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They'll kill Us all. You know what kind of pigs We're up against. This is the Auschwitz generation. You can't argue with people who made Auschwitz. They have weapons and We haven't. We must arm ourselves!

The Red Army Faction (German: Rote Armee Fraktion), also known as the Baader-Meinhof Group (German: Baader-Meinhof-Gruppe), Baader-Meinhof Gang (German: Baader-Meinhof-Bande) or simply as RAF, were a group of far-left-oriented homegrown terrorists, bank robbers, assassins, bombers and abductors. They were founded in 1970 in The Federal Republic of Germany, eventually remaining active until 1998.

Background and First Generation

The Red Army Faction logo

The origins of the group can be traced back to the student protest movement in West Germany. Industrialized nations in the late 1960s experienced social upheavals related to the maturing of the "baby boomers", the Cold War, and the end of colonialism. Newly found youth identity and issues such as racism, women's liberation, and anti-imperialism were at the forefront of left-wing politics. Many young people were alienated, from both their parents and the institutions of state. The historical legacy of Nazism drove a wedge between the generations and increased suspicion of authoritarian structures in society (some analysts see the same occurring in post-fascism Italy, giving rise to "Brigate Rosse").

In West Germany, there was anger among leftist youth at the post-war denazification in West Germany and East Germany, which was perceived as a failure or as ineffective, as former (actual and supposed) Nazis held positions in government and the economy. The Communist Party of Germany had been outlawed since 1956. Elected and appointed government positions down to the local level were often occupied by ex-Nazis. Konrad Adenauer, the first Federal Republic chancellor (in office 1949–1963), had even appointed former Nazi sympathiser Hans Globke as Director of the Federal Chancellery of West Germany (in office 1953–1963).

The radicals regarded the conservative media as biased—at the time conservatives such as Axel Springer, who was implacably opposed to student radicalism, owned and controlled the conservative media including all of the most influential mass-circulation tabloid newspapers. The emergence of the Grand Coalition between the two main parties, the SPD and CDU, with former Nazi Party member Kurt Georg Kiesinger as chancellor, occurred in 1966. This horrified many on the left and was viewed as a monolithic, political marriage of convenience with pro-NATO, pro-capitalist collusion on the part of the social democratic SPD. With 95% of the Bundestag controlled by the coalition, an Extra-Parliamentary Opposition (APO) was formed with the intent of generating protest and political activity outside of government. In 1972 a law was passed—the Radikalenerlass—that banned radicals or those with a "questionable" political persuasion from public sector jobs.

Ulrike Meinhof and Andreas Baader

The radicalized were, like many in the New Left, influenced by:

  • Sociological developments, pressure within the educational system in and outside Europe and the U.S., together with the background of counter-cultural movements.
  • The writings of Mao Zedong adapted to Western European conditions.
  • Post-war writings on class society and empire as well as contemporary Marxist critiques from many revolutionaries such as Frantz Fanon, Ho Chi Minh, and Che Guevara, as well as early Autonomism.
  • Philosophers associated with the Frankfurt school (Jürgen Habermas, Herbert Marcuse, and Oskar Negt in particular) and associated Marxian philosophers.

RAF founder Ulrike Meinhof had a long history in the Communist Party. Holger Meins had studied film and was a veteran of the Berlin revolt; his short feature How To Produce A Molotov Cocktail was seen by huge audiences. Jan Carl Raspe lived at the Kommune 2; Horst Mahler was an established lawyer but also at the center of the anti-Springer revolt from the beginning. From their own personal experiences and assessments of the socio-economic situation they soon became more specifically influenced by Leninism and Maoism, calling themselves "Marxist-Leninist" though they effectively added to or updated this ideological tradition. A contemporaneous critique of the Red Army Faction's view of the state, published in a pirate edition of Le Monde Diplomatique, ascribed to it "state-fetishism"—an ideologically obsessive misreading of bourgeois dynamics and the nature and role of the state in post-WWII societies, including West Germany.

It is claimed that property destruction during the Watts riots in the United States in 1965 influenced the practical and ideological approach of the RAF founders, as well as some of those in Situationist circles.

The writings of Antonio Gramsci and Herbert Marcuse were drawn upon. Gramsci wrote on power, cultural, and ideological conflicts in society and institutions—real-time class struggles playing out in rapidly developing industrial nation states through interlinked areas of political behavior, Marcuse on coercion and hegemony in that cultural indoctrination and ideological manipulation through the means of communication ("repressive tolerance") dispensed with the need for complete brute force in modern 'liberal democracies'. His One-Dimensional Man was addressed to the restive students of the sixties. Marcuse argued that only marginal groups of students and poor alienated workers could effectively resist the system. Both Gramsci and Marcuse came to the conclusion that the ideological underpinnings and the 'superstructure' of society was vitally important in the understanding of class control (and acquiescence). This could perhaps be seen as an extension of Marx's work as he did not cover this area in detail. Das Kapital, his mainly economic work, was meant to be one of a series of books which would have included one on society and one on the state, but his death prevented fulfilment of this.

Many of the radicals felt that Germany's lawmakers were continuing authoritarian policies and the public's apparent acquiescence was seen as a continuation of the indoctrination the Nazis had pioneered in society (Volksgemeinschaft). The Federal Republic was exporting arms to African dictatorships, which was seen as supporting the war in Southeast Asia and engineering the remilitarization of Germany with the U.S.-led entrenchment against the Warsaw Pact nations.

Ongoing events further catalyzed the situation. Protests turned into riots on 2 June 1967, when Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, visited West Berlin. There were protesters but also hundreds of supporters of the Shah, as well as a group of fake supporters armed with wooden staves, there to disturb the normal course of the visit. These extremists beat the protesters. After a day of angry protests by exiled Iranian radical Marxists, a group widely supported by German students, the Shah visited the Berlin Opera, where a crowd of German student protesters gathered. During the opera house demonstrations, German student Benno Ohnesorg was shot in the head by a police officer while attending his first protest rally. The officer, Karl-Heinz Kurras, was acquitted in a subsequent trial. It was later discovered that Kurras had been a member of the West Berlin communist party SEW and had also worked for the Stasi, though there is no indication that Kurras' killing of Ohnesorg was under anyone's, including the Stasi's, orders.

Along with perceptions of state and police brutality, and widespread opposition to the Vietnam War, Ohnesorg's death galvanised many young Germans and became a rallying point for the West German New Left. The Berlin 2 June Movement, a militant-Anarchist group, later took its name to honour the date of Ohnesorg's death.

On 2 April 1968 Gudrun Ensslin and Andreas Baader, joined by Thorwald Proll and Horst Söhnlein, set fire to two department stores in Frankfurt as a protest against the Vietnam war. They were arrested two days later.

On 11 April 1968 Rudi Dutschke, a leading spokesman for protesting students, was shot in the head in an assassination attempt by the right-wing sympathizer Josef Bachmann. Although badly injured, Dutschke returned to political activism with the German Green Party before his death in a bathtub in 1979, as a consequence of his injuries.

Axel Springer's populist newspaper Bild-Zeitung, which had run headlines such as "Stop Dutschke now!", was accused of being the chief culprit in inciting the shooting. Meinhof commented, "If one sets a car on fire, that is a criminal offence. If one sets hundreds of cars on fire, that is political action."

All four of the defendants charged with arson and endangering human life were convicted, for which they were sentenced to three years in prison. In June 1969, however, they were temporarily paroled under an amnesty for political prisoners, but in November of that year, the Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) demanded that they return to custody. Only Horst Söhnlein complied with the order; the rest went underground and made their way to France, where they stayed for a time in a house owned by prominent French journalist and revolutionary, Régis Debray, famous for his friendship with Che Guevara and the foco theory of guerrilla warfare. Eventually they made their way to Italy, where the lawyer Mahler visited them and encouraged them to return to Germany with him to form an underground guerrilla group.

The Red Army Faction was formed with the intention of complementing the plethora of revolutionary and radical groups across West Germany and Europe, as a more class conscious and determined force compared with some of its contemporaries. The members and supporters were already associated with the 'Revolutionary Cells' and 2 June Movement as well as radical currents and phenomena such as the Socialist Patients' Collective, Kommune 1 and the Situationists.

Baader was arrested again in April 1970, but on 14 May 1970 he was freed by Meinhof and others. Less than a month later, Gudrun Ensslin would write an article in a West Berlin underground paper by the name of Agit883 (Magazine for Agitation and Social Practice), demanding for a call to arms and a building of the Red Army. The article ended with the words, "Develop the class struggles. Organize the proletariat. Start the armed resistance!" Baader, Ensslin, Mahler, and Meinhof then went to Jordan, where they trained with Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) guerrillas and looked to the Palestinian cause for inspiration and guidance. But RAF organisation and outlook were also partly modeled on the UruguayanTupamaros movement, which had developed as an urban resistance movement, effectively inverting Che Guevara's Mao-like concept of a peasant or rural-based guerrilla war and instead situating the struggle in the metropole or cities.

Many members of the RAF operated through a single contact or only knew others by their codenames. Actions were carried out by active units called 'commandos', with trained members being supplied by a quartermaster in order to carry out their mission. For more long-term or core cadre members, isolated cell-like organisation was absent or took on a more flexible form.

The importance of small arms training, sabotage, expropriation, and a substantial safehouse/support base among the urban population was stressed in Marighella's guide. This publication was an antecedent to Meinhof's 'The Urban Guerrilla Concept' and has subsequently influenced many guerrilla and insurgent groups around the globe. Although some of the Red Army Faction's supporters and operatives could be described as having an anarchist or libertarian communist slant, the group's leading members professed a largely Marxist-Leninist ideology. That said, they shied away from overt collaboration with communist states, arguing along the lines of the Chinese side in the Sino-Soviet split that the Soviet Union and its European satellite states had become traitors to the communist cause by, in effect if not in rhetoric, giving the United States a free pass in their exploitation of Third World populations and support of "useful" Third World dictators. Nevertheless, RAF members did receive intermittent support and sanctuary over the border in East Germany during the 1980s.

When they returned to West Germany, they began what they called an "anti-imperialistic struggle," with bank robberies to raise money and bomb attacks against U.S. military facilities, German police stations, and buildings belonging to the Axel Springer press empire. In 1970, a manifesto authored by Meinhof used the name "RAF" and the red star logo with a Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine gun for the first time.

Arrest, Trial, and Incarceration

After an intense manhunt, Baader, Ensslin, Meinhof, Meins and Raspe were eventually caught and arrested in June 1972.

After the arrest of the protagonists of the first generation of the RAF, they were held in solitary confinement in the newly constructed high security Stammheim Prison north of Stuttgart. When Ensslin devised an "info system" using aliases for each member (names deemed to have allegorical significance from Moby-Dick), the four prisoners were able to communicate again, circulating letters with the help of their defence counsel.

To protest against their treatment by authorities, they went on several coordinated hunger strikes; eventually, they were force-fed. Holger Meins died of self-induced starvation on 9 November 1974. After public protests, their conditions were somewhat improved by the authorities.

The so-called second generation of the RAF emerged at that time, consisting of sympathizers independent of the inmates. This became clear when, on 27 February 1975, Peter Lorenz, the CDU candidate for mayor of Berlin, was kidnapped by the 2 June Movement (allied to the RAF) as part of pressure to secure the release of several other detainees. Since none of these were on trial for murder, the state agreed, and those inmates (and later Lorenz himself) were released.

On 24 April 1975, the West German embassy in Stockholm was seized by members of the RAF; two of the hostages were murdered as the German government under Chancellor Helmut Schmidt refused to give in to their demands. Two of the hostage-takers died from injuries they suffered when the explosives they planted mysteriously detonated later that night.

On 21 May 1975, the Stammheim trial of Baader, Ensslin, Meinhof, and Raspe began, named after the district in Stuttgart where it took place. The Bundestag had earlier changed the Code of Criminal Procedure so that several of the attorneys who were accused of serving as links between the inmates and the RAF's second generation could be excluded.

On 9 May 1976, Ulrike Meinhof was found dead in her prison cell, hanging from a rope made from jail towels. An investigation concluded that she had hanged herself, a result hotly contested at the time, triggering a plethora of so-called conspiracy theories. Other theories suggest that she took her life because she was being ostracized by the rest of the group. There is, however, evidence to the contrary of this hypothesis.

