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Baader-Meinhof bomb builder, Dierk Hoff’s most infamous creation: The Baby Bomb. In 1972, Hoff built the so-called “baby bomb”. The construction consisted of a steel container, which a woman could strap on. The container looked like the belly of a pregnant woman. After the supposedly pregnant woman had placed the bomb, she could inflate a balloon, which in turn simulated a fat belly. 

Baader-Meinhof: In Love with Terror 

In October 1977, the leadership of the German left wing terrorist group Baader-Meinhof, died in a German high-security prison. Their apparent suicides hailed the end of a long and bloody struggle to start a revolution in one of the world’s richest democracies.

During the years of 1968-1977 Germany lived in fear. Three terrorist groups – the Red Army Faction (RAF), Movement 2 June, and the Revolutionary Cells (RZ) – gathered about a hundred Germans as their members.

The Baader-Meinhof Gang, who called themselves the Red Army Faction, and two other terrorist groups went killing dozens of people. In 1968 the prominent German journalist Ulrike Meinhof joined the former juvenile delinquent Andreas Baader and his girlfriend Gudrun Ensslin in launching the most terrifying era in German postwar history.

It was the 1967 killing by police of a young activist during a demonstration in Berlin against a visit by the Shah of Iran that apparently persuaded Andreas Baader that the post-war authorities were little better than that which they had replaced.

2 June 1967, Berlin

The Shah of Iran pays an official visit to Berlin. Thousands of students take to the streets to protest the Shah’s brutally repressive regime. Students seem to be protesting every week–everything, from the war in Vietnam, to the Grand Coalition between the two major German political parties, to university policies, were used as excuses to march. It is all quite a lot of fun.

Noted journalist Ulrike Meinhof certainly enjoys attending the protests. She is the former editor of the leftist magazine konkret (founded and still published by her soon-to-be ex-husband Klaus Rainer Röhl) and she has recently begun appearing on television political panel shows. Though she has her spoons in many pots, she still writes a twice-monthly column for konkret. Prior to the Shah’s arrival she wrote a biting critique in konkret of the out-of-touch nature of the Shah and his wife. But Meinhof can’t make the 2 June Berlin protest; she is busy shopping for furniture for her new Hamburg home.

A young troublemaker named Andreas Baader also misses the 2 June protest. He is cooling his heels in a Traunstein jail, serving time for stealing a motorcycle.

A reed-thin some-time student, Gudrun Ensslin, is able to make the protest. She too has been a regular fixture at many of the Berlin protests; in the coming months she often will show up pushing her young baby son along in a stroller. For the Shah protest, fortunately, she leaves her two-week old baby Felix with her estranged husband, Bernward Vesper.

In the early evening thousands of protesters begin lining up behind police barricades across the street from the Opera House where the Shah is about to attend a performance. A few protesters lob paint-filled balloons; but nothing comes close to the Shah, who slips into the Opera House without even noticing the protesters.

11 April 1968, Berlin. Thousands of students converge on the Berlin headquarters of the Springer Press, whose incendiary coverage of Rudi Dutschke led many to conclude that Springer Press newspapers were responsible for the attempted assassination of Rudi Dutschke earlier that day.

As the people begin to disperse, the cops surprise them. The police utilize a new technique that they have developed for terrorizing crowds; they call it “The Liver-Sausage Method.” Like a stuffed liver sausage, the crowd of demonstrators are stuffed long and tight on the sidewalk between the barricades and buildings. The cops form a wedge, and rush the middle of the “sausage.” The demonstrators naturally rush sideways–the sausage exploding at its ends–and into the flailing truncheons of hundreds more waiting police.

Pandemonium rules. At one point the police grab one protester whom they believe to be a ringleader. Detective Sgt. Karl-Heinz Kurras points his gun at the protester’s head, and the guns goes off; possibly accidentally. Young Benno Ohnesorg, attending his first protest, is dead. The growing leftist movement gains a martyr.

Protesters stream away from the scene, in shock that the protest had turned deadly. Many students head towards the office of the SDS (a prominent student organization) on the Ku-Damm; Ensslin is among them. Inside Ensslin screams: “This fascist state means to kill us all! We must organize resistance. Violence is the only way to answer violence. This is the Auschwitz Generation, and there’s no arguing with them!”

Mid-Summer, Berlin

Baader meets Ensslin at a gathering. They fall in love immediately.

