The Baader-Meinhof Complex

Stefan Aust

The Baader-Meinhof Complex
United Kingdom
1 January 2009

The Baader-Meinhof Complex

Stefan Aust

Rooted in the student movement of the 1960s, the story of the Baader-Meinhof group - or the Red Army Faction (RAF), as they called themselves - began in May 1970 with the freeing of Andreas Baader, imprisoned for setting fire to department stores in protest against the Vietnam War. After thirty years of violent confrontation with the German state - costing the lives of 34 politicians and industrialists, chauffeurs and policemen - it ended on 20 April 1998 with a declaration sent to the Reuters news agency: ‘Almost 28 years ago, on 17 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.’ The ‘war of 6 against 60 million’ (Heinrich Boll) led to the mass mobilisation of police and security services, culminating in the ‘German Autumn’ of 1977 when RAF violence reached its peak with the kidnapping and murder of the industrialist Hanns Martin Schleyer and the hijacking of a Lufthansa jet by Palestinian terrorists to secure the release of the key members of the group, then serving life sentences.When they heard news that the jet had been freed by German special forces in Mogadischu, the founder members Andreas Baader and Gudrun Ensslin committed suicide; Ulrike Meinhof had hanged herself the previous year while on trial. This fascinating book tells the story of how a small group of young middle-class people, out of moral indignation about the Vietnam War and the injustices of capitalist society, turned to bombings, kidnappings and murder - thus resorting to flagrant immorality themselves. And for once the strapline is true: their story reads like a thriller.

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