Red Army Faction


May 22, 2022

The Red Army Faction (German: Rote Armee Fraktion) (RAF) was a left-wing extremist terrorist organization active in West Germany from the 1970s until the early 1990s. It caused great unrest, carried out bombings, arson, bank robberies, abductions, hostage-taking and killed numerous high-profile German politicians, officials and business leaders (as well as a large number of police, security guards and private drivers), leading to a national crisis in the autumn of 1977 (the German autumn). The RAF had its roots in the student uprising in the late 1960s, and wanted to follow the example of South American revolutionary groups, e.g. Tupamaros in Uruguay, waged armed struggle as "urban guerrillas" against the "system" that meant the ruling capitalist state and American imperialism. They also claimed that NATO countries, especially West Germany, were ruled by fascists. The name was inspired by the Japanese Red Army, a similar Japanese terrorist organization, while "Fraktion" was to illustrate the connection to a larger Marxist movement. The RAF was in the conservative German press also known as the Baader-Meinhof gang, after two of the members, Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof. Although the group was best known to the public under the name "Baader-Meinhof gang", the group never used this name itself, and Meinhof was probably a less central leader than Baader's girlfriend Gudrun Ensslin. In the RAF's history, it is possible to distinguish between three different "generations", with little or no personal connection between them.



The RAF's roots can be traced back to the student uprising in the latter half of the 1960s, and in particular to the activist circles of the radicalized and militant student movement in West Berlin. The student uprising was an international phenomenon in which the fight against US warfare in Vietnam was an important common denominator, but it received a special mark in West Germany against the Nazi parent generation's atrocities during World War II and its lack of self-settlement in the first ten years after the war. . Hatred of the "Auschwitz generation" was also central to the political ideology of the RAF's founders. The first RAF generation came mainly from the militant wing of various left-wing groups, communist breakaway parties ("K-groups"), and from the disbanded ("extra-parliamentary") opposition student movement (APO, Außerparlamentarische Opposition). In the period from 1965-1966 until the formation of the RAF in 1970, several of them were also directly or indirectly affiliated with the SDS (Sozialistischer Studentenbund), which after the break with the mother party SPD in the early 1960s, had developed into the leading organizational expression of the ever-growing rebel movement among West Germany's students. Another driving force behind the many demonstrations and happenings that characterized West Berlin in the latter part of the 1960s, and which formed an important part of the surrounding area for the future founders of the RAF, was the actionist and anarchist housing collective "Kommune 1". In Germany, the student uprising led to great unrest when the shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, visited West Berlin in early June 1967. After a day of violent protests in which exiled Iranians and German students participated, the shah visited the Deutsche Oper. After the performance, student Benno Ohnesorg - who participated in his first demonstration - was shot in the head and killed by West German police. The date of the assassination - June 2 - became an important symbol for several generations of terrorists, and later also gave rise to the RAF's sister organization "Bewegung June 2". The West German police's reaction to the student demonstrations can in today's eyes be seen as quite brutal. This, together with the notion of state brutality in connection with other protests, and strong opposition to the Vietnam War and the United States, Andreas Baader and Gudrun Ensslin got together with Thorwal