Baader and Ensslin head to Frankfurt am Main with two friends, Horst Söhnlein and Thorwald Proll. Baader has acquired quite a reputation as a “dangerous” sort by his constant calls for violent action. Invariably no one would choose to act on his “suggestions.” Today is different. This time Baader’s fellow comrades elect to take Baader up on his suggestion to burn down a department store.

Later that night Baader and Ensslin leave two time bombs in the Kaufhaus Schneider department store. Söhnlein and Proll leave a bomb in the Kaufhof store. At midnight the bombs go off, ultimately causing about $200,000 worth of damage. While tthe first flames appear, Ensslin is on a pay phone, screaming at the German Press Agency, “This is a political act of revenge!”

11 April, 1968 Berlin

A young house painter, Joseph Bachmann, waits patiently in the street outside the home of Rudi Dutschke. Dutschke is the firebrand leader of the APO — a leftist movement. In Bachmann’s coat pocket is a gun. Bachmann shoots Dutschke three times, knocking him clean out of his shoes. Dutschke survives his shooting. Immediately following the shooting Bachmann hides out in a basement of a local building, and swallows 20 sleeping tablets in an effort to commit suicide. The effort fails.

Enraged students assume that the reason Dutschke was targeted is because of the red-baiting rhetoric of the newspapers of the Springer Press newspapers. Owned by the rabidly anti-communist Lord Axel Springer, the Springer Press papers dominate Germany, constantly spewing anti-left diatribes, particularly against “red” Rudi Dutschke.

Thousands of students converge on the 20-story Springer Press headquarters that straddles the Berlin Wall. Ulrike Meinhof is there, having driven there with her konkret editor (and future Baader-Meinhof biographer) Stefan Aust. Many students have parked their cars in front of the building, forming a blockade. Aust suggests that Meinhof park her car in the blockade, but she isn’t so sure she wants to get involved to such an extent. They compromise by parking her car at the very end of the blockade, but Meinhof is arrested anyway. Later she avoids conviction by persuading the court that she is only guilty of a fantastically poor parking job. Tentative as it is, Meinhof’s poor parking job is her first direct action against the capitalist system. It would not be her last.

13 October, Frankfurt

Baader, Ensslin, Söhnlein, and Proll are convicted of Arson. They each get three years.

3 June 1967, Berlin – Gudrun Ensslin, far right, participates in a protest following the police shooting of a student the night before. A ban on all protest signs and banners is put in effect on the streets of Berlin. A student, Peter Homann, comes up with an ingenious prank to get around the ban; dress up eight people in tee-shirts, each with a single giant letter painted on the front and back. When lined up side-by-side the group’s tee-shirts read A-L-B-E-R-T-Z-! — referring to Berlin Mayor Heinrich Albertz — and when the group turns around in unison, their backs read A-B-T-R-E-T-E-N — which means “resign.” Photos appear across West Germany the next day — on the far right, with a giant exclamation point on her chest, is Ensslin. Despite Homann’s ingenuity, all eight protesters are arrested.

The public and the media weren’t interested in the true dynamics of the membership of the Baader-Meinhof Gang. For most, the group became a prime vehicle for people to project their own assumptions, fears, and ambitions. Nothing reflected this more than in the late summer of 1971, when seemingly overnight every bakery window, U-bahn station, kiosk, and lamp pole became covered with wanted posters. Supplied by the BKA, which was the West German federal criminal police force, the posters featured rows of the faces of almost two dozen young Germans sheepishly confronting passersby.

These wanted posters served as a coming out party for the Bundeskriminalamt; the BKA. Prior to the emergence of the Baader-Meinhof Gang, West Germany had no true national police force; nothing with the power or breadth of mandate of the United States’ FBI.

The BKA served as a frontier police force, but were specifically prevented from working within the German lander, or states; a legacy of the heavily decentralized structure imposed after the war in an effort to prevent the rise of another Hitler. It was akin to the American Wild West; terrorists on the run merely had to travel 50 kilometers to the next land to be assured that the there were no local police with the slightest bit of knowledge about them or whether the police from a neighboring state were searching for them.

Horst Herold, the newly-selected head of the BKA, had long advocated an increased role for the BKA in the internal security of West Germany. His arguments always fell on deaf ears. But with the Baader-Meinhof Gang on the loose, the various German land had a considerable change of heart, and authorized an extraordinary expansion of the powers of the BKA.

