Rote Armee Fraktion: The Sick Man’s Red Army

Stormy sixties

The second half of the sixties turned out to be bright, memorable and not very pleasant for a group of capitalist countries. Unsuccessful Vietnam War. Discontent of the post-war generation who did not know the harsh reality of the Second World War. Riots and protests. The hippie movement in America that claimed to undermine the foundations. 1968 student demonstrations in Europe.

And the consequence is a second wind for ultra-left ideas. Their ultimate victory did not seem such a distant affair. Moreover, both enthusiastic supporters and opponents. The air was electrified. It seemed that the world was on the verge of another tectonic change.

The confrontation between the left and the right was gaining strength again. The world outlook split, as in the 30s, again led to shooting and punctured skulls. In June 1967, leftist student Benno Onezorg was killed during a demonstration. Less than a year later, a (reputedly) right-wing radical shot at a young Marxist politician, Rudi Dutschke. Wounded in the head. The leftists took revenge by rioting conservative book publishers – smashed the office and set fire to trucks.

In such conditions, the future “Red Army” was born – an organization whose name thundered throughout the FRG right up to the end of the 90s.

The spring of 1968 was a time of youth protests for Europe. Against this background, organizations like the RAF grew.

Drama with circus elements

The tragedy began with a farce on the verge of clownery.

In April 1968, shortly before major student riots in neighboring France, four radical left-leaning people gathered in Frankfurt am Main. One of them, the clear leader of the company, Andreas Baader, was the founder of a shelter for homeless children. Gudrun Enslin, the only woman of the four, was involved in publishing. Two more did not have time to become famous for this.

All these wonderful people carried out their first action against the hated capitalist system – they set fire to one of the city’s department stores. A few days later they were found and tried to punish them, imprisoning them for 3 years. It did not work out – Baader and his friends immediately declared that this was not a desire for destruction for the sake of it, but “a protest against the Vietnam War.” The left responded quickly. A whirlwind arose about the “unnecessarily cruel punishment.” And in the end, the defendants were released on bail.

True, Baader did not even think to go to the police station in a civilized way. Instead, he and his friends escaped from bail, rolling out a whole concept of urban guerrilla warfare – that is, ordinary terrorism, at that time known to the world for more than a decade or two.

Gudrun Enslin and Andreas Baader


But in April 1970, Baader was caught and returned to prison – he ran into a routine document check. But less than a month later, he was released – comrades broke into the penitentiary and opened fire from pistols, mortally wounding the prison librarian.

The raid was headed by Ulrika Meinhof, a clever, intelligent, activist, ultra-left journalist. Her “cover” – the desire to interview Baader – was the key to the success of the whole case. Everything happened as suddenly as possible. Few of the prison guards could have imagined that, although a radical, but well-known journalist would put both her own and other people’s lives at stake in order to get the arsonist and the theorist of the city guerrilla out of captivity.

But she did it. And she went underground with the rest of the RAF – the very Rote Armee Fraktion, who tied herself in the blood of innocent people. There was no turning back now.

Palestinian experience

It would be a bad idea to stay in Germany after such a “performance”. The RAF quickly found somewhere to go – to Jordan, to the training camp of Arab militants from Fatah, the Movement for the National Liberation of Palestine. Those then were determined to develop connections with other radicals, and welcomed, if not all, then very many.

The Germans were taught the very city guerrilla that Baader’s followers craved. They also did not forget “general military” things like firepower training. For a while, everything went well, and everyone had the feeling that both the Palestinians and the left-wing radicals were doing something mutually beneficial.

Then the Fathists took a closer look at the Germans. It turned out that in their free time from training, they get drunk, sunbathe naked and do not forget about promiscuous sexual intercourse. In a word, they behave like a commune of armed and not afraid of violence hippies.

Rote Armee Fraktion: The Sick Man's Red Army

Ulrika Maynhof


The Palestinians were seized by revolutionary nationalism, but in all other respects they turned out to be conservative people. And very quickly the disbanded Germans began to annoy them. Therefore, the Arabs “asked them from here” in an amicable way – until they had a bad one. And I had to return to Germany.

