The Baader-Meinhof Gang

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The Baader-Meinhof Gang was an alternative name for a militant group that was active in the Federal Republic of Germany during the 1970s. Calling themselves die Rote Armee Fraktion (Red Army Faction1), these self-styled 'urban guerillas' waged a campaign of terror which left thirty four dead. They were nevertheless regarded by some as glamorous figures; leather-jacketed rock and roll revolutionaries expressing the frustrations of young Germans.

Origins and allegiances

The 1960s were notoriously a decade of change. While it has remains in the public consciousness as the era of love, peace and drugs it was also a time of focussed, political struggle, whether in the former colonised nations of the world, the civil rights and anti-war movements of the United States or the streets of Paris, 1968. The ideas of such as Mao were in the air and out of this of this legacy grew a revolutionary spirit.

Meanwhile, Germany was emerging from the shadow of its Nazi past and had become a prosperous, industrialised nation. Yet a gulf remained between the generations, with the youth struggling to come to terms with their parents' guilt and complicity.

The RAF coalsced gradually within this environment. Its origin can be traced to popular violent protests against a visit to Germany by the Shah of Iran during which the police shot and killed a young pacifist student, Benno Ohnesorg, who was attending his first demonstration. This was one of many protest marches at the time surrounding a range of political causes.

1Alternately 'Red Army Fraction'. The word 'fraction' is taken from a unit of Communist Party discipline.

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