Dierk Hoff was not a member of the RAF. However, he was involved in their attacks in 1971 and 1972. Hoff lived in Frankfurt am Main in 1970, was a sculptor and metal craftsman and technically versed. He maintained contacts with the left scene. At the end of 1971 he was visited by the RAF members Holger Meins and Jan-Carl Raspe and asked to build hand grenade patches, pipe coats and other items as props for a film. In response to Hoff’s demand for what a film was, Meins had replied:

” A kind of revolutionary action “

It turned out that he should build real hand grenades and other weapons for the RAF. According to his own information, Hoff, when he saw this, had tried to get out of the way, and had been threatened by Meins and Raspe with weapons. He was so intimidated afterwards that he continued to work for the group, he later admitted. However, Hoff received several thousand DM in cash for his contribution from the RAF members, which he accepted. The extent to which the objects built by Hoff were used has not been conclusively clarified. The use of a bomb built by him was proved by the attack on the headquarters of the V Corps of the US Army in Frankfurt in 1972, with two dead. However, various other explosives were also used, so Hoff’s responsibility for the dead is questionable. He was not accused later in this connection.

In 1972, Hoff built the so-called “baby bomb.” The construction consisted of a steel container, which a woman could strap on. The container looked like the belly of a pregnant woman. After the supposedly pregnant woman had placed the bomb, she could inflate a balloon, which in turn simulated a fat belly. The baby bomb has always been reported, but it has never been used.

Hoff was no longer active for the RAF after the arrest of the first generation in 1972. In 1975, according to some RAF members, he was exposed and arrested. He was released after a brief prison sentence.

On 5 September, 1977, a woman with a pushchair stepped out in front of a car on a street in Cologne.

The driver, who was chauffeuring one of West Germany’s most powerful industrialists, was forced to brake.

The woman pulled out two machine guns, and her accomplices, following behind, bundled Hanns Martin Schleyer out of the car. His bodyguards were killed at the scene and one month later, his body was found in the boot of a car.

Schleyer is one name on a list of more than 30 people killed by the Baader-Meinhof gang – or Red Army Faction as it later became known – during a campaign against members of the German elite and US military personnel which started in the late 1960s.

Born from the radical student movement of that period, the RAF comprised mainly middle-class youngsters who saw themselves as fighting a West German capitalist establishment which they apparently believed was little more than a reincarnation of the Third Reich.

At the height of its popularity, around a quarter of young West Germans expressed some sympathy for the group. Many condemned their tactics but understood their disgust with the new order, particularly one where former Nazis enjoyed prominent roles.

Their critics meanwhile denounced them as murderous nihilists – desperate for a cause but with no real political goals.

2 April 1968, Frankfurt am Main – Andreas Baader and Gudrun Ensslin, along with two comrades, leave bombs in the Schneider department store, causing $75,000 worth of damage.

On May 14, 1970, Andreas Baader was violently freed from a correctional facility in the West Berlin neighborhood of Tegel. This paved the way for the birth of the first generation of the Red Army Faction [Rote Armee Fraktion or RAF], which crystallized around Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, Ulrike Meinhof, Holger Meins, und Jan-Carl Raspe.

Their first programmatic statement was Ensslin’s call to arms, “Build up the Red Army!” which was issued in June 1970. The group first referred to itself as the “Red Army Faction” in Meinhof’s text “The Urban Guerilla Concept” of April 1971. (The group is also commonly referred to as the “Baader/Meinhof Gang,” after its two leading members.)

After a series of bank robberies, car thefts, and document thefts, the RAF carried out a string of bomb attacks in May 1972, targeting the headquarters of the 5th U.S. Corps in Frankfurt am Main (May 11), the local police headquarters in Augsburg and the Bavarian state police headquarters in Munich (May 12), federal judge Wolfgang Buddenberg, the Springer publishing house, and the Heidelberg headquarters of the U.S. Army in Europe (May 24). Most of the RAF’s first-generation members were arrested and jailed in June 1972. The wanted poster below shows (from the upper left to the lower right): Ulrike Meinhof, Andreas Bernd Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, Holger Klaus Meins, Jan-Carl Raspe, Ilse Stachowiak, Klaus Jünschke, Ronald Augustin, Bernhard Braun, Ralf Reinders, Ingeborg Barz, Irmgard Möller, Brigitte Mohnhaupt, Axel Achterath, Katharina Hammerschmidt, Rosemarie Keser, Siegfried Hausner, Heinz Brockmann, Albert Fichter.

The poster was intended by the BKA as a pure wanted poster; but it had differing effects on different Germans. The generation of the parents of the people on the poster were in their 20s and 30s during National Socialist era. This new “organization” of young people who seemed to be living their ethos of gender-neutrality, would have certainly been a shock.

The heading reads: “Violent Criminal Anarchists – Baader/Meinhof Gang.” The text begins as follows: “The following persons are being sought for their participation in murders, bombings, bank robberies, and other criminal acts.” It continues, “Reward money in the amount of 100,000 Marks is being offered for tips leading to the capture of these persons. The reward does not apply to civil servants whose professional responsibilities involve the prosecution of criminal behavior. The award and distribution of this money will proceed without the possibility of recourse to legal action.Information can be handled confidentially upon request and is being collected by: Federal Police Headquarters – Security Group and by every police station. Beware! These violent criminals will make ruthless use of guns!”

The reach of the Baader-Meinhof wanted poster was enormous and unprecedented; seven million posters were printed and distributed across a country with only 60 million residents. The photos on the poster were relatively benign; many clearly came from school photos or from family albums. But if the photos on the poster were not particularly menacing, the poster itself certainly was; the ever-present nature of the poster left many Germans fearing that terrorists were behind every lamp post and phone box.

What the authorities did not anticipate however, was that their poster would also communicate another equally powerful message—unintended, yet devastating in its allure—to many young German women. Of the nineteen faces, almost half were women.

The top row featured those who it could be assumed to be the group’s leaders; Ulrike Meinhof, Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, Holger Meins, and Jan-Carl Raspe; woman, man, woman, man, man. Seen through the eyes of a progressive young woman stifled by paternalistic German society—where the tripartite ideal of Kinder, Küche, Kirche (Children, Kitchen, Church) was considered sacrosanct, where it was still technically illegal to co-habitate with a man who was not your husband, where all abortion was outlawed, and where men were legally recognized as the head of the household—this was powerful, empowering stuff.

Intended by the BKA to turn the German populace against the group, the wanted poster actually touched a deep nerve among many young German women who were excited by this band of outlaws who were clearly disregarding any notions that guns and bombs were the pure domain of men. They weren’t seen so much as attacking the state, as they were promoting and practicing equality. In fact, even the BKA seemed to be tacitly accepting the Baader-Meinhof Gang’s premise of gender equality by equally spacing the women and men throughout the poster; few would have noticed had the poster lined all the of the men along the top rows and the women along the bottom, indicating men’s traditional dominant role and women’s traditional auxiliary role.

Of course this gender-neutral poster offered an equally appealing flip-side to young German men; apparently with Revolutionary Terrorism—what one assumed would be the most male of vocations—there were an almost equal number of women. Any impulse by young German men to have their egos threatened by clearly powerful women was negated cleanly by the assumption that if an outlaw band of young radicals were equally divided between men and women then sex must be rampant. A whole lot of sex.

Many conservatives read the poster the same way, and had exactly the opposite reaction. This depraved, debauched gang of criminal youths were clearly having sex; entirely too much of it. The emotional women driving the group certainly were the central cause for their irrational acts of terror; men would not act with such malice and illogic, would they?

The student protests of 1968 gradually became riots. The young terrorists in their desperate attempt to start the world revolution took to terrorism: mere bank robbings turned to kidnappings and murders.

Vowing to mount a violent campaign, he started off in 1968 by detonating home-made bombs in two Frankfurt department stores.

Arrested and imprisoned, he escaped in 1970 during a library visit with the help of a left-wing campaigning journalist – Ulrike Meinhof – and the Baader-Meinhof gang was firmly established in the public mind.

Horst Mahler – a socialist lawyer who was a key figure within the German neo-Nazi movement – was by this stage also heavily involved with the fledgling organisation.

In 1970, several members of the group headed off to Jordan where they were taught how to use a Kalashnikov at a camp run by the Palestinian Liberation Organisation.

They spent the next two years robbing banks and bombing buildings back in Germany.

Most of the leaders of the most famous West German terrorist group, the Baader-Meinhof Gang, were captured in mid-1972.

Baader was captured with accomplices Jan-Carl Raspe and Holger Meins in a Frankfurt shootout on 1 June, 1972.

