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The Extend of the German revolutionary left wing groups of the 1960/70´s as a reaction to the Nazi past.

Wissenschaftlicher Aufsatz 2010 28 Seiten

Politik - Internationale Politik - Thema: Deutsche Außenpolitik




Chapter 1 The Nazi Past
Part 1- The Shah of Persia and the reappearance of Fascist style rule
Part 2- Hanns-Martin Schleyer; The kidnapping of a former Nazi

Chapter 2 Vietnam
Part 1- The Pudding bombs
Part 2- The first signs of resistance
Part 3- R.A.F actions against the U.S during the 1972 ‘May Offensive’

Chapter 3 The despised Springer-Presse

Chapter 4 Left-wing influences of the 60s and 70s


Internet Sources

Appendix 1

Appendix 2


This dissertation will examine the origins of the radicalism in post-war Germany by looking into what factors influenced left-wing movements, in particularly the R.A.F (or as they were often called by the media ‘Baader-Meinhof Gruppe’), arguably one of the most prominent left-wing terrorist groups of that time period. One of the main aspects I will be looking into is whether it was a reaction by first generation post-war Germans to stand up and revolt against everything which took place in their National Socialist past. This is rather plausible as the war took place only twenty years earlier, and there were still many positions of power held by former Nazis. One of the most significant of these former Nazis was Kurt Georg Kiesinger who had been a member of the Nazi Party since 1933 and had worked for the department of Propaganda during the Nazi regime. He later went on to become Chancellor of Germany from December 1966- 21 October 1969. Also significant was Hanns Martin Schleyer, mainly due to his kidnapping and eventual murder in 1977 by the second generation R.A.F. He had joined the S.S in 1933 and was a second lieutenant, he also spent some time on the western front. After the war he became an industrial leader in Germany and was president of both the B.D.A and the B.D.I.

In order to assess the question impartially I will also have to look into other aspects which may have been responsible for the rise in the left-wing movement. One of those could possibly have been the Vietnam War as it was a major talking point at the time which caused lots of controversy. From a left perspective Germany was being dragged into the conflict through the U.S Army being in Germany, and as the U.S were fighting in Vietnam it was as if West Germany were condoning the actions of the U.S. This then also brings in U.S imperialism which many of the left-wing groups were against, they feared that America’s presence in Germany would turn Germany into a model of America. Dieter Kunzelmann, one of the co-founders of the Berlin Kommune 1, (this was a politically motivated commune founded in January 1967) said “Die Bundesrepublik war ja nun nichts anderes als dass was in Amerika halt vorgelebt worden ist.”[1] This refers to the German economic boom which was happening during this time period. So from this one can see that in left circles there was already a feeling that Germany was following in America’s footsteps.

Another aspect which I will be looking into to try and get a broader picture of the causes which may have been responsible for the emergence of left-wing groups during this period was the conservative anti-student Springer-Presse. Many groups blamed the Bild Zeitung and other Springer publications for the attempted assassination by Josef Bachmann of the S.D.S leader Rudi Dutschke on the 11th April 1968. This is because of the headlines that were being published which were seemingly detrimental towards the S.D.S and particularly Dutschke. For example, “Stoppt den Terror der Jung-Roten –Jetzt!”[2] and the infamous “Langhaarige ausmerzen“ from the Berliner Morgenpost. That night many students protested outside the Springer-Presse Head Quarters and tried to stop the newspaper delivery trucks from being able to deliver the next morning’s papers by making a blockade. This protest was quite interesting with regards to the R.A.F as it was also the first protest which Ulrike Meinhof attended and actively joined in with. Meinhof was a journalist for the left-wing monthly paper Konkret and up until this point had only ever written about her political viewpoints, so this protest could be argued to have been where her increasing militant attitude –which could later be seen in the R.A.F- towards change and revolution started. Meinhof‘s article ‘From Protest To Resistance’ shows how she was beginning to practice what she preached, she finishes the article by writing the following “The establishment, the ‘gentlemen at the top’ –to use Rudi’s words- those in the parties, governments, and associations must be made to understand that there is only one way to permanently restore ‘peace and quiet’, and that is to expropriate Springer. The fun is over. Protest is when I say I don’t like this. Resistance is when I put an end to what I don’t like.”[3] This rather strong opinion shows typical traces of someone who was too young to have had any involvement in the war and was trying to come to terms with their nation’s horrific past. This idea of putting up resistance to that which you don’t like comes from being able to look back and realise that the events which happened in Germany a few decades earlier took place because no-one did put up any resistance. This next generation of children would not simply sit back and stay quiet if they thought history was starting to repeat itself.

One final factor which I will look at is whether these groups had any role models and to what extent they influenced them, because we must remember that globally in this period there was a strong revolutionary air around. Only in 1959 the 26th July movement lead by Fidel Castro along with ‘Comandante’ Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara – one of the most iconic revolutionary figures - had taken power in Cuba. The RAF and the arguably second most well known left-wing terrorist group in Germany at the time Bewegung 2. Juni (this was more of an anarchist group who took their name from the date on which Benno Ohnesorg was shot dead by a policeman at a protest against the visit of the Shah of Persia; the idea behind the name was to remind people that it was the police who shot first) both took influence from the Uruguayan Urban guerillas the Tupamaros.