From robberies to terrorism

Arriving at home, the radicals recalled the experience of the experience of Russian colleagues from the past: Socialist-Revolutionaries, anarchists, Bolsheviks and others. And they set about “exs” – robberies with the aim of obtaining money for revolutionary activities. At the same time, affairs were carried out dashingly – the radicals did not spare the “peace man”, no, no, but after the next robbery they left someone’s corpse. And the number of wounded in general exceeded fifty.

But what terrified ordinary people inspired other radicals. The RAF has become a great role model. With each new robbery, new radical left cells grew like mushrooms after rain. Inspired by the decisiveness of their “teachers”, they too gladly resorted to violence.

Having saved up money, in May 1972, Baader set about blowing up cars near American military institutions and police stations. Once the radicals even tried to kill a German judge. Their vigorous activity resulted in corpses and many wounded.

It was no longer possible to close our eyes to this. The RAF problem was taken seriously, and a large round-up organized soon yielded results. By the summer, most of the instigators (Baader, Meinhof and Enslin), as well as less important members, fell into the clutches of justice, and as a result, they naturally ended up behind bars.

Get it out at any cost

The problem seemed to be solved. But the leaders managed to keep in touch with their followers through lawyers even in prison. And they staged new terrorist attacks in an attempt to achieve their release – knowing full well that any “legal” way would not provide them with anything but a prison cell.

Head of the Union of West German Industrialists Hans-Martin Schleier, kidnapped by the RAF. As a result, he will be executed


More explosions, new attacks. In November 1974, the radicals finally got to the judiciary – not just anyone, but the entire chairman of the Supreme Court, was audaciously shot. And in February 1975, the authorities made a grave mistake. Left-wing radicals kidnapped one of the major German politicians. He was exchanged for five militants imprisoned. They immediately flew to the Arabs, outside the German jurisdiction.

Now the RAF realized that the government can be “bent”. And they only intensified their efforts.

After the orgy with new terrorist attacks and abductions, the authorities realized the mistake. They removed old lawyers and did not let new ones. The prisoners went on a hunger strike in protest – in earnest, without pretense, so that some died. Everything is useless – the FRG security officials have clearly decided that they will no longer play by the rules of terrorists.

From time to time, old acquaintances from Palestine also tried to pull the RAF leaders out – in the summer of 1976 they hijacked the plane, and put forward, among other things, the corresponding requirements. But they were ingloriously killed by the Israelis after a daring raid into Uganda, where terrorists with ties to local authorities landed a plane.

More and more VIPs were kidnapped and killed – large industrialists and people of the level of the Attorney General. Hijacked another plane. To no avail.

No man – no problem?

In the late 1970s, a series of suicides swept among the top members of the RAF. The first was Ulrika Meinhof – she committed suicide back in 1976. The rest did the same the following year, apparently amid unsuccessful attempts to free themselves.

Of course, many were immediately overcome by doubts: did anyone help Baader, Enslin and others? The solution seemed to be painfully tempting – to deprive the terrorists of their super-goal in one fell swoop. However, there is no particular difference: if the top of the RAF was indeed killed by the German security forces, it is difficult to feel sorry for them. Baader and friends spat on German society – it wiped out. Then society spat at them – they drowned.

Be that as it may, the deaths of the elite really affected the radicals. The RAF militants who remained on the wave continued to blow up high-ranking officials and businessmen right up to 1991. But this was no longer a left-wing radical organization at the height of revolutionary sentiments among young people. Times have changed, and now terrorists acted more from subcultural moments. They killed out of spite, and not in the name of a great goal – there was no longer any faith in the coming world revolution.

The last killings of the RAF fighters happened in 1993, and in 1998 the organization announced its self-dissolution. Veiled promises, of course, to return. But no one else heard of her.

Some militants, who received 5-6 terms for their “art”, are still walking somewhere among the Germans. They behaved well, repented (at least, they were able to convince the prison authorities of this), and came out on parole – German laws in this sense are quite liberal. Where they are, no one knows: the German penitentiary system released them quietly. And the former members of the RAF, for obvious reasons, prefer not to remember their past.

Recommended For You

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *