The end of the Baader Meinhof Group: The Long Goodbye of the RAF Between 1977 and 1998
Specialized histories (international relations, law), Literary theory, analysis and criticism, Culturele activiteiten, Overig maatschappelijk onderzoek, A Journal
Fundación para estudios parlamentarios y del Derecho autonómico “Manuel Giménez Abad”
From 1970 until 1998, the Federal Republic of Germany was confronted by a left-wing terrorist organization that called itself the Rote Armee Fraktion (RAF, Red Army Faction) and was referred to by others as the Baader Meinhof Group. Members of this organization performed dozens of attacks, many of them deadly, targeting mainly American soldiers, stationed on German soil, and representatives of Germany‟s business and political elites, but also police officers, judges and prosecutors. In total 34 people lost their lives at the hands of members of the RAF and many more were wounded, some of them maimed for life. 16 terrorists lost their lives, too, seven of them in prison, mostly by suicides, and most of the others in shoot-outs with the police. For a terrorist organization, the Baader Meinhof Group lasted a relatively long time: nearly thirty years. It by far outlived similar terrorist groups of the radical left in Germany that were also founded in the early 1970s, like the Bewegung 2. Juni (Movement 2 June) or the Revolutionäre Zellen (Revolutionary Cells). Compared to other social-revolutionary groups in Western countries like the American Weatherman Underground Organization, France‟s Action Directe (Direct Action) or Italy‟s Brigate Rosse (Red Brigades) the RAF as an organization was a survivor. At different moments in time, it seemed beaten, but then again it managed a successful resurrection. Nevertheless, with hindsight it is clear that somewhere in the late 1980s the final stages of the RAF‟s history set in. About a decade of complicated maneuvering by state officials, politicians of different colors, and active cells, imprisoned members, lawyers, supporters and sympathizers of the RAF followed. Opposition to an arrangement that would end the confrontation was strong on both sides of the conflict and mediators were often scorned by their peers. Ultimately, on 20 April 1998, in its last official declaration, the RAF announced its disbandment. On the following pages I will attempt to answer the question how this end of the RAF came about. I will begin with some introductory remarks about the RAF, explaining its main characteristics as well as the main developments in its history. After this, I will give an overview of the important steps taken on the road to the final declaration of 1998 and also identify the most important protagonists of this story. Who were the most important advocates of reconciliation between the opposing parties and who were the most important opponents of the rapprochement? At the end, I will present a short reflection on the developments that led to the end of the Baader Meinhof Group and point at some elements that might be of interest for current attempts to end terrorism in other countries, such as Spain.