Finally I would like to set out how I researched the information for this dissertation. My main source of research came from books which I bought surrounding this topic. I also used a number of other sources like Films, TV Documentaries/Interviews and Websites, a full list of which can be found in my bibliography.

Chapter 1 The Nazi Past

Part 1- The Shah of Persia and the reappearance of Fascist style rule

In this first chapter I am going to look into the opinions of the West German left-wing terrorist groups, in regards to their feelings about their nation‘s past and to what extent these feelings may have triggered them to start militant action against their own state. The major event which arguably caused many people to change from peaceful protestors to armed guerilla fighters was the visit of the Shah of Persia on the 2nd of June 1967. Many students had lined up in the street in front of the ‘Deutsche Oper’ to protest against his visit. The visit of the Shah had caused lots of interest due to an open letter written by Ulrike Meinhof addressed to the Shah‘s wife Farah which was published in the left-wing paper Konkret. The letter highlighted many discrepancies from an article printed in the Neue Revue in which the Empress described her life. At the protest a bus full of Shah supporters drowned out the sound of the protesters and eventually turned on them, beating them with wooden sticks. There was a large police presence and the authorities did eventually step in, but surprisingly used their batons against the protesters - targeting them as the trouble makers - and in the ensuing unrest, protester Benno Ohnesorg was shot dead by policeman Karl Heinz Kurras. The shooting of Benno Ohnesorg was arguably the point where left-wing groups lost their trust in the police force and decided that the only way to be safe was to react with violence.

This event led many to believe that the state was still too willing use violence in order to get rid of any unwanted behaviour, the student protesters for example. For the post-war generation this sort of behaviour seemed to strongly resemble that of the Nazi period –for example if you speak up and disagree with something the state will quieten you through its police force. The day after this protest the West German Government placed a ban on all protest signs and banners. This type of action was again seen as an infringement on freedom of speech in what was supposed to be a democratic society. In reaction to this ban Peter Homann - a student - came up with a novel way in which to protest. He got eight people to wear a t-shirt with a giant letter printed on the front and the back; when facing one way the students made up the word ‘A-L-B-E-R-T-Z-!’ –the mayor of West Berlin at the time- and when they turned around the t-shirts read ‘A-B-T-R-E-T-E-N’ which means ‘Resign’. Despite the idea of trying to get around this ban all 8 protesters were arrested, one of whom was Gudrun Ensslin, later to go on and become one of the founding members of the R.A.F[4]. In Jillian Beckers Hitler’s Children – The story of the Baader Meinhof terrorist gang the following is said of Gudrun Ensslin: “At a meeting in the S.D.S offices Gudrun Ensslin protested that the ‘Fascist state’ was out to kill them all, that they must organize for resistance, that they could only answer violence with violence, its the generation of Auschwitz –you cannot argue with them!”[5] Tilman Fichter who was Chairman of the S.D.S at the time gave this account of what was said to Jillian Becker. This was allegedly said shortly after the protest in which Benno Ohnesorg was killed. From this we can see that the new generation of Germans felt very distant from their parent‘s generation due to the fact that such things like mass genocide of the Jews in concentration camps took place during their time and nothing was done to put a stop to it. People from their parent’s generation were still in significant positions of power and the new generation of Germans didn’t want to be ruled by this so called ‘Auschwitz generation’. Another thing which enraged people is the fact that the policeman responsible for the shooting Karl-Heinz Kurras was charged with manslaughter and was acquitted of the charge only a few months later in November. The Bild Newspaper caused a lot of controversy during this time as on the 3rd of June - only one day after Ohnesorgs death - they published this headline “In Berlin gab es bisher nur Terror östlich der Mauer. Gestern haben bösartige und dumme wirrköpfe zum erstenmal versucht, den Terror in den freien Teil der Stadt zu tragen.”[6] This was one of only many headlines to follow which were to brand the students as the ones causing the unrest and being responsible for instigating the violence. However by printing this headline it could be argued that Bild were instigating violence by portraying the students as disruptive and trying to bring terror to the west side of Berlin when up until then all they had done was protest using signs and banners. Headlines such as this one possibly could have separated society by estranging the student protest movement and making them seem dangerous to the readers of the Bild newspaper. The Springer -P resse was, arguably, acting as a propaganda machine working for the state.

Around this time the philosopher Theodor W. Adorno came out with this “Die Studenten haben so ein wenig die Rolle der Juden übernommen,”[7] Adorno himself was a Jew and had left Germany in 1934 fleeing from the Nazi regime. Adorno, who had experienced this so called Auschwitz Generation first-hand, felt as though he was seeing it emerging again just as Ensslin had noted. These two were not the only ones who felt like this, a well known journalist Sebastian Heffner (who left Germany for London in 1938 as his fiance was Jewish) had this to say about the events of the 2nd of June “Es war ein systematischer Kaltblütig geplanter pogrom, begangen von der Berliner Polizei an Berliner Studenten,”[8] and “Mit den Studentenpogrom von 2. Juni 1967 hat der Faschismus in Westberlin seine maske bereits abgeworfen,”[9] These quotes are both very emotive as they contain the word ‘pogrom’ which is usually associated with acts of violence against a particular group of people, in German history this group of people had predominantly been the Jewish people. The notorious Kristallnacht of the 9th November 1938 is even known in Germany by the alternative name Pogromnacht. So again here the Nazi history was brought up and compared to the situation which the students and protesters found themselves in. These kind of comparisons gave the protest movement the appearance of moral superiority because if you were to disagree with them it was almost equal to agreeing with the persecution of the Jewish people. The new generation of Germans claimed this moral highground over their parent‘s generation because unlike any other generation they couldn’t be told that anything they were doing was wrong. Gabrielle Rollnik, a member of the Bewegung 2. Juni said this “Alle, die unter dem Nationalsozialismus groß geworden sind, egal ob sie nun richtig verflochten waren mit den Nazis oder einfach mitläufer, die hatten nicht mehr diese Autorität,”[10] This is something the new generation could always fall back on –that it wasn’t them who watched these Nazi atrocities take place- so arguably anything they did could never have been as bad as that which their parents actively or passively went along with.

