The Baader Meinhof Complex

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

I recently watched The Baader Meinhof Complex, about the Red Army Faction, Germany’s most famous left-wing terrorist organization.

It shared many qualities in common with Carlos:

  • Again, every time anyone handles a gun, they casually muzzle-sweep their friends, with their finger on the trigger. There’s even a negligent discharge. Handling guns, to these so-called revolutionaries, seems to revolve around breaking the taboo around them.
  • The movie has a lot of gratuitous nudity — more of it female than in Carlos. More of it involving children, too. The whole movie made me feel terribly bourgeois.
  • Being an effective terrorist is largely a matter of willingness to do terrible things, not competence at doing those terrible things. “If one sets a car on fire, that is a criminal offence. If one sets hundreds of cars on fire, that is political action.”
  • Angry youths are useful idiots. West Germany seems to have been especially useful to the Soviets. Stefan Aust, author of the book, had this to say:

    World War II was only twenty years earlier. Those in charge of the police, the schools, the government — they were the same people who’d been in charge under Nazism. The chancellor, Kurt Georg Kiesinger, had been a Nazi. People started discussing this only in the 60′s. We were the first generation since the war, and we were asking our parents questions. Due to the Nazi past, everything bad was compared to the Third Reich. If you heard about police brutality, that was said to be just like the SS. The moment you see your own country as the continuation of a fascist state, you give yourself permission to do almost anything against it. You see your action as the resistance that your parents did not put up.

    The movie makes no mention of Soviet or East-German support.

  • Palestinian “liberation” is a Marxist movement in the 1970s. The Baader-Meinhof gang goes to the Middle East for training — where they seem perplexed that their local hosts don’t approve of their Bohemian lifestyle. Or the young Germans are just being rude and provocative on purpose. That seems to be the point of most of their actions.
  • The terrorists of the 1970s seem like wannabe rock-stars.
  • I found the terrorists utterly unsympathetic, but young Germans at the time supported them:

    The Baader-Meinhof Gang drew a measure of support that violent leftists in the United States, like the Weather Underground, never enjoyed. A poll at the time showed that a quarter of West Germans under forty felt sympathy for the gang and one-tenth said they would hide a gang member from the police. Prominent intellectuals spoke up for the gang’s righteousness (as) Germany even into the 1970s was still a guilt-ridden society. When the gang started robbing banks, newscasts compared its members to Bonnie and Clyde. (Andreas) Baader, a charismatic, spoiled psychopath, indulged in the imagery, telling people that his favourite movies were Bonnie and Clyde, which had recently come out, and The Battle of Algiers. The pop poster of Che Guevara hung on his wall, (while) he paid a designer to make a Red Army Faction logo, a drawing of a machine gun against a red star.

  • As in Carlos, an airliner hijacking goes awry — but it seems like they could have continued a campaign of bombings and assassinations with impunity.


  1. Slovenian Guest says:

    You may also find Operation Gladio interesting.

  2. Slovenian Guest says:

    Speaking of Gladio, here’s an English interview with the guy who wrote the bible on it.

    And his book, “NATO’s Secret Armies” can be found here (direct pdf link, full, English).

  3. Slovenian Guest says:

    And to top it off, a 45 min TV documentary on Gladio.

  4. etype says:

    The movie was infotainment, not a sober assessment of this particular instance of leftist extremism.

    I think you should be clear about that Isegoria.

    The map, especially when constructed for pedagogic purpose, is not the territory.

    The gun waving etc. was done by actors under urging of the director, not by leftist terrorists.

  5. Thibodeaux says:

    Bruno Ganz (Hitler from Downfall) is in this. Thanks to countless Youtube videos, I recognized his voice.

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