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Germany's 'Baader-Meinhof' Sanitized By: Stephen Brown
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, October 24, 2003


Just imagine a film about 1960s radical Kathy Boudin, in which she is portrayed as a misguided fighter for freedom and human rights. And the Weather Underground? Imagine a film depicting it as a noble entity for its opposition to racism and the Vietnam War.

Well, that might not be so far off if events in Germany are anything to go by. That country's notorious Baader-Meinhof terrorist group, aka the 'Red Army Faction', is currently undergoing a surge in popularity in the Federal Republic that has elevated it almost to pop status. And unsurprisingly, it is the German leftist cultural industry that is leading the charge in remaking the image of one of Europe's most deadly terrorist groups of the 1970s and 80s.

Like the Weather Underground, Baader-Meinhof was a radical, communist terrorist outfit, that sought to overthrow its country's existing social and political order in favor of a totalitarian socialist state. The terrorist group murdered 30 people and was responsible for a string of bombings and kidnappings that shook Germany to its core during its heyday in the 1970s.

Last year, a film was released about one of the RAF's founders, Andreas Baader, in which, one critic says, the petty criminal turned communist revolutionary is portrayed like a Jesse James-type figure, a dashing, social rebel, rather than the murderer that he really was. In this cheap glorification of a ruthless killer, the filmmaker has his subject dressed in a long, spaghetti-western style coat, and even allows him to die a 'cool' screen death, taking a bullet, while remaining standing and firing back with two pistols he pulled out of his leather jacket.

In reality, Baader's end was anything but glorious. This vile terrorist committed suicide in Stammheim Prison with a shot to the head from a smuggled pistol right after the passengers of a German airliner, hijacked in 1977 by Palestinian terrorists to force German authorities to free him, were rescued in Mogadishu. At the time, this movie 'hero' was serving a life sentence for murder, attempted murder, and for forming a terrorist organization. During his trial in 1976, his Baader-Meinhof comrades executed
the trial's prosecutor and his driver in their car at a red light.

Several other terrorist acts were later carried out to force Baader's, and other RAF terrorists', release. One such action, committed in the fall of 1977, is the subject of a film seen last summer on German television. Called 'Hanns-Martin Schleyer: A German Story', it is even more disgraceful than the one about Baader, since it seeks, in a subtle manner, to put forward a justification for the group's vicious behavior.

Hanns-Martin Schleyer was a prominent German industrialist who was kidnapped on September 5 and executed October 18 of that year after the ruling socialist government of Chancellor Helmut Schmidt refused to meet the terrorists' demands and release from prison 11 RAF members. Five masked gunmen had cold-bloodedly shot and killed three of Schleyer's bodyguards and driver during the kidnapping that started when a woman pushing a baby carriage suddenly appeared on the street, forcing Schleyer's car to stop. The car with the police escort then slammed into the rear of Schleyer's car, after which the terrorists executed its occupants.

The film, however, does not focus on the unconscionable deeds committed by the terrorists, that day but rather, as the title suggests, on Hanns-Martin Schleyer, or, more specifically, on his Nazi past. Schleyer had been an SS officer during the war who was sent to Czechoslovakia to help 'Germanize' the Czech economy. While there is no proof he was ever involved in war crimes, he did live in a house that once belonged to a deported and murdered Jewess. After 1945, he spent three years as a POW and was released in 1948 after his 'denazification'.

One critic has pointed out that Schleyer's story was indeed a German one, in that it resembled the lives of tens of thousands of other Germans at that time. However, by focusing on his Nazi past and that of Nazis in Czechoslovakia, the film subtly suggests that Schleyer got what he deserved. One critic says there is an unstated, but detectable message in the film that Schleyer was a legitimate target and the RAF's terrorism was, at least in this case, not unfounded. In other words, the victims of extremist murder are the guilty ones, while the murderers are fighters for justice and a better world. Not without justification, 'Hanns-Martin Schleyer: A German Story' has been called a posthumous execution.

Unfortunately, the sanitizing of the Baader-Meinhof criminals does not stop with the silver screen. An art exhibition about the RAF was to take place in Berlin this month, but protests, especially from members of the murdered victims' families, saw it postponed. Called 'Myth RAF', it was to receive $100,000 in taxpayers' money from the city.

The exhibition was to be a history of the RAF and how the group is reflected in artists' works. But since most of the artists are 'progressive', one can just imagine what would have been hanging on the walls, especially since one of the original concepts for the show was to explore what ideas and ideals the RAF had that are still valid today.

When one visits Germany today, it is not uncommon to see young Germans wearing T-shirts with the RAF logo of a sub-machine gun on a red star. But while youthful rebellion is partially responsible for this sad sight, dishonest, leftist cultural works such as these and others about the RAF also share the blame for leading them so morally astray.

Stephen Brown is a contributing editor at Frontpagemag.com. He has a graduate degree in Russian and Eastern European history. Email him at alsolzh@hotmail.com.


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