In 1972, four years after the Red Army Faction was founded, the police thought they had made a significant strike against it. They arrested the founders of the Baader Meinhof gang, which described itself as a communist urban guerilla group. Detained in a high security prison were Andreas Baader, Ulrike Meinhoff, Gudrun Ensslin and Jan Carl Raspe. Other militants, though, stepped in to take up the fight.
Several high-profile figures were murdered, including federal prosecutor Siegfried Buback in April 1977. This became known as the German autumn, with the country plunged into a state of crisis. In September of that year the President of the German Employers’ Association was kidnapped. The release of Red Army Faction members was demanded.
Not long after and a Lufthansa passenger plane was hijacked by a Palestinian militant, who made demands on behalf of the Red Army Faction. After the pilot was killed, commandoes stormed the plane and shot dead the hijackers. Just hours after the news broke, officials announced the suicides of Baader, Ensslin and Raspe in prison.
In revenge, the employers’ federation chief was murdered, with his body found in the boot of a car in France. Red Army Faction members claimed responsibility: Cristian Klar was among them, as well as Brigitte Mohnhaupt, both later jailed for life for nine murders. At the time Mohnhaupt was dubbed in the media as Germany’s most dangerous woman. But in February 2007 she was released on parole. With Klar now freed, only one Red Army Faction member remains in jail.
The group is said to have officially disbanded in 1998, after a campaign that left 34 people dead.
Their story is told in a movie released this year called the Baader Meinhof Complex.