During the trial, more attacks took place. One of these was on 7 April 1977, when Federal Prosecutor Siegfried Buback, his driver, and his bodyguard were shot and killed by two RAF members while waiting at a red traffic light. Buback, who had been a Nazi member during WWII, was considered by RAF as one of the key persons for their trial. Among other things, two years earlier, while being interviewed by Stern magazine, he stated that "Persons like Baader don't deserve a fair trial." In February 1976, when interviewed by Spiegel he stated that "We do not need regulation of our jurisdiction, national security survives thanks to people like me and Herold (chief of BKA), who always find the right way..."

Eventually, on 28 April 1977, the trial's 192nd day, the three remaining defendants were convicted of several murders, more attempted murders, and of forming a terrorist organization; they were sentenced to life imprisonment.

A new section of Stammheim Prison was built especially for the RAF and was considered one of the most secure prison blocks around the world at the time. The prisoners were transferred there in 1975 (three years after their arrest). The roof and the courtyard was covered with steel mesh. During the night the precinct was illuminated by fifty-four spotlights and twenty-three neon bulbs. Special military forces were guarding the roof, including snipers. Four hundred police officers along with the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution patrolled the building. The mounted police officers oscillated on a double shift. One hundred more GSG-9 units reinforced the police during the trial. BKA agents guarded the front of the court area. Finally there were helicopters flying around the area.

The accredited correspondents of the media had to pass the first police road block 400 meters away from the court. The police noted their data and the number-plate, and photographed their cars. After that they had to pass three verification audits, and finally they were undressed and two judicial officials thoroughly searched their bodies. They were allowed to keep only a pencil and a notepad inside the court. Their personal items including their identities were held by the authorities during the trial. Every journalist could attend the trial only twice (two days). The Times questioned the possibility whether a fair trial could be conducted under these circumstances which involved siege-like conditions. Der Spiegel wondered whether that atmosphere anticipated "the condemnation of the defendants who were allegedly responsible for the emergency measures."

During visits from lawyers and, more rarely, relatives (friends were not allowed), three jailers would observe the conversations the prisoners had with their visitors. The prisoners were not allowed to meet each other inside the prison, until late 1975 when a regular meeting time was established (30 minutes, twice per day), during which they were obviously guarded.

The judges and their pasts are considered important by supporters of the accused. Judge Weiss (Mahler's trial) had judged Joachim Raese (president of the Third Reich’s court) as innocent seven times. When he threatened Meinhof that she would be put into a glass cage she answered caustically, "So you are threatening me with Eichmann's cage, fascist?" (Adolf Eichmann who was an Obersturmbannführer in the SS, was held inside a glass cage during his trial in Israel). Siegfried Buback, the RAF's main trial judge in Stammheim, had been a Nazi Party member. Along with Federal Prosecutor Heinrich Wunder (who served as senior government official in the Ministry of Defense), Buback had ordered the arrest of Rudolf Augstein and other journalists regarding the Spiegel affair in 1962. Theodor Prinzing was accused by defense attorney Otto Schily that he had been appointed arbitrarily, displacing other judges.

During several points in the Stammheim trial, the microphones were turned off while defendants were speaking, they were often expelled from the hall, and other actions were taken. It was later revealed that the conversation they had between themselves as well as with their attorneys were recorded. Finally it was reported by both the defendants' attorneys and some of the prison's doctors, that the physical and psychological state of the prisoners held in solitary confinement and white cells was such that they couldn't attend the long trial days and defend themselves appropriately. By the time the Stammheim trial began in early 1975, some of the prisoners had already been in solitary confinement for three years.

Two former members of the RAF, Karl-Heinz Ruhland and Gerhard Müller, testified under BKA's orders, as revealed later. Their statements were often contradictory, something that was also commented on in the newspapers. Ruhland himself later reported to Stern that his deposition was prepared in cooperation with police. Müller was reported to "break" during the third hunger strike in the winter 1974/75 which lasted 145 days. The prosecution offered him immunity for the murder of officer Norbert Schmidt in Hamburg (1971), and blamed Baader, Meinhof, Ensslin, and Raspe instead. He was eventually freed and relocated to the USA after getting a new identity and 500,000 Deutschmarks.

