF his biography is used not only to explain some of the motivations of the RAF but also to show the human beings behind it. He was a terrorist - but also an individual with dreams, ideas, beliefs and with parents and relatives who ask themselves "why?" and "for what cause?" and "what have we done wrong?". The film and this biography try to give clues to answer these questions.
Wolfgang Grams was born in 1953 in Wiesbaden where he also went to school. After the Abitur he didn't do military service but joined the alternative civilian service, for which he worked in a hospital. Later he began to study mathematics but soon dropped out of uni. He survived by taking on temporary jobs.
He worked as a taxi driver two nights a week. He was someone who didn't need much money to live.
Very early he realised that he didn't want to live in a society where only achievement counts and where people's ideas and beliefs are ignored. Even while still in the Gymnasium, in which he almost continuously felt suppressed, he joined the "Sozialistische Initiative Wiesbaden" (socialist initiative Wiesbaden). Later he also joined the "Rote Hilfe" (red aid).
The "Sozialistische Initiative Wiesbaden" was a conglomerate of very different individuals with a leftist and progressive way of thinking. Its maxim was never to exclude anyone. Many members were social workers in youth centres or in homeless-people's homes. Several different initiatives originated from this group. There was an initiative for solidarity with Ireland and there was a Palestine-group. The "Rote Hilfe" also had its beginning in the "Sozialistische Initiative Wiesbaden". This was a support group for the political prisoners (RAF prisoners) who were on hunger strike in 1974; that's the hunger strike Holger Meins was killed in.
During that hunger strike we occupied the headquarters of Amnesty International in Hamburg to support the prisoners' demands. Wolfgang and other members of the "Rote Hilfe" were there, too. I think that was the first of countless times he was arrested."
In 1978 Willy Stoll is shot by a special unit of the police.
That was during the time of "shoot to kill"-actions. The units had orders not to arrest members of the RAF but to shoot them. Besides Willy they killed Elisabeth von Dyck and Michael Knoll, while Rolf Heissler and Günter Sonnenberg suffered life-threatening head-wounds while being arrested.
In Willy Stoll's notebook evidence is found which points to a connection between Wolfgang Grams and the RAF. He's arrested and spends 153 days of pre-trial solitary confinement in Frankfurt. After the dismissal of his case he received compensation.
"In one of his first letters he wrote: "...it's all grey concrete and grilles. Before I've never really been able to imagine something as perverted as these 'protective measures':
the annihilation-machine, the human cage. ...we have to understand that this is no game in the sandpit, ..."
These experiences - Willy's death, his arrest, the solitary confinement and later another hunger strike to fight for better conditions while under arrest – confirmed Wolfgang in his opposition to the state and the imperialistic system.
In 1984 he and Birgit Hogefeld go underground. From time to time his parents hear from him, once they even meet. He's thought to be a member of the leading group of the third RAF generation: that generation which organized assassinations of managers, industrial executives and high-ranking officials. On 27 June, 1993 Wolfgang Grams dies on the railway tracks of the train station of Bad Kleinen in a anti-terror mission conducted by the GSG-9 (Grenzschutzgruppe), BKA (Bundeskriminalamt, Federal Bureau of Criminal Investigation) and police. The cause of death is a very close shot in the back of his head. The official explanation is suicide.
What exactly happened in Bad Kleinen will remain a mystery. The fact is that there are two deaths - Wolfgang Grams and Michael Newrzella, a member of the GSG-9. There was a court case in 1998. Wolfgang Grams's parents asked for a 12'000 DM compensation for his funeral. Had Grams been shot by an official this compensation would have been paid. But the judges decided that the state didn't have to pay because it wasn't possible to reconstruct exactly what happened in Bad Kleinen. (www.wdr.de/tv/recht/rechtneu/rn9901/rl00858.htm)
In the RAF declaration of disbandment in March 1998 his name ends the list of the dead.
Wolfgang was a very quiet person. You could see by the way he moved that hectic activity and any sort of stress were against his nature. I say this here because people who only know the last minutes of his life probably picture him differently. I have known Wolfgang for 18 maybe 19 years. He's one of those people who you can trust with your life. We knew he'd give his life to protect others. He always tried to have agreement between what he said and what he did.
When someone you're close to dies you start to think about which of this person's traits of character should live on in you. Wolfgang never lost sight of the other human being - not even when arguing. This wasn't self-evident in our political situation. I'll try to let this trait live on in me.
His epitaph will be the following lines by the Turkish poet Nâzim Hikmet Ran:
Life. Like a tree, on its own and free
and fraternal like a forest,
this is our yearning!