Sunday, October 19, 2008

Baader-Meinhof and Modern Terrorism

In The Sunday Times, I write about the terrorism of the Red Army Faction  - led by Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof - in Germany  in the seventies. Stefan Aust's book The Baader-Meinhof Complex has been updated and there's a film of the same name produced by Bernd Eichinger. You have to see it. It is, mercifully, an anti-romantic view of these killers, but at the same time, the paranoid psychology of the group once the killing starts is entirely convincing, almost understandable even though their belief that Germany was, once again, becoming a fascist state is madness.


  1. I do not remember that period at all well, what I do seemed to be feelings of helpless hopelessness. And what was driving this feeling I have yet to fully understand. But it is the other side of the coin to what I feel of The Kennedy era.


  2. Heimat, probably one of the best TV dramas of the past 20 years gave a very good portrayal of the gang, totally mindless violence. A German colleague who was at the Sorbonne at the time of the Cohn-Bendit fiasco summed up their revolution rather well, "we thought we could order the world, in truth we couldn't order a sandwich"

  3. Nor would it be possible to understand the many terrorist movements which began to oppress European society from the late 1960s onward, without trying to grasp the peculiar and very complex nature of the intellectual radicalisation at the peaks of Western culture which was decisive in les evenements that led to the May Revolution of 1968 in Paris, even if it produced no lasting results.

    But Bryan is right, of course, when he says that The German decade of terror foreshadowed the world in which we live. Or, indeed, that it is a story that forms a perfect circle.

  4. It's surprising you don't mention the state sponsored Gladio network, which encompassed the Baader-Meinhof Coplex, in the article. There was even an in-depth 3 part BBC documentary in 1992 called, unsurprisingly, Operation GLadio, which the director, Allan Frankovich, described thus:

    'Operation Gladio' reveals 'Gladio', the secret state-sponsored terror network operating in Europe.
    Director Allan Frankovich:
    This BBC series is about a far-right secret army, operated by the CIA and MI6 through NATO, which killed hundreds of innocent Europeans and attempted to blame the deaths on Baader Meinhof, Red Brigades and other left wing groups. Known as 'stay-behinds' these armies were given access to military equipment which was supposed to be used for sabotage after a Soviet invasion. Instead it was used in massacres across mainland Europe as part of a CIA Strategy of Tension. Gladio killing sprees in Belgium and Italy were carried out for the purpose of frightening the national political classes into adopting U.S. policies."

    Actions carried out by Gladio in particular included the 1969 Piazza Fontana bombing, the 1972 Peteano attack by Vincenzo Vinciguerra and the 1980 Bologna train massacre.

    Yu can watch the BBC documentary on the state terrorist network here.

    State-sponsored terrorism: the simple purpose being to carry out terrorist attacks, blame them broadly on the forces you wish to attack, and also carry out the consequential strict internal measures/states of emergency necessary to protect the public from the dreadful people carrying out these attacks.
    Of course, there is never any serious shortage in finding people to spin the required propaganda either; even the most false of environs abhor vacuums.

  5. The amusing part is that if they hadn't committed suicide they would probably all be free today.