The government hastily approved several special laws for use during the Stammheim trial. Lawyers were excluded from trial for the first time since 1945, after being accused of various inappropriate actions, such as helping to form criminal organisations (Section 129, Criminal Law). The authorities invaded and checked the lawyers' offices for possible incriminating material. Minister of Justice Hans-Jochen Vogel stated proudly that no other western state had such an extensive regulation to exclude defense attorneys from a trial. Klaus Croissant, Hans-Christian Ströbele, Kurt Groenewold, who had been working preparing for the trial for three years, were expelled the second day of the trial. On 23 June (1975), Croissant, Ströbele (who had already been expelled), and Mary Becker were arrested, and in the meantime police invaded several defense attorneys' offices and homes, seizing several documents and files. Ströbele and Croissant were remanded and held for 4 weeks and 8 weeks respectively. Croissant had to pay 80,000 Deutschmarks, report weekly to a police station, and had his transport and identity papers seized.

The defense lawyers and prisoners were not the only ones to be affected by measures adopted for the RAF-trial. On 26 November 1974 an unprecedented mobilization by police and GSG-9 units, to arrest 23 suspected RAF members, included invasion of dozens of homes, left-wing bookstores, and meeting places, and arrests were made. However none of the guerrillas was found.[38]:266 BKA's chief, Horst Herold stated that despite the fact that "large-scale operations usually don't bring practical results, the impression of the crowd is always a considerable advantage."

On 16 February 1979 Croissant was arrested (on the accusation of supporting criminal organisation — section 129) after France denied his request for political asylum, and was sentenced to a prison term of two and half years to be served in Stammheim prison.

The general approach by defendants and their attorneys was to highlight the political purpose and characteristics of RAF.

On 13 and 14 January 1976 the defendants readied their testimony (about 200 pages), in which they analyzed the role of imperialism and its furious struggle against the revolutionary movements in the countries of the "third world." They also expounded the fascistization of West Germany and its role as an imperialistic state (alliance with the U.S. over Vietnam). Finally they talked about the task of urban guerillas and undertook the political responsibility for the bombing attacks. Finally their lawyers (following Ulrike Meinhof's proposal) requested that the accused be officially regarded as prisoners of war.

On 4 May (5 days before Meinhof's death) the four defendants requested to provide data about the Vietnam War. They claimed that since the military intervention in Vietnam by the U.S. (and indirectly, the FRG), had violated international law, the U.S. military bases in West Germany were justifiable targets of international retaliation. They requested several politicians (like Richard Nixon and Helmut Schmidt) as well as some former U.S. agents (who were willing to testify) to be called as witnesses.

Later when their requests were totally rejected, U.S. agents Barton Osbourne (ex-CIA, ex-member of the Phoenix Program), G. Peck (NSA), and Gary Thomas gave extensive interviews (organized by defense lawyers) on 23 June 1976 where they explained how FRG support was crucial for U.S. operations in Vietnam. Peck concluded that the RAF "was the response to criminal aggression of the U.S. government in Indochina and the assistance of the German government. The real terrorist was my government." Thomas presented data about the joint operations of FRG and U.S. secret services in Eastern Europe. He had also observed the Stammheim trial and referred to a CIA instructor teaching them how to make a murder look like a suicide.

The above statements were confirmed by the well-known CIA case officer Philip Agee.

German Autumn, the "Death Night" and Dissolution

On 30 July 1977, Jürgen Ponto, the head of Dresdner Bank, was shot and killed in front of his house in Oberursel in a botched kidnapping. Those involved were Brigitte Mohnhaupt, Christian Klar, and Susanne Albrecht, the last being the sister of Ponto's goddaughter.

Following the convictions, Hanns Martin Schleyer, a former officer of the SS who was then President of the German Employers' Association (and thus one of the most powerful industrialists in West Germany) was abducted in a violent kidnapping. On 5 September 1977, Schleyer's convoy was stopped by the kidnappers reversing a car into the path of Schleyer's vehicle, causing the Mercedes in which he was being driven to crash. Once the convoy was stopped, five masked assailants immediately shot and killed three policemen and the driver and took Schleyer hostage. One of the groups (Sieglinde Hofmann) produced her weapon from a pram she was pushing down the road.

