November 18, 2007
A few months ago, a former member of West (when the country was
divided) Germany's Red Army Faction, popularly known as the Baader
Meinhof Gang, was released from prison. Eva Haule had served 21 years
for the 1985 murder of an American soldier and a bombing at an
American air base.
This story got me thinking of the article I wrote for Court TV's
Crime Library about the this left-wing terrorist band. Baader Meinhof
Gang was a somewhat misleading nickname for the group. While Andreas
Baader was indisputably the group's leader, Ulrike Meinhof was
neither second in command nor was she Baader's girlfriend. Her name
got attached to his because she had some fame as a journalist before
joining up with the terrorist group.
I found Andreas Baader an interesting, sad, and somewhat baffling
character in and of himself. He had been raised in a permissive
household in which he had rarely, if ever, been disciplined. In this
respect, he was somewhat like 1930s American desperado Clyde Barrow
who was reported to have grown up without being disciplined. As
youngsters neither Barrow nor Baader had learned to delay
gratification and, as a result, were completely unprepared for the
adult world. In another parallel with Barrow, Baader had been a
common criminal prior to his conversion to Marxism at which point he
became a criminal with a cause.
Perhaps the greatest puzzle was why the Red Army Faction originated
in what was then West Germany. The post-war country was a prosperous
one although, as I noted in my story, the rewards of capitalism can
be frustratingly uneven and, by some standards, unfair. However, the
West Germany of the RAF was not a nation of widespread starvation,
homelessness, or extreme want and would not, at first glance, seem
like a fertile soil for Marxist terrorism.
There were other peculiarities about these extremists. Like others of
their generation, they grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust and the
guilt that so many of the generation of their parents bore for that
extraordinary historical horror. However, the radicals of the RAF and
other, similar groups often seemed like they were trying to prove, a
couple of decades too late, that they WOULD have fought against
Nazism if they could have. They also seemed to want to somehow
demonstrate their psychological freedom from the guilt of their
forebears by opposing the existence of Israel.
Another peculiarity of the Baader Meinhof Gang/Red Army Faction was
that they were robbing, bombing, and killing to create a communist
society when there was one right next door to them East Germany –
to which the members of this group could easily have emigrated. The
Berlin Wall was erected to keep people from the East from traveling
West not to keep West Germans from defecting to East Germany. Yet
these dedicated communists never seemed to have considered moving to
the Marxist land so close to them so they could enjoy the fruits of
the "workers' paradise" and help build it up. Maybe they just liked
the excitement of robbing, bombing, and murdering for a communist
revolution a lot better than they would have enjoyed living under the
gray regimentation and restriction that constitutes communism in the
When re-reading my article on the Baader Meinhof Gang, I noted a
sentence that could rankle some Men's News Daily readers. In it I
refer to 1966 as a period in which the women's liberation movement
was beginning and "many political programs wanted a woman to leaven
up the traditional monotony of male talking heads." I would not have
write this sentence today as it could be read as displaying anti-male
prejudice. However, I have to admit that I prefer a diverse group of
commentators and I do believe that we are more likely to see women
political commentators on programs today than in 1966 and previous
years. (No, I don't prefer programs with ONLY women political commentators).
At any rate, I've told you my speculations as to the making of the
Baader Meinhof Gang/Red Army Faction. My article is at
Readers, what are your thoughts on this group? On any of its
participants? On the way I dealt with them in my article?
Thanks to those who reply – even if you are critical.