Meinhof daughter criticizes Red Army Faction film
The Associated Press
Published: October 9, 2008
A new film devoted to the violent career of the Red Army Faction has
drawn sharp criticism from both the daughter of one of the left-wing
German terrorist group's leaders and the daughter of a prominent victim.
"The Baader Meinhof Complex," directed by Uli Edel and produced by
Bernd Eichinger, was released in Germany on Sept. 25 and already has
been chosen as the country's contender for a foreign-language Oscar nomination.
However, the daughter of Ulrike Meinhof a leader of the Red Army
Faction, which was also known as the Baader-Meinhof gang told The
Associated Press she saw it as more hero worship than history.
"The film portrays one murder after another without any sense of
meaning, any explanation," Bettina Roehl said in an interview Thursday.
The Red Army Faction followed Marxist-Leninist ideology and sought to
overthrow the West German government and fight perceived U.S.
imperialism. The organization killed 34 people and wounded hundreds
between its first attack in 1968 and declaring itself disbanded in 1998.
Roehl said the film is offensive not only for its glut of violent
scenes but because "in nonverbal but very suggestive ways, the film
insinuates that their motivations for terrorism are understandable."
"That is 100 percent wrong," said Roehl, who has long decried the Red
Army Faction's violent campaign against the West German establishment.
Roehl, a freelance journalist, earlier this week interviewed Corinna
Ponto, the daughter of Juergen Ponto, the chief executive of Dresdner
Bank who was shot dead by the group at his home in 1977. The scene is
graphically re-enacted in the film.
"There were never any images from the (group's) assassination of my
father until now," Ponto was quoted as saying in the Die Welt daily.
"That always provided a degree of comfort and solace for us. I find
the film's willingness to wrongfully invade our privacy particularly
The movie traces the Red Army Faction's origins in the discontent of
a group of West Germans jaded by U.S. involvement in Vietnam and what
they saw as their parents' failure to deal with the nation's Nazi legacy.
Meinhof and early co-leader Andreas Baader committed suicide in
prison in the late 1970s, but the group continued to conduct sporadic
bombings and murders.
The film has won mixed reviews from relatives of other Red Army
Faction victims. Joerg Schleyer, the son of assassinated
industrialist Hanns-Martin Schleyer, praised it in the Bild daily for
showing up the faction as a "pitiless gang of murderers."
Eichinger, meanwhile, defended the depiction of another killing
that of West German federal prosecutor Siegfried Buback against
criticism from his son.
He acknowledged that the scene would be "difficult" for Buback's son,
but argued that "showing the scene in a watered-down form" would have
meant "knowingly falsifying and downplaying the facts," according to
an interview with the Hoerzu weekly.
ANGER OVER BAADER-MEINHOF BIOPIC
Victims' Families in Uproar over New German Terrorism Film
"The Baader-Meinhof Complex," a new film chronicling the murderous
exploits of the Red Army Faction, a German left-wing terrorist group,
is stirring anger among relatives of the group's victims. The head of
one family says she will return Germany's top civilian honor in protest.
Amid accusations its makers are guilty of "hero worship" and
glorifying murderous activists with "terrorist-chic," a new German
film that recreates the dramatic history of 1970s terrorist gang the
Red Army Faction (RAF), is becoming a lightning rod for impassioned
protests from spouses and children of those killed by the group. Just
over a week after its release, the debate over the "Baader-Meinhof
Complex" continues to rage in Germany.
Launched and led by radical history professor Andreas Baader and
journalist Ulrike Meinhof, the RAF, or the "Baader-Meinhof Gang" as
they are sometimes called, claimed 34 lives in a wave of attacks
against businesses, industrialists, bankers and government officials
in West Germany that spanned a three-decade period that began in the
late 1960s and continued into the '80s.
One of those lives belonged to Jürgen Ponto, the former head of
Dresdner Bank. As a protest against the film his widow, 79-year-old
Ignes Ponto, says she will return the Federal Cross of Merit,
Germany's highest civilian honor, that she received in 1988 for
founding a group committed to promoting the teaching of music in the
country's schools. The decision by Ponto, a professional musician, to
return her award was made public on Tuesday by her daughter, Corinna Ponto.
The film has been roundly criticized for glamorizing the RAF and for
exploiting its aura of "terrorist-chic" in order to make a splash at
the box-office. Meinhof's own daughter, journalist Bettina Roehl,
went so far as to call the film's depiction of her mother's crimes
the "worst-case scenario," saying "it would not be possible to top
its hero worship."
The film, which is based on a book by former SPIEGEL editor in chief
Stefan Aust, has been selected as Germany's official entry for best
foreign film in the 2009 Oscar race.
According to Ponto's daughter, who was 19 years old when her father
was killed, the family has been forced over the years to accustom
itself to painful public discussions of their family's tragedy. She
says that the release of the film, however, reaches a "whole new
level of public indignity."
In addition to glamorizing terrorism, the Pontos accuse the film of
getting the facts wrong and drifting into "fantasy." The film's
visual reconstruction of Jürgen Ponto's murder is "entirely false,"
Corinna Ponto told the German newspaper Die Welt. "Up until now,
there had never been any pictures of my father's murder," she said.
"That always gave us a measure of comfort and also protection. The
film's inaccurate incursion into our private lives feels to me like a
The family also criticized the government for continuing to fail,
after all these years, to dedicate any kind of plaque or memorial to
the RAF's victims. Corrina Ponto also attacked the government for
providing public art subsidies to help finance a film she considers
"unhistorical" and "dangerous."
"The Baader-Meinhof Complex" will be released in the United States
and Britain in November.