Release of former RAF terrorist divides Germany
13 February 2007, Hamburg (dpa) - The release of former leftist terrorist Brigitte Mohnhaupt has revived memories, and anger, in Germany at the Red Army Faction (RAF) whose peculiar beliefs plunged Germany into bloodshed 30 years ago. When Mohnhaupt walks free from a Bavarian jail next month, only one other RAF leader, Christian Klar, and two lesser RAF figures will still be behind bars. Mohnhaupt, who has never expressed sorrow for her campaign of killings, received parole for good behaviour in jail. Howe
13 February 2007
Hamburg (dpa) - The release of former leftist terrorist Brigitte Mohnhaupt has revived memories, and anger, in Germany at the Red Army Faction (RAF) whose peculiar beliefs plunged Germany into bloodshed 30 years ago.
When Mohnhaupt walks free from a Bavarian jail next month, only one other RAF leader, Christian Klar, and two lesser RAF figures will still be behind bars. Mohnhaupt, who has never expressed sorrow for her campaign of killings, received parole for good behaviour in jail.
However, judges said they were sure Mohnhaupt would not go back underground to fight the state. She must regularly report to police. Other former RAF figures have returned to obscurity, seeking to pick up the threads of lives marred by violence and long spells in jail.
Death has already claimed the founders of the Red Army Faction, a group of students and intellectuals who believed they could engineer a communist mass uprising by the West German working class.
Their bizarre theory was that by assassinating senior business and justice officials, they could provoke the government into establishing a police state, which would make communism seem the desirable alternative to the masses.
But this campaign found no popular support.
Most West German working people could see that life under communism in neighbouring East Germany was not an attractive choice.
West Germany preserved democracy and gradually caught most of the middle-class terrorists. RAF leaders Ulrike Meinhof, Andreas Baader and Gudrun Ensslin committed suicide in jail in 1976 and 1977.
A significant minority of Germans in their 50s and 60s still secretly admire the RAF, seeing it as emblematic of the excitement of free love, drug-use and demonstrations against the Vietnam War and nuclear weapons by rebellious youth in the late 1960s and 1970s.
The activities of the RAF have been examined in books, art and museum exhibitions, but most Germans would prefer to forget the RAF's self-declared "war" against the establishment.
Mohnhaupt has been serving five life terms and a 15-year term, all concurrent. Because of good behaviour and signs she is no longer dangerous, she qualifies for parole on March 27 after having served 24 years, a rule that applies to all under German law.
She has already made nine excursions from prison, with armed police watching her, to prepare her for a changed world that is connected up by the internet and only dimly remembers communism, which crumbled away in Europe in 1989.
As part of the RAF "second generation" after the founders' suicides, she led a particularly nasty 1977 Red Army Faction kidnap in which Hanns-Martin Schleyer, head of the West German employers' federation, was seized from his car, and found dead 44 days later.
Schleyer's widow, Waltrude, has called for the terrorists to be kept on in jail, pointing out they had never shown contrition. In 1993, Mohnhaupt sent a statement from jail opposing an RAF surrender.
Prison officials say Mohnhaupt has been well-behaved in the prison in Bavaria where she is serving time, with no sign of any new plots.
The other principal terrorist, Klar, has applied to German President Horst Koehler for clemency, as he would not qualify till 2009 to apply for parole. He must serve a minimum 26 years.
Klar, who like Mohnhaupt came from a well-off family and went to university to study philosophy before becoming a terrorist, is reported to have been well behaved in jail. A Berlin theatre has promised him a two-year staff internship if he is released.
He has also never renounced his ideas, telling an interviewer in 2001 he still wanted Germany to make a "fresh start" and would never abjure what the RAF had done, "though I do not contemplate reviving the armed struggle."
Subject: German news