Ben Lewis - Baader-Meinhof: In Love with Terror (2002)


How do you start a revolution in one of the world's richest, modern democracies? The Baader-Meinhof group, aka the Red Army Faction attempted to in 1970s West Germany with bombings, kidnaps and murders.

Ben Lewis' stylish film provides a unique insight into the notorious terrorist group and includes interviews with former RAF members and leaders of the West German government.


BBC Four: What was the attraction of the Baader-Meinhof Gang at the time?
Ben Lewis: Guilt. I think young Germans were very guilty about the past and Baader-Meinhof offered them an attractive and very simple way to absolve themselves of that guilt. When we say attractive, we don't mean they had a lot of supporters, we mean there were a lot of people who were quite attracted by them.

There were only a very small number of people doing these attacks and sheltering them. But a lot of school children thought they were cool. They wore leather jackets and were full of sexy girls and were run by a sexy guy. This was the German answer to the Rolling Stones. Typically, Germans couldn't come up with the Rolling Stones because they have to be very serious about things; so they came up with a terrorist group rather than a rock group.

BBC Four: Where did the Baader-Meinhof Gang get their influences from?
Ben Lewis: Mao and a few South American guerrilla leaders. In a way the most important thing about the Baader-Meinhof Gang is that they read the guerrilla theories of Che Guevara and Carlos Marighella and decided to translate it to Western Germany. Let's translate a manual for warfare in one of the world's poorest countries to a manual warfare in one of the world's richest. And a lot got lost in the translation.

BBC Four: Did you detect any remorse or regret in any of the surviving members you interviewed?
Ben Lewis: Not really. One guy, Horst Mahler, is now a lawyer for the German NPD, which is a far-right, latter-day Nazi Party. So he obviously thinks it was a bit of a cock-up. But the rest of them, they're against violence now. Not because they think it isn't justified against the imperial-capitalist conspiracy of America against the rest of the world, but that the forces of imperialism are too strong to be overcome. They have recanted. The trouble is, once you ask them about their political beliefs it's quite clear that logically most would support violence. The theoretical framework is still there for most of the people I talked to.

BBC Four: Do you think they've had lasting impact on Germany?
Ben Lewis: I don't. I think it was a total dead end. The German Left in the 1960s was a big, heterogeneous and colourful force. Out of that you got the Greens and the anti-nuclear movement. These things had a tremendous impact on German society. The Baader-Meinhof Gang was a sideshow really. I think they did an enormous amount of damage to the Left.

Horst Mahler - contemporary fascist and ex RAF founder.

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