Film in Germany: Red Army Reactions

A spate of recent films suggest that the scars of Germany’s history show little sign of healing. Markus Bauer reports.

While Hollywood brings the story of the plot to kill Hitler to a wider world, German cinema continues to examine the nation's troubled past with the release of two controversial movies. Der Baader-Meinhof-Komplex tells the story of the Red Army Faction, the terrorist gang born of the 1968 student revolt, while Anonyma: Eine Frau in Berlin confronts the issue of mass rape, committed by another Red Army after the fall of Berlin in 1945.

Hitler’s Children by Jillian Becker, published in 1977, was one of the first books to tackle the subject of West German terrorism, its very title evoking the idea that the left-wing Baader-Meinhof group, or Red Army Faction (RAF), was a product of a past its members were so brutally keen to be rid of.

Uli Edel’s recent film Der Baader-Meinhof-Komplex, produced and written by Bernd Eichinger (who also made the striking account of the final days in Hitler’s bunker, Downfall), offers surprisingly few explanations for the violence of the RAF other than that they sought to oppose West Germany’s march towards a new kind of authoritarianism following the shooting of a demonstrator by police in 1967, and the attempted assassination of student leader Rudi Dutschke by a right-wing worker in 1969.

Although some student agitators, including Dutschke, refused this violent path, the journalist Ulrike Meinhof embraced terror in 1970 after aiding Andreas Baader’s escape from prison where he was serving time for the firebombing of two Frankfurt department stores.

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