Part 2- Hanns-Martin Schleyer; The kidnapping of a former Nazi

One of the most well known kidnapping cases was undertaken by the second generation of the R.A.F on the 5th September 1977. This was the kidnapping of Hanns-Martin Schleyer. This kidnapping relates to the Nazi-past as the reason Hanns-Martin Schleyer was picked as a hostage was because of his actions during the National Socialist period; he had been a member of both the S.S and the N.S.D.A.P and therefore made the kidnapping a politically legitimate one. Schleyer was supposed to be the one who the government would exchange for Baader, Ensslin and Raspe. To the government Schleyer was of importance because he was the president of both the B.D.A and the B.D.I. The R.A.F really thought the Government would make the exchange because they never thought they would let an old Nazi suffer at the hands of revolutionaries. Christof Wackernagel said this “Die R.A.F wähnte, Schleyer müsse freigelassen werden, weil er ein alter Nazi war, sie gründete ihre Aktion auf dem Irrglauben, die Solidarität der Kriegskameraden sei so gross, dass sie ihn niemals fallen lassen könnten, als wäre SS-Mitgliedschaft ein unantastbarkeitsmerkmal.”[11] The R.A.F also felt he was a man who shouldn’t have been in such a position of power due to his past and that consequently he shouldn’t have been benefiting from the German economic boom, as Peter Jürgen Boock (one of the 2nd Generation R.A.F members and Kidnappers) puts it “Wir wollten eigentlich beweisen dass er das Schwein ist für das wir ihn auch hielten,”[12] The only problem with this kidnapping was that eventually the R.A.F would have let Schleyer go if they could have got their comrades freed from Stammheim (the prison in which they were being held) and therefore it wasn’t really clear what the R.A.F‘s intentions were in regards to Schleyer, as is made apparent by Peter Jürgen Boocks comment about Schleyers opinions “Aber was wollten sie eigentlich ganz genau , mir den Prozess machen oder Morgen wenn Helmut Schmidt sagt ist in ordnung ich lass die Gefangen laufen dann lassen sie mich auch laufen. Also was bin ich eigentlich? Bin ich derjenige dem hier der Prozess gemacht wird oder bin ich derjenige der auch innerhalb von eine Stunde ausgetauscht wird wenn es denn Oportun ist,”[13] This view shows that although the R.A.F were giving good reasons for choosing Schleyer as the hostage, the kidnapping was still slightly flawed in a revolutionary sense because they were only really using him for their own gains. Arguably the R.A.F‘s political motives played only a minor role in this circumstance as the main objective was simply to free the remaining core members from Stammheim -Baader, Ensslin and Raspe, (Meinhof had already committed suicide in Stammheim on the 9th May 1976, notably this is Mothers day in Germany. Conspiracy theories about Meinhof‘s death were rife at the time, many believed she had been killed) The second generation were under pressure as well, as the core members had threatened to take away the right for the second generation to even use the name R.A.F. Peter Jürgen Boock claims they said this “Verwendet die drei Buchstaben erst wieder, wenn euch zum Begriff OFFENSIVE etwas anderes einfällt als Ausflüchte,”[14] ; there was a strong feeling that if they could not free them, they would take matters into their own hands in the same way as Meinhof had done.

In the end Helmut Schmidt and the German government would not negotiate an exchange for Schleyer and once the hostages onboard the Lufthansa flight 181 had been freed by the German GSG 9 unit in Mogadishu (this was a plane hijacking by the P.F.L.P organized in collaboration with the R.A.F to try and speed up the release of the prisoners in Stammheim) all hope was over for the prisoners in Stammheim, and they followed in the way of Ulrike Meinhof by committing suicide. This then also meant the end for Hanns-Martin Schleyer who was shot 3 times in the back of the head close to the French-Belgian border. The R.A.F‘s admission statement which came from the ‘Kommando Siegfried Hausner’ said “wir haben nach 43 tagen hanns-martin schleyers klägliche und korrupte existenz beendet.für unseren schmerz und unsere wut über die massaker von mogadischu und stammheim ist sein tod bedeutungslos.und uns überrascht die faschistische dramaturgie der imperialisten zur vernichtung der befreiungsbewegungen nicht,”[15] So in the end the R.A.F didn’t really have any other option but to give Schleyer the ‘Death Penalty’ and blame the fascist imperialists for the way in which the kidnapping and hijacking didn’t go to plan. Politically they had managed to de-Nazify Germany to some extent - which was one of the core aims of the left-wing movement - even if in this particular instance it had not been their immediate motivation to do so.

