Sunday, December 25, 2011

Baader-Meinhof-Komplex

The German Autumn was before my time, but I do remember the activities of the third generation RAF. The whole thing was pretty much ignored in my history classes unfortunately, so it was when I first saw the brilliant documentary Todesspiel that I learned more about this time.

Stefan Aust's book Der Baader-Meinhof-Komplex is a standard work and I've read before, more than once. If you want to learn about the RAF, then this is the best place to start. The book will give you an overview of the chronology, up to the suicides of the Stammheim prisoners, and of the persons involved, on both sides of the law.

It's a surprisingly easy read for such a complex subject and at times, it reads like a crime novel, without being lurid. I value the matter of fact-tone the book maintains, with few exceptions. There are numerous conspiracy theories, outright lies and many books about the subject follow an agenda, more or less obviously. Aust writes fairly neutral, especially for someone who was at times personally involved.

I can recommend the film based on the book as well. There's a scene that tells you a lot about the first generation of the RAF. Baader and Ensslin have their car stolen and Baader totally loses it, screaming obscenities at the thieves who took his (!) car (that he stole). Ensslin stays calm and tells him "It doesn't matter, baby. We'll steal a new one."

Stammheim is another great film, about the trial at Stammheim prison. It's based on the official records made during the trial. You get to see the clash between the justice system and the prisoners who downright refuse to recognise the system - not something the judge or indeed German society as a whole dealt well with.

I found a quote by Gudrun Ensslin made during the trial to be very enlightening as well. "We don't discuss this with you. We will only discuss this with people who agree with us." I think that this is characteristical for the RAF as well: a group of people who always agrees with each other and who looked only for further agreement in other people. Other opinions were not accepted, especially if they came from within the group (rare enough). If you're not with us, you're against us, taken to extremes. I can't help but notice the similarities between the RAF and religious cults.

Der Baader-Meinhod-Komplex is my 50th book for the Library Challenge

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