A letter was then received by the federal government, demanding the release of eleven detainees, including those in Stammheim. A crisis committee was formed in Bonn, headed by Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, which, instead of acceding, resolved to employ delaying tactics to give the police time to discover Schleyer's location. At the same time, a total communication ban was imposed on the prison inmates, who were now allowed visits only from government officials and the prison chaplain.

The crisis dragged on for more than a month, while the Bundeskriminalamt carried out its biggest investigation to date. Matters escalated when, on 13 October 1977, Lufthansa Flight 181 from Palma de Mallorca to Frankfurt was hijacked. A group of four PFLP members took control of the plane (which was named Landshut). The leader introduced himself to the passengers as "Captain Mahmud" who would be later identified as Zohair Youssef Akache. When the plane landed in Rome for refueling, he issued the same demands as the Schleyer kidnappers, plus the release of two Palestinians held in Turkey and payment of US$15 million.

The Bonn crisis team again decided not to give in. The plane flew on via Larnaca, then Dubai, and then to Aden, where flight captain Jürgen Schumann, whom the hijackers deemed not cooperative enough, was brought before an improvised "revolutionary tribunal" and executed on 16 October. His body was dumped on the runway. The aircraft again took off, flown by the co-pilot Jürgen Vietor, this time headed for Mogadishu, Somalia.

A high-risk rescue operation was led by Hans-Jürgen Wischnewski, then undersecretary in the chancellor's office, who had been secretly flown in from Bonn. At five past midnight (CET) on 18 October, the plane was stormed in a seven-minute assault by GSG 9, an elite unit of the German federal police. All four hijackers were shot; three of them died on the spot. None of the passengers were seriously hurt and Wischnewski was able to phone Schmidt and tell the Bonn crisis team that the operation had been a success.

Half an hour later, German radio broadcast the news of the rescue, which the Stammheim inmates could hear on their radios. During the course of the night, Baader was found dead from a gunshot to the back of his head, and Ensslin was found hanged in her cell; Raspe died in the hospital the next day from a gunshot wound to the head. Irmgard Möller, who had several stab wounds in the chest, survived and was released from prison in 1994.

Burial site of Baader, Raspe and Ensslin

On 18 October 1977, Hanns-Martin Schleyer was shot to death by his captors en route to Mulhouse, France. The next day, on 19 October, Schleyer's kidnappers announced that he had been "executed" and pinpointed his location. His body was recovered later that day in the trunk of a green Audi 100 on Rue Charles Péguy. The French newspaper Libération received a letter declaring:

After 43 days we have ended Hanns-Martin Schleyer's pitiful and corrupt existence... His death is meaningless to our pain and our rage... The struggle has only begun. Freedom through armed, anti-imperialist struggle.

The official inquiry concluded that the group made a collective decision to commit suicide on a predetermined night. However, the autopsy and police reports contained several contradictory statements.

It has been questioned how Baader and Raspe managed to obtain a gun in the high-security prison wing specially constructed for the first generation RAF members. Independent investigations showed that the inmates' lawyers were able to smuggle in weapons and equipment despite the high security, something that the lawyers themselves denied, arguing that every meeting with their clients was observed by jailers. The claims were based primarily on the testimonies of Hans-Joachim Dellwo, brother of RAF prisoner Karl-Heinz Dellwo, and Volker Speitel, the husband of RAF member Angelika Speitel, who were arrested on 2 October 1977 and charged with belonging to a criminal organisation. The fact that they both received lighter sentences, and after release were given new identities, raises the question as to whether they were acting under police pressure and an immunity proposal (as was the case with the ex-RAF members and perjurers Karl-Heinz Ruhland and Gerhard Müller). However, based on these testimonies, the defense attorneys Armin Newerla and Arndt Müller were tried in 1979, and one year later they were convicted of weapon smuggling, receiving three and a half years and four years and eight month sentences respectively.