Chapter 2 Vietnam

Part 1- The Pudding bombs

In this chapter I will be looking at how much of an impact the Vietnam war and America‘s presence in Germany had on left-wing terrorism in Germany. One of the first protests against the Vietnam war nearly took place on the 6th April 1967. It would have been carried out by the Berlin Kommune 1 and would have been an original non-violent protest action. The members of the commune had been making pudding powder bombs, these were plastic bags filled with pudding powder. When thrown they would have simply created a cloud of white pudding powder. The plan was to throw the bags at the convoy of cars in which the U.S Vice President Hubert Humphrey was travelling. The what would have been little powder clouds should have been representative of the bombs being dropped on Vietnam by the U.S. The planned action was however stopped by police as on the 5th April they raided the commune and arrested 11 members. The Springer - Presse could again be accused of right-wing bias, with this comment in the Berliner Morgenpost “Attentat auf Humphrey von Kripo vereitelt –FU Studenten fertigten bomben mit sprengstoff aus Peking,”[16]. Ulrike Meinhof‘s column from the May issue of Konkret 1967 also addressed the pudding powder bomb, suggesting that it was hypocritical to arrest people for making ‘powder bombs’ in protest against the Vietnam War “It is thus not a criminal act to drop napalm on women, children, and old people; protesting against this act is a crime,”[17] This action which never happened did however get people to start thinking about Vietnam more as it recieved a lot of coverage in the papers.

Part 2- The first signs of resistance

The first actual attack in protest against the Vietnam war came on the 21st October and was done by Astrid Proll (later to join the R.A.F when they founded) and the charismatic Andreas Baader (who would later go on to become one of the founding members of the R.A.F) The two activists left an explosive fire device in the cloakroom of the America house, the damage done was minor, however it was the first real action of this sort and it showed Baader as being somewhat of a pioneer as he was the first to actually take action rather than just talk or debate about things as most were doing at the time. The next major retaliation to the Vietnam war came on the 2nd April 1968 and was carried out by Thorwald Proll, Horst Söhnelein, Gudrun Ensslin and once again Andreas Baader (the latter two later going on to form the R.A.F). They placed fire explosive devices in both Kaufhaus Schneider and Kaufhof in Frankfurt. The devices were timed to go off at midnight so as not to cause any injuries or death as obviously the department stores would have been closed by then however the damage it caused was estimated at around 2 million DM. The arson attacks were made clear to be a political act as at roughly the same time as the devices went off a person rang the D.P.A (Deutsche Presse Agentur) to let them know what had happened and why. The aim of the arson attacks in department stores was to symbolically burn down the consumer society which the left-wing activists believed acted as a distraction and a shield from the inhumanity of the Vietnam war. “Mit den Konsum ist doch auch Geschichte zugeschüttet worden,”[18] This quote from Dieter Kunzelmann directly refers to Germany‘s past but I think it is also relevant to the Vietnam War as shopping seemed an easy way to simply forget about all the troubles in the world. West Germany had not seen this type of spectacle in a very long time and it was the first real point at which terrorist actions really started in West Germany.

Part 3- R.A.F actions against the U.S during the 1972 ‘May Offensive’

The R.A.F was officially founded in 1970 by Horst Mahler, Gudrun Ensslin, Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof amongst others. However they could only form once Baader was out of jail, so instead of waiting for his prison sentence to finish the group decided on a plan to free him from jail, which was successful. It was the freeing of Baader which left Meinhof, a successful left-wing journalist, with no other choice but to go into the underground with the rest of the group. After this the group went to Jordan to get some military training which was to help them in their quest to become urban guerillas. When they returned to West Berlin the group undertook quite a lot of bank robberies (sometimes in collaboration with the Bewegung 2. Juni) in order to finance their forthcoming actions which they went on to carry out in 1972. In 1972 the so called May Offensive took place. The R.A.F carried out numerous political actions during this month, some of which were directed at the U.S due to their acts in the Vietnam war. The first took place on the 11th May in Frankfurt at the IG Farben Haus where the U.S Corps had a HQ and it was also the home to their secret service. 3 bombs were deposited there which exploded at night. Many soldiers were injured in this explosion and one soldier Paul A. Bloomquist bled to death from the injury he obtained. The commando in charge of this action was the so called ‘Petra Schelm Kommando’ (Petra Schelm was a member of the R.A.F who was shot dead by police on the 15 July 1971). In the commando‘s admission statement this was said “Für die Ausrottungsstrategen von Vietnam sollen Westdeutschland und Westberlin kein sicheres Hinterland mehr sein. Sie müssen wissen, daß ihre Verbrechen am vietnamisischen Volk ihnen neue erbitterte Feinde geschaffen haben, daß es für sie keinen Platz mehr geben wird in der Welt, and dem sie vor den Angriffen revolutionärer Guerilla-Einheiten sicher sein können,”[19]. This statement shows that the R.A.F were not willing to let this go on anymore, they were going to stand up for their Vietnamese comrades and fight against the Americans. The intention of this attack was to show America that it wasn’t untouchable and that if they continued the war in Vietnam there would be serious repercussions.