Baader’s girlfriend Gudrun Ensslin was arrested a week later, and Meinhof was caught in mid-June.

Their followers continued kidnapping and killing people over the next five years in an effort to secure their leaders’ release from prison, but it was all in vain. The German government had no intention of releasing them.

The German government used the terrorist crisis to approve new laws giving them broad powers in fighting terrorism. Radical leftists protested, but the majority of the German people were firmly on the side of the government.

8 October 1970, Berlin – Horst Mahler is captured in Berlin along with several associates. Police also confiscated his toupee disguise, guns, and other material.

A second generation of militants took up the fight, carrying out some of the bloodiest and most high-profile attacks in order to secure the release of their heroes, whose trial – the longest and most expensive in West German history – opened in 1975.

That same year the German Embassy in Sweden was seized; two of the hostages, both attachés, were shot dead during the 11-hour siege after Chancellor Helmut Schmidt refused to give in to demands that all the suspects be released.

In the course of the trial, Meinhof was found hanging from a rope made of towels in her cell – her death sparking a stream of conspiracy theories from her followers.

The trial concluded a year later, with the three remaining defendants sentenced to life imprisonment for murder and attempted murder.

A new series of assassinations had already begun.

On 7 April 1977, chief public prosecutor Siegfried Buback was killed in Karlsruhe by a motorcycle hit squad.

Three months later, the chief executive of Dresdner Bank, Juergen Ponto, was killed at his home in Frankfurt.

But it was the September abduction of Schleyer, head of the German Association of Employers and a former member of the Nazi party, which kicked off a series of events known as the German Autumn.

Schleyer’s captors offered his release in exchange for Baader, Ensslin and nine others.

But even as the negotiations were being carried out, Arab sympathisers were finalising a plan to hijack a plane full of German tourists bound to Frankfurt from Majorca to increase the pressure on the authorities.

Late in 1977, after an airplane hi-jacking by Palestinian comrades failed to release the three imprisoned leaders of the Baader-Meinhof Gang.

The aircraft, seized on 13 October, went first to Italy, then Cyprus, Bahrain and Dubai, before finally landing in Mogadishu, where the captain was shot dead by the hijackers.

Shortly afterwards, German elite commandos stormed the plane, killing three of the hijackers and freeing the hostages.

The success of the mission provided a ray of hope for a country where many felt under siege. But it was the final blow for the group’s leaders in prison.

As news broke, the terrorists Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, and Jan-Carl Raspe all committed suicide at Stammheim prison deep at night on October 17, 1977. The Baader-Meinhof era, the era of “German Autumn”, was over. Everybody in Germany hoped so. Unfortunately many kidnappings and deaths were yet to come.

Baader, Ensslin and Raspe had committed suicide – although there is still some controversy as to how they obtained the weapons they used.

The next day, Schleyer’s kidnappers announced he had been killed.

Whether there was any great ideological design behind the killings of the 1970s is unclear. By 1977, it looked as though the release of the imprisoned had become an end in itself.

Some analysts believe the RAF had hoped to push the state to breaking point, goading it into introducing a series of illiberal measures that would whip up anger within the left and spark some form of civil war.

Indeed comparisons have been drawn with the crackdown on some civil liberties which followed the 9/11 attacks on the US and the steps taken in Germany during that period, when new laws were quickly introduced to limit suspects’ rights and bolster police powers.

But while it initally enjoyed some sympathy from the left, the RAF found itself increasingly isolated as the years went by, although it did find assistance from communist East Germany, where a number of their members were given refuge.

Attacks continued throughout the 1980s, but the group never achieved the kind of prominence it had enjoyed in the 1970s.

Arms industry executive Ernst Zimmermann was killed in 1985, the same year a bombing at a US airbase killed two people, and in 1986, Siemens executive Karl-Heinz Beckurts was killed.

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 weakened the group immensely. After a long lull, on 20 April 1998, the group announced its dissolution. A communiqué sent to Reuters proved what many had long suspected: that the RAF was officially disbanded.

“The revolution says: I was, I am, I will be again,” it declared as it signed off.

Red Army Faction/Baader-Meinhof Group, Germany

Terrorism in Germany – Baader-Meinhof Gang – German Culture

The Baader-Meinhof Gang | Alexander Street

Red Army Faction (RAF) | German radical leftist group | Britannica.com

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