German-based international left-wing urban-guerilla group from the 1970s
They call us terrorists. But what is a terrorist? Do I look like a terrorist?
Though born to the international press in 1970, the RAF or Rote Armee Fraktion actually develop out of the politics of Ulrike Meinhof and the anti-capitalist department store bombings of Andreas Baader in Berlin during the late 1960s.
In 1970, increasingly disenchanted with mainstream politics, Meinhof, a librarian, journalist and mother of two, hooks up with Baader by mail while he serves time for arson. She arranges a police-escorted visit to her library, under the pretense of Baader researching a book where instead she and accomplices ambush the police. Her group and Baader escape; and so May 14, 1970, the Baader Meinhof gang is born.
That summer Meinhof, Baader and other leftist students were immersed in urban guerrilla warfare training by the PLO in Beruit, then return to Germany to plan and execute bank robberies and car theft that might finance the Revolution. Over the next year, by the summer of '71, they also form an alliance with the Socialist Patients Kollective (SPK), a loose band of Heidelberg mental patients trained by a former doctor-turned-revolutionary in Marxist dialectic, modern sexuality, religion, and more interestingly, high explosives and karate. The SPK are similarly inclined, wishing to bring a 'deathblow to the system' and by July have joined the RAF in stealing sports cars to engage in high-speed gunbattles with police. The Baader-Meinhof make this such a part of their terror campaign that the press begin referring to BMWs as 'Baader Meinhof Wagens'.
By the spring of 1972, the RAF has graduated to blowing up police stations, US Army barracks and the cars of state judges. They have now published pamphlets and manifestos, and even their own revolutionary handbook, Road Traffic Ordinances : Concerning the Armed Struggle in Western Europe. It outlines their sense that a) violence is the only means to alter society, b) crime is therefore required, c) democracy is useless, since most have no idea what they truly want or require under consumer capitalism, and d) violence, in essence, is the highest form of class struggle.
By May of 1972, German police and INTERPOL get serious (dozens of their officers have been killed in RAF heists by this point) and capture Andreas Baader & some accomplices as they load grenades into a stolen Porsche in North Frankfurt just after having bombed an I.G. Farben plant, two police stations and robbing a Bavarian mortgage bank while blaring music from a ghetto-blaster. Two hundred police take part in the round-up and a month later, in June, Ulrike Meinhof is arrested with a suitcase of pistols & plastique.
Later in '72, Black September and Movement Second June take up where the RAF left off, declare themselves 'communists, not anarchists' but then proceed to bungle robberies and tend more towards killing their own members under suspicion of being 'instruments of the class enemy', ie. police informants. In the summer of '75, Movement Second June begin raids on Berlin banks, leaving behind chocolate cakes for employees and customers after April of that year saw most surviving members of the SPK killed by 15 kilos of TNT accidentally exploded at the German embassay in Stockholm.
The trial of all the captured gang members then drags on four years, becoming a cause celebre with leftist European intellectuals of the time. She is even visited by Jean-Paul Sartre. However, on May 8th, 1976, Meinhof hangs herself in her cell.
Update: November 16, 2002
, the BBC service features a headling 'Red Army Faction brains disappear'
, going to say that major sections of three leaders' brains have been removed for their corpses without permission, according to the families of the deceased. The corpses of Andreas Baader
, Gudrun Ensslin
and Jan-Carl Raspe
have all been subjected to testing by various universities in Germany, but labratory officials cannot explain the disappearance of brain samples. Many speculate theft, likely by admirers of the group, may be the motive. Investigation is on-going. Source:
BBC News: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2484745.stm / Accessed November 19, 2002. (thanx amnesiac)
The Gun Speaks : The Baader-Meinhof Gang and the Postwar German Decade of Terror 1968-1977
, Richard Huffman (2000) and The Baader-Meinhof group : the inside story of a phenomenon
, Stefan Aust ; translated from the German by Anthea Bell. (1987)