The second of the R.A.F‘s actions against the U.S came on the 24th May. This time it took place in Heidelberg at the European HQ of the U.S Army. It was chosen because here there was a computer which coordinated the bombings on North Vietnam. Two cars with bottles of propane gas were driven on to the compound using the disguise of U.S Army number plates to get them through the entrance barrier. The cars were left on the premises and exploded later that night almost simultaneously. In the explosions three soldiers died: Clyde R. Bonner, Ronald A. Woodward and Charles L. Peck. Five others were also seriously injured. The R.A.F commando responsible for this explosion named themselves the ‘Kommando 15. Juli’ (the day of Petra Schelm‘s death) in their admission statement they said “Die amerikanische Luftwaffe hat in den letzten 7 Wochen mehr Bomben über Vietnam abgeworfen als im 2. Weltkrieg über Deutschland und Japan zusammenDas ist Genozid, Völkermord, das wäre die ‘Endlösung’, das ist Auschwitz,”[20] This statement again attempted to claim moral immunity by comparing the situation of Vietnam to that of the Jews, because they were actually doing something against the oppressors –The U.S- however no one really did anything against the oppressors of the Jews at the time. With this statement they could try and conjure up support and sympathy for their cause from two groups. The older generation because the R.A.F were playing on their guilt about the past and offering them a chance to atone for it by fighting the new American enemy; the new post-war generation because they were being asked to stand up against the U.S oppressors, who were being compared to Nazis, and trying to rid their nation of fascism was what the German youth put a lot of effort in to. The writer of the statements remains unknown however it is widely believed that Ulrike Meinhof would have been responsible for them as she was the journalist of the group.

Chapter 3 The despised Springer-Presse

In this chapter I will look specifically at the Springer - Presse and what role they played in the arising of left-wing groups. Whenever there were any protests or disagreements between students and the state the Springer - Presse seemed to support the state through the use of controversial headlines and shock-journalism. This way of reporting is what led the Springer - Presse to be hated so much by students and by prominent intellectuals of the time.

At the very start of the protest movement in 1967 Bild was already publishing potentially impartial articles for example the day after which Ohnesorg was shot in the protest against the Shah the Bild wrote this “wer Anstand und Sitte provoziert muß sich damit abfinden, von den Anständigen zur ordnung gerufen zu werden,”[21] This statement clearly takes sides with the Police force, as the quote condones what the police did, and is therefore making it seem like the protesters just wanted to cause unrest. With this type of reporting it is easy to see how the Springer - Presse started to get a negative reputation amongst students and intellectuals. The following year Bild was even partially blamed for the attempted assassination of Rudi Dutschke as they published an article saying “Stoppt den Terror der Jung Roten jetzt!,”[22] alongside a picture of Dutschke.

One of Germany‘s most famous writers Heinrich Böll spoke out against Bild in an article published in Der Spiegel in 1972. Böll criticized the way Bild made moral judgements on such important issues: “Wo die Polizeibehörden ermitteln, vermuten, kombinieren ist “Bild ” schon bedeutend weiter: “Bild” weiß,”[23] This quote seems to be filled with a certain amount of humour together with a strong dislike for such a style of newspaper reporting. Böll goes even further in his article by writing the following “Das ist nicht mehr Kryptofaschistisch, nicht mehr Faschistoid, das ist nackter Faschismus. Verhetzung, lüge, Dreck,”[24] In the article Böll even goes on to suggest that if the R.A.F members are to have an open trial then maybe Springer should have one too: “man sollte auch herrn Springer öffentlich den Prozeß machen, wegen Volksverhetzung,”[25] This criticism from Böll came after an article was published in the Bild with the headline being “Baader-Meinhof Gruppe mordet weiter,”. There had been a bank robbery in Kaiserslautern and all that was really known about it at the time was that there were 4 masked gangsters one of which was presumed to be female, and a police officer was shot. Whether the R.A.F were responsible was unclear however Bild perhaps exacerbated the situation with their somewhat misleading, attention grabbing headline. Böll‘s annoyance with the methods used by tabloid papers led him to write the book Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum which was inspired by his encounters with the Bild-Zeitung.

One of the corporate principles which the Springer - Presse sticks to and has done so since 1967 when it was first formulated is “To support the Transatlantic Alliance and maintain solidarity with the United States of America in the common values of free nations,”[26] from this one can see another reason why protest groups and the Springer - Presse never saw eye to eye. This was a time during which there was a proliferation of protests against the Vietnam War and because of their corporate principle popular papers like the Bild or Berliner Morgenpost had it in their best interests to support the U.S.A thereby causing controversy between protest groups and the readers of ‘Springers’ publications.

The hatred of the Springer - Presse by the R.A.F meant that it got targeted during their ‘May Offensive’. On the 19th May 1972 two bombs exploded in ‘Springers’ Hamburg office, one in the washroom and then another five minutes later on the 6th floor. Altogether seventeen people were injured. Before the bombs went off numerous phone calls were made to the building to warn of a bomb explosion. However because it was already quite late a complete evacuation of the building would probably have meant that the next day‘s Bild wouldn’t have been ready in time. The following day another phone call was made to alert the office to other bombs in the building which obviously hadn’t detonated. If they had, there would almost certainly have been a significant number of civilian deaths. The statement given by the commando responsible for the bombing turned the blame away from themselves and on to ‘Springer’ for had he evacuated the building no one would have been injured “Springer ging lieber das Risiko ein, daß seine Arbeiter und Angestellten durch Bomben verletzt werden, als das Risiko, ein paar Stunden Arbeitszeit, also Profit, durch Fehlalarm zu verlieren. Für die Kapitalisten ist der Profit alles, sind die Menschen, die ihn schaffen, ein Dreck,”[27] From this quote it could be argued that the R.A.F were in a way testing ‘Springer’ to see which of the two he rated more highly -monetary or the lives of his staff, and it would seem that the draw of profit prevailed.

