The RAF and Berlin. In 1970, Andreas Baader, Ulrike Meinhof, Gudrun Ensslin, Horst Mahler and others founded the Red Army Faction. Briefly RAF. The extreme left-wing terrorist organization, which operated along the lines of Latin American guerrilla groups, left a trail of violence and left a lasting mark on German history. More than 30 murders attributed to "Baader-Meinhof" gang. In addition, there are bank robberies, bombings and kidnappings.
Most of the acts did not happen in Berlin, but both West and East Berlin played an enduring role in the RAF's history. 50 years after the terrorist group was founded, here we have compiled the RAF's most important historical links to Berlin.
The prehistory: APO, Rudi Dutschke and the student movement
In West Berlin in the 1960s, a diverse and very active left-wing to radical left-wing political scene emerged. Rudi Dutschke led the student movement, the Extra-Parliamentary Opposition (APO) organized against the Bonn parties, Kommune 1 experimented with new ways of living together, publishers circulated manifestos, dogmatic K-groups discussed world revolution, and the long-haired freaks prowled as roving pot rebels.
The protest against the war in Vietnam and the visit of the Persian Shah on 2. June 1967, in which the student Benno Ohnesorg was shot by a policeman, moved the mind. Although neither Dutschke, who rejected politically motivated violence and called for a "march through the institutions," nor the other developments and movements can be considered immediate precursors of the RAF, the charged West Berlin atmosphere was attractive to many leftists in Germany.
Youth in West Berlin: Baader, Ensslin, Meins and Raspe in the Wall City
There was no curfew in West Berlin, the Allies administered the Wall City, and as a man you did not have to join the Bundeswehr. At the Free University the students politicized themselves and in the pubs and nightclubs one could listen to wild music and exchange radical ideas.
The later RAF founders were also drawn to the Frontstadt in the 1960s. Andreas Baader arrived in 1963, lived out his bisexuality, posed for the famous fashion photographer Herbert Tobias, had a three-way relationship with the Berlin painter Ellinor Michel and her husband, and moved in the environment of the student movement and Commune 1.
In the mid-sixties, 25-year-old Gudrun Ensslin also arrived in West Berlin from her Swabian homeland and studied German at the FU. In 1967 she became a mother, her son Felix's godfather was Rudi Dutschke.
In 1966, Holger Meins of Hamburg moved from the art academy in the Hanseatic city to the German Film and Television Academy (dffb), which had just been founded in Berlin.
And Jan Carl-Raspe even has a double connection to Berlin. The third RAF member, along with Baader and Ensslin, who committed suicide in the "Night of Death at Stammheim" in 1977, spent his childhood in East Berlin. From 1961 Raspe lived in West Berlin where he studied chemistry and sociology. He met Ulrike Meinhof through his girlfriend at the time.
The radical advocate: Horst Mahler
One of the most colorful figures in the early days of the RAF was certainly the flamboyant lawyer Horst Mahler, who was considered brilliant. He was a member of a militant fraternity, the SPD and the Sozialistischer Deutscher Studentenbund (SDS). Born in 1936, he was older than the other RAF terrorists. Mahler came to West Berlin in the 1950s to study law and, along with the Green Party veteran Hans-Christian Strobele, was a co-founder of the Socialist Lawyers' Collective.
As a defense lawyer, he represented prominent left-wing activists such as Fritz Teufel and Rudi Dutschke, as well as Gudrun Ensslin and Andreas Baader, who were charged with left-wing extremist-motivated arson attacks on two department stores in Frankfurt am Main. In 1970, Mahler was involved in the founding of the RAF and was a co-organizer of the so-called "Baader Liberation". He was arrested in October 1970 and sentenced to 14 years in prison. In 1974 he was expelled from the RAF.
The Baader Liberation: German Central Institute for Social Issues
After the final conviction of Baader and Ensslin for the attacks on the department stores in Frankfurt am Main, the two went into hiding and lived with, among others, the left-wing journalist, author and filmmaker Ulrike Meinhof in West Berlin.
During a traffic control faked by the police, Baader was arrested on 4. April 1970 in West Berlin and was sent to Tegel prison. Baader's closest circle, which included Meinhof and Ensslin as well as Irene Georgen, Ingrid Schubert and Astrid Proll, immediately began planning the liberation.
Under the pretext of an appointment initiated by the publisher Klaus Wagenbach for an interview that Ulrike Meinhof was to conduct with Baader about a book project entitled "Organization of Marginalized Youths," Baader was arrested on 14. May 1970, Baader was taken from his cell in Tegel to the library of the German Central Institute for Social Issues in Dahlem.
Afterwards the institute was stormed by Baader's liberators, firearms were used and an institute employee was wounded. Meinhof and Baader jumped out of the window and fled in a stolen Alfa Romeo. The "Baader Liberation" is considered the symbolic birth of the RAF.
