Andreas Baader (1943-1977)

Andreas Bernd Baader was probably one of the most famous terrorist leaders of the 1970s and is still well known today. Born in Munich on 6th May 1943 Baader was an early leader of the German Terrorist group the Red Army Faction (RAF) also known by the name of its two leaders the Baader-Meinhof gang. Unlike most of the other members of the RAF Baader did not go to university but was a low achiever at school and involved in criminal acts before he joined the RAF. He was a thrill seeker who was attracted by the criminality and the violence that joining such a group could offer him.

In 1969 Baader and his then girlfriend Ensslin were caught and sentenced for an arson attack on a large department store in Frankfurt. In May 1970 Baader was allowed to study at a local library near the prison free of handcuffs. Aided by a journalist, Ulrike Meinhof, two other women and a masked gunman, Baader escaped. During the escape a librarian was shot and seriously wounded. After this event the group was nicknamed the Baader-Meinhof gang.

After his escape Baader and some other members of the gang travelled to Jordan to receive training at a Fatah terrorist training camp. Their stay was cut short due to disagreements with their hosts. On returning to Germany the gang carried out a spree of bank robberies to gain the resources they needed, often using BMW cars as getaway vehicles.  They also carried out several bombings between 1970 and 1972. On June 1st 1972 Andreas Baader’s luck ran out and he and two other gang members were captured after a long gun battle in Frankfurt. Two years later, while on hunger strike, one of the gang Holger Meins died. 

Baader’s trial (the most expensive and longest in German history) took from 1975 to 1977 and was held inside Stammheim prison for security reasons. Baader and his gang keep their cells filthy so that the stench would discourage any searches by the prison staff. The philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre visited Baader during this time but was less than impressed with the filthy and aggressive terrorist leader. During the period other members of the RAF carried out various terrorist acts including kidnapping and hi-jacking to try and get Baader and other gang members released.

On 18th October 1977 Andreas Baader and another gang member Jan-Carl Raspe were found dead in their prison cells, killed by gunfire, while Baader’s former girlfriend was found dead, hanging in her cell. A fourth member had been stabbed but survived, (Meinhof had died in 1976). Controversy surrounds the death of the gang. The official investigation claimed that they were part of a suicide pact but the surviving members claim they were killed by the German authorities. It seems strange that the gang could obtain fire arms and use them during the night on each other without attracting the guard’s attention and without trying to escape.  The gang’s deaths followed shortly after a counter-terrorist operation by German Special Forces which ended a hi-jacking by other members of the gang.

The story took a bizarre twist in November 2002. After their deaths, the brains of the gang leaders were removed for scientific study, the children of Ulrike Meinhof then petitioned to have the brains returned for burial only to be told that the brains had gone missing. It is clear that the brains were taken to the Neurological Research Institute of Tuebingen University but were possibly stolen or accidentally destroyed at a later date. The gang held a fascination for many and there have been allegations that a death mask of Andreas Baader was made by one of the medical team after his death. It is clear that the violent gang and its iconic leader remain a popular subject around the world.

Hitler's Children: Story of the Baader-Meinhof Terrorist Gang, Jillian Becker. This book is regarded by many academics as the definitive text on the Baader-Meinhof gang, studying their bloody history and motivation and eventually trial and suspicious deaths while in prison. A useful study of the classic European terrorist group and the typical members they attracted.
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How to cite this article: Dugdale-Pointon, T. (17 August 2007), Andreas Baader (1943-1977), http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_andreas_baader.html

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