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Baader-Meinhof: The Inside Story of the R.A.F.

ISBN: 9780195372755
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Edition: Revised
Publication Date: 2009-03
Number of pages: 480
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Book Description
The Baader-Meinhof Group--later known as the Red Army Faction (RAF)--was a violent urban guerilla group which terrorized Germany in the 1970s and '80s, killing 47 people, wounding 93, taking 162 hostages, and robbing 35 banks--all in an attempt to bring revolution to the Federal Republic. Stefan Aust's masterful history of the Group presents the definitive account, capturing a highly complex story both accurately and colorfully. Much new information has surfaced since the mass suicide of the Groups' leaders in the 1980s. Some RAF members have come forward to testify in new investigations and formerly classified Stasi documents have been made public since the fall of the Berlin Wall, all contributing to a fuller picture of the RAF and the events surrounding their demise.

Aust presents the complete history of the RAF, from the creation in 1970 to the breakup in 1998, incorporating all of the new information. For instance, there is growing evidence that the German secret service eavesdropped on Baader, Meinhof, and the other RAF members imprisoned in Stammheim and that they knew that the terrorists planned a mass suicide, but did nothing to prevent it. Also, there is new information about the role of the RAF lawyers (among them Otto Schily who later was Minister of the Interior in Gerhard Schroder's cabinet), and the roles of the different RAF members and the rivalry between them. The volume will also contain numerous photos. Terrorism today is never far from most people's thoughts. Baader-Meinhof offers a gripping account of one of the most violent terrorist groups of the late twentieth century, in a compelling look at what they did, why they did it, and how they were brought to justice.

Questions for Stefan Aust

Q: Given your background as an editor of Konkret and your previous friendship with Ulrike Meinhof, how was the original version of your book received by the left when it first came out? Though you did not explicitly state it at the time, your book very conclusively seemed to demonstrate that the strange deaths in Stammheim prison were in fact suicides, yet it seems to be an article of faith amongst leftists that Baader, Ensslin, and Raspe were murdered. How was your book received by the left at the time? And has that changed with the new edition, especially now that you clearly state that their deaths were suicides?

A: When the book first came out in 1985, a lot of copies were being bought by RAF members who were sitting in jail. Some of them learned about the first generation of the group mainly by reading the book. But that didn’t stop them--or their sympathizers--from being very critical of it. On a talk show, Hans Christian Ströbele, who was a former RAF lawyer and later a member of parliament (Green Party) said that Baader and Meinhof would roll over in their graves if they read the book...After more than twenty years, I now have the feeling that even people from the left see the book as a rather fair and correct work of journalism. Now their main argument is that the book has the Deutungshoheit about the subject--which means something like opinion leadership about the subject of RAF-Terrorism.

Q: There are many of people who romanticize the leaders of the RAF without understanding the devastation that they wrought. The Baader-Meinhof Complex, the Oscar-Nominee movie that you wrote last year, was accused of glorifying terrorism. What are your thoughts about those criticisms? Is there even a way to portray the Baader-Meinhof saga without being accused of glorifying or romanticizing terrorism?

A: The moment you write or make films about groups like the RAF you support their immorality. I wanted to portray this group as accurately as possible. It would be impossible for a book reader or film viewer to understand why so many people followed them if they were portrayed only as villains and criminals. It was their charisma that made them so dangerous. One of the reasons why we showed the group’s bombings and killings in such detail was that we wanted to explain what terrorism really is: the terror and killing of people--of human beings--not of lifeless character masks. The aim was to make viewers understand why people of such high moral standards turned into ruthless killers, how hyper moral turned into immorality.

Q: Do you see any homegrown, leftwing terrorist movements taking root in Europe or America again? One of the reasons that the Baader-Meinhof Group was able to rise to prominence early in the 70’s was partially because of ineffective police work. It seems that in the modern climate, particularly since 9/11, it would be extremely hard for any band of urban revolutionaries to wage a similar war without being quickly caught. Do you agree? What kind of left-wing radical movement COULD succeed?

A: Any kind of terrorist activity is always a part of a bigger radical movement. A terrorist group can evolve only when a b

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