New media: Agit 883
Essential to the terrorist organization was its theoretical superstructure. The RAF published policy papers, manifestos and other documents. In addition, there was a series of other texts from the environment as well as from critical observers and left-wing intellectuals, in which the political goals of extreme left-wing terrorism were conveyed, analyzed and discussed.
The first RAF statement appeared on 5. June 1970 in the radical left-wing anarchist West Berlin magazine Agit 883, which was produced out of a Wilmersdorf apartment.
Leftist desperados: The "three-strike" in West Berlin
The life in the underground is expensive and also for the revolution, even if it should be a communist and anti-imperialist one, one needs money. Thus, a not insignificant part of the RAF activities had the goal of raising money.
Already in the early days, RAF terrorists attacked three banks in West Berlin in the so-called "three-strikes" and looted a good 200.000 DM. Barely two weeks after the bank robberies, Horst Mahler and Irene Georgens, among others, were arrested in this context.
Parallel Terror: The Movement 2. June
The radicalization of the left-wing scene progressed after the founding of the RAF. In January 1972, the Movement 2 was founded in West Berlin. June, named after the day in 1967 when West Berlin police officer Karl-Heinz Kurras shot student Benno Ohnesorg during a demonstration against the Shah.
In 1975, not long before the "German Autumn," the most spectacular case of radical left-wing terrorism occurred in West Berlin: a few days before the Berlin parliamentary elections on 27. February 1975, members of the movement kidnapped 2. June the chairman of the Berlin CDU Peter Lorenz.
Lorenz was to be exchanged for six imprisoned terrorists, including members of the RAF. In early March 1975, the unification took place, with Mahler rejecting the exchange. The remaining liberated prisoners were flown out to South Yemen. Lorenz, who had been held prisoner in the Schenkendorfstrasse in Kreuzberg, among other places, was released on 4. March 1975 free.
Support scene: Red Help, demos and sympathizers
The "armed struggle" caused a split within the leftist scene. While the APO and the student movement were still able to sweep along tens if not hundreds of thousands, the RAF consisted of hardly more than 60-80 members in the entire period of its existence. In addition, there was a circle of supporters, especially in the years up to 1977. The so-called "sympathizers.
People organized themselves into various groups, such as the Red Help, which u.a. supported imprisoned RAF members, and showed up at funerals, such as those of Holger Meins (1974) and Ulrike Meinhof (1976), who was buried at Dreifaltigkeitskirchhof III in Mariendorf.
Until the "German Autumn" and the "Night of Death at Stammheim," the number of sympathizers in West Berlin was still relatively high. After that, at the latest, disillusionment set in and many ideological companions and "brothers and sisters in spirit" finally turned their backs on the RAF.
RAF papers: guerrilla, resistance and anti-imperialist front
The RAF changed in the 1980s. The "First Generation" belonged to history, the "Second Generation" was also mostly dead or arrested, and the "Third Generation" was a ghost. Few names of the still active members were known, there were fewer and fewer arrests, but the assassinations, murders and acts of sabotage were no less brutal.
The strategy of the Third Generation was summarized in a text published in May 1982. The so-called "May Paper," or "Guerrilla, Resistance and Anti-Imperialist Front," described cooperation with International Terrorist Groups and precise attacks. The RAF's last policy paper was also reprinted by the taz.
Allegedly, the RAF terrorists also looked for supporters in the West Berlin squatter scene in the early 1980s.
RAF, Stasi and the GDR: Admission of dropouts
Starting in 1980, RAF dropouts were admitted to the GDR. Many of the former terrorists arrived in the GDR capital from exile via Schonefeld airport and were given false identities to enable them to lead normal lives in the SED state.
Today, ten people are known to have found shelter in the GDR as RAF dropouts. The Ministry for State Security was in charge of the operation. During the reunification period, the RAF terrorists who had gone into hiding were discovered and extradited to the FRG.
The end of the RAF
On 20. April 1998 the RAF announced its dissolution. RAF terrorists killed a total of 34 people, and 26 people from the ranks of the RAF also died, Movement 2. June, the revolutionary cells and the environment. In 2011, Birgit Hogefeld, the last RAF member still in prison, was released from prison.
The time after: Exhibitions, films and novels
Even 50 years after its founding and 22 years after its dissolution, the RAF is still one of the most significant chapters in German post-war history. Left-wing radical terror has changed society. It influenced the development of the left-wing and alternative scenes, it shaped politics, policing and the judiciary, and not least the cultural landscape.
Countless books, films, plays and exhibitions have dealt with the RAF phenomenon. Directors Volker Schlondorff, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Christian Petzold and Uli Edel made films about Baader, Ensslin, Meinhof and the consequences of left-wing terrorism. The German Historical Museum in Berlin dedicated a comprehensive exhibition to the RAF in 2015 and the KW Institute for Contemporary Art (Kunst-Werke) already illuminated the connections in 2005 in the exhibition "Imagination of Terror and the Imagination of the RAF".