As regards Möller, only a total commitment to her cause could have allowed Möller to inflict the four stab wounds found near her heart. She claims that it was actually an extrajudicial killing, orchestrated by the German government, in response to Red Army Faction demands that the prisoners be released.

A few more questions that were raised regarding the death night were:

  • The autopsy concluded that Baader shot himself in the neck, 3 cm above the hairline in a direction that made the bullet come out through the forehead from a straight trajectory, with a 7.65 calibre pistol which is considered implausible.[49] Moreover, the investigation carried out by the ballistics expert Dr. Roland Hoffman using Baader's gun, showed that the bullet must have been fired from a distance of between 30 and 40 centimetres, which is considered likely impossible. The only case according to Hoffman that such a small amount of gunpowder that was found, would fit the shoot by contact scenario would be if a silencer was used, however apparently the gun had no silencer when the body was found.
  • The fact that three bullets were found inside Baader's cell is considered suspicious. The first explanation given was that Baader signaled the other prisoners. However the cells were soundproof and the jailors who were posted a few meters from the cells didn't hear any suspicious sound, so it remains in question how the other prisoners could have communicated.
  • There was no gunpowder traces on Raspe's hands, even though it is considered impossible to fire a gun without leaving gunpowder on one's hands, something that it is always mentioned in autopsy reports. Baader had gunpowder on his right hand, despite the fact that he was left-handed.
  • There were no fingerprints found on either Raspe's or Baader's gun or the kitchen knife Möller used to stab herself four times, according to official statements. The public prosecutor's office argued that due to the large amount of blood that covered the weapons, the traces couldn't be determined. However, later, Mr. Testor, who was the head of the investigation team for the events in Stammheim, argued that there was no blood on Raspe's pistol, and stated: "If the weapons had been polished with a cloth before the act, then no usable traces could have remained after only being used once." Finally, Raspe was still holding the gun inside his hand when he was found, something considered at least unusual.
  • As regards Ensslin, there were similar questions to Meinhof's case. There are arguments that the chair she allegedly used to hang herself was too far away from her body to have been used, and that the cable used to hang herself was such that it would most likely not tolerate the weight of a fallen body. Finally, Ensslin had written to their lawyers: "I am afraid of being suicided in the same way as Ulrike. If there is no letter from me and I’m found dead; in this case it is an assassination."

Finally, the international commission that had been formed to investigate Ulrike Meinhof's death, and hadn't been dissolved at the time, noticed that on both nights (8–9 May 1976; the night Meinhof had allegedly committed suicide, and 17–18 October 1977), an auxiliary was in charge of surveillance rather than the usual guard. They also discovered an uncontrolled entrance to the seventh floor which led to the roof. The authorities claimed they were unaware of this until 4 November 1977.

On 20 April 1998, an eight-page typewritten letter in German was faxed to the Reuters news agency, signed "RAF" with the machine-gun red star, declaring the group dissolved:

"Almost 28 years ago, on 14 May 1970, the RAF arose in a campaign of liberation. Today we end this project. The urban guerrilla in the shape of the RAF is now history."

In response to this statement, former BKA President Horst Herold said, "With this statement the Red Army Faction has erected its own tombstone."


Horst Mahler, a founding RAF member, is now a vocal Neo-Nazi and Holocaust denier. In 2005, he was sentenced to six years in prison for incitement to racial hatred against Jews. He is on record as saying that his beliefs have not changed: Der Feind ist der Gleiche (The enemy is the same).

In 2007, amidst widespread media controversy, German president Horst Köhler considered pardoning RAF member Christian Klar, who had filed a pardon application several years before. On 7 May 2007, pardon was denied; regular parole was later granted on 24 November 2008. RAF member Brigitte Mohnhaupt was granted release on five-year parole by a German court on 12 February 2007 and Eva Haule was released 17 August 2007.

Modus Operandi




Known Members

  • Berndt Andreas Baader (May 6, 1943 - October 18 1977)

    Andreas Baader

Known Victims


On Criminal Minds

  • Season One
    • "The Tribe" - The Red Army Faction was cited along with other extremist groups and cults, as an example of a criminal organization in which members tend to surrender their individual identities to the pack.