Bringing the War Home: The Weather Underground, the Red Army Faction, and Revolutionary Violence in the Sixties and Seventies

By Jeremy Varon | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
Deadly Abstraction
The Red Army Faction and the Politics of Murder

Over the course of the 1970s, what turned out to be West Germany's only war—that between the Federal Republic and self-styled “urban guerrillas” seeking its overthrow—grew dramatically in intensity. By 1976, the year the Weather Underground dissolved, the RAF's leaders had been in prison for nearly four years. They were charged with bombings, attempted murders, and murders, stemming mostly from the 1972 “May Offensive, ” in which the RAF targeted officials of the West German state and U. S. military personnel. Several dozen more members of the RAF and other guerrilla groups were in prison, accused or convicted of acts of terrorism. Their capture and the passing of the Vietnam War hardly served to quell the conflict. As opposition to the war and imperialism receded, the focus of the guerrillas' strongest anger shifted to the criminal justice system—in particular to the systematic abuse inmates alleged they suffered in prison. Prisoners from the RAF and other groups engaged in a series of hunger strikes to protest their treatment, culminating in the death by starvation in November 1974 of the RAF's Holger Meins and a new explosion of anger on the left.

In the mid 1970s, the RAF and other groups committed brutal acts of violence, most often aiming to win the release of jailed members. These include the June 2nd Movement's killing in 1974 of a West Berlin judge just after the death of Meins; its kidnapping in February 1975 of the Christian Democratic official Peter Lorenz, ending with the exchange of Lorenz for ten imprisoned guerrillas; and the RAF's brief seizure in April

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