Former German politician Jutta Ditfurth has been accused of
sympathizing with a member of the Red Army Faction in her biography
about Ulrike Meinhof.
Once one of Europe's most feared urban guerrillas, Ulrike Meinhof has
been the subject of numerous films, documentaries, stage productions,
songs and books, but her portrait has often been tinged by family
influence. Both Meinhof's ex-husband Kalus-Heinz Röhl and her
daughter Bettina Röhl have written about Meinhof and the process of
disintegration of German society beginning in the spring of 1968 that
led to the formation of the Red Army Faction (RAF).
But Jutta Ditfurth's biography on Meinhof, released in November,
disputes many of the myths that surround Meinhof's transformation
from journalist to RAF terrorist.
In her six years researching the biography, Ditfurth, a founder of
the German Greens party, who has since left the stage of national
politics, uncovered previously unpublished material, including
documents kept in archives outside of Germany.
"Ulrike Meinhof was a much more interesting, much more multi-faceted
person than I used to think," Ditfurth told DW-RADIO. "She was a
woman who would have had a huge amount of opportunities and prospects
-- if only she'd had the good fortune to have grown up somewhere
other than Germany."
The biography also encompasses the post-war history of West Germany
and the politically charged climate of the 1960s and 1970s. Ditfurth
examines the often forgotten social conditions, such as state
violence, the biased nature of German courts, the rigidity of
law-making, and the terrible conditions for political prisoners that
drove the RAF movement, also known as the Baader-Meinhof Gang, in
what was then a flourishing West German democracy.
Contaminated by terrorism?
The biography is written entirely chronological and largely devoid of
commentary, but critics have said that while the information used
might be factual it only tells half of the story. Even Meinhof's
daughter, Bettina Röhl, labelled the latest biography about her
mother "poisonous rubbish contaminated by terrorism."
While Ditfurth admits the book is politically biased, she said there
is a big difference between writing from a left wing point of view
and endorsing anarchic terrorism.
"I am a Leftie from a different generation and the RAF was really
never my cup of tea," she said. "I always drew a distinct line and
sharply criticised their terrorist acts."
Far from helping her, Ditfurth said her political credentials as
former leader of the German Green's left wing and her well documented
opposition to the Red Army Faction actually made researching the
biography more difficult.
"I was considered an outsider and was dealt with by people in certain
RAF circles with a lot of scepticism," she said. "But still I did my
best to find out all the things that I had ever wanted to know."
While Ditfurth is no apologist and she suggested that Meinhof's path
was wrong, she also said it was wholly understandable.
Ditfurth is not the first to be accused of crossing the line between
writing about the RAF and supporting the RAF – in 2002 critics said a
film about RAF co-founder Andreas Baader "glamorized the leader."