The following and final chapter of this dissertation will focus on groups/ people which the left wing groups of this time period may have taken influence from.

Chapter 4 Left-wing influences of the 60s and 70s

During this time period there were many influential leftist figures/groups for the German left-wing movement to take notice of. For the R.A.F in particular, probably the most influential group were the Tupamaros of Uruaguay. They were an Urban Guerilla group founded in the early 60s by a Marxist lawyer named Raúl Sendic. They operated primarily in the capital, Montevideo. The Tupamaros actions included bank robberies, kidnappings and murders of policemen and magistrates. Their most notorious action was the kidnapping and eventual murder of Dan Mitrione, an American F.B.I agent who was loaned to the Uruguayan police force. From this one can see clear similarities between the functioning of the Tupamaros and the ways in which German left wing groups like the RAF or Bewegung 2. Juni operated. The Tupamaros had brought the armed Guerilla struggle to the city, and this is exactly what both the RAF and the Bewegung 2. Juni did in the German cities. Even the actions which were undertaken by both these groups were very similar to those of the Tupamaros -kidnappings for example, the R.A.F kidnapped Hanns-Martin Schleyer in 1977, the kidnapping was unsuccessful however as their aims were not met, and therefore he was shot. The Bewegung 2. Juni kidnapped Peter Lorenz, a C.D.U politician, in 1975 just 3 days before the elections for the Mayor of West Berlin, which he was standing for. The conditions for his release were met and he was set free. The killings of magistrates and policemen is also very similar. The R.A.F and the Bewegung 2. Juni both carried out killings of people in the law profession- Siegfried Buback (the attorney general of Germany from 1974-1977) and Günter von Drenkmann (a lawyer and president of the Superior court of Justice) The amount of similarities between the groups indicates that the German Urban Guerillas were no doubt influenced by the Uruguayan Tupamaros.

Another character who no doubt influenced the German left-wing militant groups was Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, possibly the most iconic Revolutionary figure in the world. He stood for many things which the German Urban Guerillas stood for, he was Marxist, against U.S Imperialism, against the Vietnam War and believed in creating a worldwide revolution. The thing that made him an influence was that he had already managed by 1959 –along with the July 26th Movement- to do that which so many other Guerilla groups worldwide were striving to do. This was to create a revolution through armed struggle in a country being controlled by an American backed dictatorship, in Cuba namely that of Fulgencio Batista. The R.A.F often used an extract of Guevaras ‘Message to the Tricontinental’ in which he said “How close we could look into a bright future should 2, 3 or many Vietnams flourish throughout the world, with their share of deaths and their immense tragedies, their everyday heroism and their repeated blows against imperialism..,”[28] In German “Schafft 2, 3 Viele Vietnam!,”[29] was the part which was used to signal comradeship in the ongoing fight against imperialism worldwide. This part was used at the end of the admission statement left by the R.A.F after the attack on the U.S Army HQ in Frankfurt/Main. His influence could also be seen at the trial for the ‘Arson attacks against the department stores’ as the defendants lit up cigars during the hearing, mirroring the well-known iconic images of Che Guevara.[30]

Another group who may have influenced both the R.A.F and the Bewegung 2. Juni and who themselves claim to have taken influence from Guevara were the P.F.L.P, a left-wing organization within the P.L.O. Both German groups spent time with the P.F.L.P in training camps and received militant training. The P.F.L.P were also always very happy to allow the Urban Guerillas to spend time with them if things were getting too heated for them in their nation, as this quote shows “Die Araber werden für die Militärische Ausbildung und den Waffennachschub sorgen, den Terroristen aber vor allem den Rückzugsraum gewähren, der ihnen immer wieder die Möglichkeit bieten wird, sich zu regenerieren,”[31] There was always solidarity between the groups as well. During the 1972 Olympics when Israeli athletes were taken hostage by the B.S.O (a group made up of recruits from the P.F.L.P amongst others) the group demanded that along with the 234 Palestinians who were jailed in Israel, Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof also be released from prison. Later in 1977 a Commando named ‘Martyr Halime’ from the P.F.L.P agreed to hijack Lufthansa flight 181 in order to strengthen the R.A.F‘s negotiations for the release of imprisoned R.A.F members. The hijacking proved unsuccessful in the end as the German GSG 9 stormed the plane in Mogadishu and freed all the passengers. Souhaili Andrawes one of the 4 hijackers, and the only one to have survived the freeing of the aircraft by the GSG 9 was wearing a t-shirt with a picture of the iconic revolutionary ‘Che’ Guevara. This again highlights what an influential figure ‘Che’ was.

