Left-wing terror: The RAF in five chapters

Left-wing terror: The RAF in five chapters

The left-wing extremist Red Army Faction has long since disbanded. However, their terror and its consequences are part of German history – and extend to the present day.

The left-wing extremist Red Army Faction (RAF) has terrorized the Federal Republic for around three decades. In April 1998, the terrorist group announced its dissolution. Former members went into hiding.

Beginnings and goals

The RAF initially became known as the Baader-Meinhof Group. After the death of the demonstrator Benno Ohnesorg in June 1967 and the attack on the student leader Rudi Dutschke in April 1968, parts of the extra-parliamentary opposition radicalized.

In protest against the Vietnam War, Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin and two others carried out arson attacks on two department stores in Frankfurt am Main in 1968. The journalist Ulrike Meinhof comes into contact with them during the court case. In May 1970, Meinhof and three accomplices forcibly freed Baader from prison in Berlin. This action is considered to be the birth of the RAF. The group goes underground.

The RAF sees itself as part of the class struggle and a global uprising against imperialism and capitalism. Their name refers to the army of the communist Soviet Union. With its armed struggle and the concept of an alleged urban guerrilla, it compares itself to global liberation movements.

The first generation

The group around Baader, Ensslin and Meinhof committed numerous bank robberies and bomb attacks on US military facilities and German security authorities until the end of 1974. Four people die and 41 are injured. They had previously received military training in Jordan from the Palestinian organization Fatah.

In May 1972, US officer Paul A. Bloomquist was the first RAF bomb death. Twelve days later, three soldiers die in an explosive attack on the European headquarters of the US armed forces in Heidelberg. In June, the investigators arrested the hard core of the RAF with Baader, Holger Meins and Jan-Carl Raspe, followed shortly afterwards by Ensslin, Meinhof and Brigitte Mohnhaupt.

In prison, the prisoners repeatedly protest against the prison conditions. Holger Meins died during a hunger strike in November 1974.

The second generation

From around 1975, the goal of the second generation and its leading figures, Christian Klar and Brigitte Mohnhaupt, was to improve the prison conditions of the prisoners in Stuttgart-Stammheim and to force their release – for example with a hostage-taking in the German embassy in Stockholm in April 1975. Theirs The federal government rejects the request. Two diplomats and two hostage takers die. Meinhof hangs herself in her cell.

In the year of the “German Autumn” of 1977, the RAF covered the Federal Republic with a series of ruthless and brutal assassinations in order to free the Stammheim prisoners. Federal Prosecutor General Siegfried Buback is shot in Karlsruhe in April, Dresdner Bank boss Jürgen Ponto in Oberursel in July. In September, an RAF commando kidnapped the employers’ president Hanns Martin Schleyer in Cologne. In October, Palestinian terrorists hijacked the Lufthansa plane “Landshut”. Despite the cold-blooded shooting of the flight captain, Chancellor Helmut Schmidt (SPD) remains firm and has the elite border guard GSG 9 storm the plane. Baader, Ensslin and Raspe then commit suicide. Schleyer’s body is found in Mühlhausen, Alsace.

The third generation

After the ringleaders Klar and Mohnhaupt were arrested in 1982, the third generation changed their strategy and increasingly pursued the internationalization of terrorism. The wave of violence continues below a “command level” that is barely known by name. There were several targeted assassination attempts until 1990.

In November 1989, Deutsche Bank CEO Alfred Herrhausen died in a bomb attack in Bad Homburg. In April 1991, Treuhand boss Detlev Karsten Rohwedder was shot at his desk in his Düsseldorf home from a distance of more than 60 meters. In both cases, the perpetrator and motive remain unknown to this day. Rohwedder’s death is the last assassination attempt attributed to the RAF. To this day, many of the crimes committed by the third generation of the RAF have not been solved.

End and afterlife

Almost 28 years after its founding, the RAF declared its dissolution in a final letter in 1998. More than 30 murders have been attributed to them, some of which are considered unsolved. There are also kidnappings, hostage-taking and bombings. A number of RAF members were sentenced to life imprisonment, and two dozen were killed or took their own lives.

When the Federal Republic of Germany searched for RAF terrorists around the world, the GDR state security enabled ten of them to lead a civil life with false identities in eastern Germany. Only after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 were some of them exposed. The authorities continued to search for other former RAF terrorists later on, among other things because of robberies that they committed for a living. After Daniela Klette’s arrest on Monday, these are Burkhard Garweg and Ernst-Volker Staub, who are assigned to the third generation.

Former terrorists have also been released from prison after serving their sentences or after receiving pardons, including Birgit Hogefeld, Mohnhaupt and Christian Klar.

Source: Stern

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