April 2, 1968, at the height of the student revolts, Andreas Baader set fire to a department store in Frankfurt. His explanation was that the fire was necessary to activate the masses. During his defense in court he said that an oppressed minority had a natural right to use any means, however illegal, when legal means are not sufficing. One of his comrades, Fritz Teufel, justified it all the more concisely and clearly when he said: “It is better to set a department store on fire than to manage one.”
After a short time in prison, Baader was freed by a group of terrorists which included Ulrike Meinhof. Three people were injured in this action. Meinhof's justification for the use of violence was: “The person wearing a uniform is a pig and not a human being and therefore we have taken a stand against them…naturally shots may have to be fired. We want to demonstrate that it is possible to carry on armed opposition and win. Naturally it is important to escape capture. That is essential to success.”
Members of the Baader-Meinhof group call themselves revolutionaries and Marxist-Leninists, but prefer the term Rote Armee Fraktion (Red Army Faction). They work together with terrorist groups in other parts of the world and learn some of their tactics from them and therefore think of themselves as international. However, they are primarily German and that must be kept in mind in trying to understand their motives. To comprehend the reasons for political terrorism in Germany, one must examine the peculiarities of the German situation.
Since 1970, thirty-nine persons have become the direct and twelve persons the indirect victims of politically motivated terrorism in the Federal Republic of Germany. Seventy-five persons have been injured in dynamite explosions and an additional one hundred have been threatened with murder. But the various terrorist groups have neither a common philosophy nor any kind of unified structure. Their most important organization is the so-called Red Army Faction (RAF). Its hard core consists of approximately forty members of the Baader-Meinhof group. Since 1972, they have been jailed, although some spectacular kidnappings succeeded in bringing about the release of a few of their members from prison.