Mao Zedong was obviously also a major influence amongst the left-wing German movement. The R.A.F‘s pamphlet ‘Das Konzept Stadtguerilla’ from April 1971 starts with a Mao quote “Zwischen uns und dem Feind einen klaren Trennungsstrich ziehen!...Wenn wir vom Feind bekämpft werden, dann ist das gut; denn es ist ein Beweis, daß wir zwischen uns und dem Feind einen klaren Trennungsstrich gezogen haben.,”[32] This quote dates back to 26th May 1939. Part of this quote also featured in the film ‘Baader-Meinhof Komplex’ and is recited by the actress Johanna Wokalek who plays Gudrun Ensslin, whether she really did inspirationally utilise this quote as the film portrays is unknown, however for the quote to have been used in ‘Das Konzept Stadtguerilla’ along with others of his clearly shows that Mao Zedong was an influence upon the group and that his views were of importance to them.


Having now established what the main causes were for the arising of a German left-wing movement during the late 1960s and 1970s it is possible to evaluate which of these causes played the biggest roles in getting this revolutionary movement underway. Through evaluating these various causes, it is possible to reach a clear conclusion about the underlying motivation for left-wing militant activism in post-war Germany.

The first chapter of this dissertation shows clearly a link between the beginnings of the left-wing movements in retaliation to a past stigmatised by Nazi atrocities. The protests against the visit of the Shah of Persia is the point at which the left-wing movement really became a political force, this is due to the level of brutality which was shown towards the protesters by the German Police force. The fact that the Police even shot Benno Ohnesorg - an unarmed protester - really caused the situation to escalate. The way in which the protesters were dispersed forcefully by the police, effectively repressing their right to freedom of speech, was no doubt a stark reminder of Germany’s Nazi past to a number of people. They felt that history was repeating itself. This is the point at which a clear comparison could be made between Germany‘s Police Force then and that of the Nazi era –if what you were saying wasn’t desirable, then you were silenced through state power. This event of June 2nd 1967 is the point at which peaceful protesting started to spiral into the depths of more aggressive militant style protest actions, later seen through the likes of R.A.F or Bewegung 2. Juni.

In the second chapter of this dissertation I looked at how much of a role the Vietnam War played in the rise of Germany’s left-wing movement. Now I can compare whether it played a more significant role in this than the history of a past taunted by Nazi atrocities. During the R.A.F‘s May Offensive two U.S Army buildings were targeted. It would be easy to say that they were merely targeted because the R.A.F were against the Vietnam War –obviously this was part of the reason. However when you look into the explanations the R.A.F gave for their attacks, it is clear to see that they stem clearly from a resentment of their own nation‘s past at not intervening against the inhumane acts of the Nazi era. In the admission statement for the attack on the U.S Army HQ in Heidelberg the bombing of North Vietnam is compared to the ‘Final Solution’ and ‘Auschwitz’. I think the actions against the Vietnam War stemmed from wanting to atone for their parent‘s generation’s history – they wanted to show the world that they were different, and that they would stand up to oppressors when they felt it was justifiable to do so. Astrid Proll one of the early members of the R.A.F sums up this sentiment: “I think we despised what our parents had created, we were angry that we had to live with a past like that, our generation was in love with the revolution,”[33]

In the third chapter I looked specifically at the impact the Springer Presse had on the left-wing movement. Now that I have analysed it, it is quite understandable to see why so much animosity was directed towards it. The way the Springer publications made such quick judgements and wrote such inflammatory articles - occasionally at the cost of sacrificing objectivity - is something which over time obviously caused outrage amongst those being targeted. I think the Springer - Presse was despised by so many in the left movement because they saw it as a propaganda machine, spreading lies and fear to the general public. As Böll said “das ist nackter Faschismus. Verhetzung, lüge, Dreck,” This I believe reminded many people of the Third Reich where propaganda was used to influence people‘s opinions. So again the contempt for Springer can be traced back to wanting to erase any form of Nazi past. The Springer - Presse was even blamed by many for the attempted assassination of S.D.S leader Rudi Dutschke, because of the stories which were being published about Dutschke in the forerunning weeks. I think the Springer -P resse were socially irresponsible for publishing these articles as they no doubt caused anxiety amongst the readers of the Springer publications, and therefore a feeling of political unrest was created within the society.

In the fourth chapter of this dissertation I looked at influences amongst the left-wing movement in order to be able to evaluate how significant those influences were in the founding of these groups. The R.A.F and the Bewegung 2 Juni both undoubtedly took great influence from the Uruguayan Tupamaros, as can be seen from the similarities which I pointed out in the fourth chapter. Other people like ‘Che’ Guevara and Mao Zedong no doubt also shaped the way of the left-wing movement as they were very iconic revolutionary figures who people looked up to.

In Germany I think the fundamental reason a left-wing movement arose was the desire of the post-war generation to cut their ties with the nation’s Nazi history. In the 1960s and 70s when the new German youth started seeing a return of this fascistic way of governing (similar to that of the NS time) they protested against it. The youth seemed very aware of their nation‘s past and were conscious not to let this type of atrocity happen again. As has been explained, even the apparently separate issues addressed by the left-wing activists - such as the Vietnam war and U.S imperialism - were nonetheless inextricably linked to their desperation to escape the shadow of National Socialism. The underlying force of this reactionary motivation is highlighted by the fact that the activists often compared the contemporary government’s actions to those of the N.S.D.A.P. Only by clearly rejecting the values of Nazi Germany could the post-war generation exorcise the stigma of Nazi atrocities, meaning that any protest was inevitably a reaction to Nazism.



