the raf


For 44 days in the fall of 1977, West Germany’s Red Army Faction (RAF) held captive Hanns Martín Schleyer, a leading German industrialist. In exchange for letting Schleyer go, the RAF—a left-wing urban guerrilla organization—demanded the release of ten imprisoned members, including their leaders, Andreas Baader and Gudrun Ensslin.

From its founding in 1970 to its dissolution in the 1990s, the RAF robbed banks, assassinated prominent politicians, and bombed U.S. military bases, under-construction prisons, and the offices of the tabloid press. Its stated goal was to bring revolution from the third world to the first and overthrow the “fascist” Federal Republic in favor of an undefined socialist state. After the first wave of terror in the early 1970s, most of the RAF’s founding generation— including Baader, Ensslin, and Ulrike Meinhof—were behind bars, their successors acting on orders smuggled out through lawyers and paroled comrades.

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