Date: Sat, 25 Oct 97 14:12:02 CDT
From: Arm The Spirit <>
Subject: Germany: 20 Years Since Stammheim
Article: 20602

20 Years Since Stammheimxo

Arm The Spirit, 18 October 1997

On September 5, 1977, the German urban guerrilla organization Red Army Fraction (RAF) abducted Hans Martin Schleyer, the chief of the German Employers Union, the boss of all bosses. With this action, the ‘German Autumn’ began, the pinnacle of state repression and emergency legislation against the German left, carried out by a social democratic administration. The goal of the guerrilla commando's action was to win freedom for a large number of RAF prisoners. The German government ordered a press black-out of the event. For 44 days, the institutions of civil democracy were suspended as a ‘Special Crisis Committee’ took over, which was technically illegal since it was not provided for in Germany's Constitution. The RAF prisoners were denied all forms of contact with the outside world.

But the repression against the left wasn't limited to the RAF alone. The mid-1970s saw the rise of a massive anti-nuclear movement in Germany, and on September 24, a massive demonstration against the construction of a fast-breeder reactor in Kalkar was to be held. It ended with an unprecedented level of state repression. German police completely shut down one lane of the north-south autobahn and more than 125,000 people (!) were stopped and checked. Train cars and bus convoys were also searched by armed police with machine guns. Most demonstrators didn't bother to come, or else they arrived too late. These experiences led to a sort of ‘Kalkar Shock’ and demoralized many of the anti-nuclear movement's structures in the years that followed.

After a period of stalemate, the situation escalated after the hijacking of a Lufthansa airline from Mallorca on October 13 by a commando of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). This commando held a group of tourists hostage in order to put pressure on the German government to release the RAF prisoners. Within the ‘Special Crisis Committee’, there were increasing calls for a military solution to the problem. In line with this, a series of exotic mind games began, with some cabinet ministers openly calling for the RAF prisoners to be executed.

On October 17, 1977, a GSG-9 anti-terrorist commando stormed the plane and killed the hijackers. The next morning, the German state again freely dispensed its violence, as RAF prisoners Andreas Baader, Jan Carl Raspe, and Gudrun Ensslin were found dead in their cells, with Irmgard Moeller critically wounded. Hours later, the government reported that the prisoners had committed suicide. Of course, officials never explained how news of the hijacking, or the subsequent storiming of the plane, could have reached the prisoners, who were held in complete isolation during the standoff. The circumstances of their deaths are still not clear to this day. On the evening of October 18, Schleyer was found dead in the trunk of a car in Strausbourg.

The murder of the RAF prisoners in Stammheim, and the massive level of state repression associated with the German Autumn of 1977, had a great effect upon the revolutionary left in Germany. But even now, 20 years later, 10 RAF prisoners remain in isolated prison conditions in Germany, most serving life sentences. It is important that the campaigns to win their release from prison be supported.

The RAF has become part of history. The group announced an end to lethal actions in April 1992, and its only action since that time was the March 1993 destruction of the new high-tech prison in Weiterstadt which was about to be opened. The remaining imprisoned members of the RAF have called on the group to officially disband so that the struggle can find new ways of moving on. But the German state's fight against the RAF has not ended, as the political prisoners continue to be subjected to a policy of isolation and destruction.

We at Arm The Spirit wanted to mark the 20th anniversary of the Stammheim murders with a series of articles and a web page on the struggle by the RAF and the current situation of the prisoners. But we didn't quite manage this. We are, however, sending out an article on the history of the RAF written back in 1994, as well as some recent updates on the RAF prisoners. Also, below are two German-langauge sites with information on the RAF prisoners and Stammheim.