Baumann, Michael ‘Bommi’ (2000) How It All Began (USA: Arsenal Pulp Press)

Becker, Jillian (1978) Hitler’s Children: Story of the Baader-Meinhof Terrorist Gang (England: Harper collins)

Meinhof, Ulrike (2008) Everybody Talks About The WeatherWe Don ’ t (Canada: Seven Stories Press)

Proll, Astrid (1998) Baader-Meinhof: Pictures on the Run 67-77 (Zürich: Scalo Verlag)

Rollnik, Gabrielle (2004) Keine Angst Vor Niemand (Germany: Lutz Schulenberg) 2nd edition July 2007

Rote Armee Fraktion (1997) Texte und Materialien zur Geschichte der RAF (Berlin: ID Verlag)

Sargeant, Jack (2003) 1960 ’ s & 1970 ’ s Revolutionaries, Urban Guerillas & Terrorists (London: Creation Books)

Winkler, Willi (2008) Die Geschichte der RAF (Leck: Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag) 2nd Edition


Baader-Meinhof Komplex, 2008. Film. Directed by Uli EDEL. Germany: Constantin

Munich, 2005. Film. Directed by Steven SPIELBERG. USA: Dreamworks


Baader-Meinhof: In Love With Terror, 8th July 2003. Director Ben Lewis. BBC


Stefan Aust und Gunther Latsch im Gespräch mit dem ehemaligen RAF-Terroristen Peter-Jürgen Boock: 25 Jahre Deutscher Herbst, 21st October 2002. Spiegel TV

Internet Sources

Böll, Heinrich ‘Will Ulrike Gnade oder Freies Geleit?’ Spiegel, 10th January 1972, [accessed 8th March 2010]

Gohr, Andreas ‘Die Opfer’, Andreas Gohr, date unknown, [accessed 27th March 2010]

Guevara, Che ‘Message to the Tricontinental’, Che Guevara internet archive, date unknown, [accessed 25th March 2010]

Huffmann, Richard ‘Timeline’ , Richard Huffmann, 2009, [accessed 20th February 2010]

Springer, Axel ‘Corporate principles for a liberal world view’ Axel Springer AG, 2010, [accessed 25th February]

Appendix 1

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Gudrun Ensslin is the protester furthest right.

Appendix 2

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

From left to right: Thorwald Proll, Horst Söhnelein, Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin.


[1] BBC 4 documentary, 8th July 2003, Baader-Meinhof : In Love With Terror, From You Tube [Part 1 of 7] 6 minutes 25 seconds

[2] Bild, 7th February 1968

[3] Ulrike Meinhof [Translation Luise Von Flotow] , Everybody Talks About The Weather..We Don’t p242

[4] See apeendix 1

[5] Jillian Becker, Hitler’s Children. The Story Of The Baader-Meinhof Terrorist Gang, p41

[6] Bild, 3rd June 1967

[7] Willi Winkler, Die Geschichte der RAF, p92

[8] Sebastian Haffner, Stern, 25th June 1967

[9] Sebastian Haffner, Konkret, Juli 1967

[10] Gabrielle Rollnik/Daniel Dubbe, Keine Angst vor Niemand, p6

[11] Willi Winkler, Die Geschichte der RAF, p314 quote from Christof Wackernagel

[12] Stefan Aust und Gunther Latsch im Gespräach mit dem ehemaligen RAF-Terroristen Peter-Jürgen Boock: 25 Jahre Deutscher Herbst, Spiegel TV, 21-10-2002. From You Tube part 4 of 9

[13] ibid, From You Tube part 5 of 9

[14] Willi Winkler, Die Geschichte der RAF, p307 Quoted from Peter-Jürgen Boock

[15] Rote Armee Fraktion, Texte und Materialien zur Geschichte der RAF, p273

[16] Willi Winkler, Die Geschichte der RAF, p66

[17] Ulrike Meinhof [Translation by Luise von Flotow] Everybody Talks About The Weather.We Don’t, p230

[18] BBC 4 documentary, 8th July 2003, Baader-Meinhof : In Love With Terror, From You Tube [Part 1 of 7] 6 minutes 45 seconds

[19] Rote Armee Fraktion, Texte und Materialien zur Geschichte der RAF, p145

[20] Rote Armee Fraktion, Texte und Materialien zur Geschichte der RAF, p148

[21] Willi Winkler, Die Geschichte der RAF, p95 from Bild, 3 June 1967

[22] Willi Winkler, Die Geschichte der RAF, p117 from Bild, 7th February 1968

[23] Heinrich Böll, Der Spiegel –Will Ulrike Gnade oder freies Geleit? 10.01.1972

[24] Ibd

[25] Ibd

[26] Axel Springer AG 2010,

[27] Rote Armee Fraktion, Texte und Materialien zur Geschichte der RAF, p147

[28] Ernseto Guevara, Message to the Tricontinental, 1967.

[29] Rote Armee Fraktion, Texte und Materialien zur Geschichte der RAF, p145

[30] See appendix 2

[31] Will Winkler, Die Geschichte der RAF, p175

[32] Rote Armee Fraktion, Texte und Materialien zur Geschichte der RAF, p27

[33] BBC 4 documentary, 8th July 2003, Baader-Meinhof : In Love With Terror, From You Tube [Part 1 of 7] 5 minutes 55 seconds


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extend german nazi




Titel: The Extend of the German revolutionary left wing groups of the 1960/70´s as a reaction to the Nazi past.