TELOSscope: The Telos Press Blog

The Red Army Faction and the Stasi

Elliot Neaman’s Free Radicals: Agitators, Hippies, Urban Guerrillas, and Germany’s Youth Revolt of the 1960s and 1970s is now available for purchase in our online store. Save 20% on the list price by using the coupon code BOOKS20 during the checkout process. Also available in ebook format at (Kindle) and Barnes & Noble (NOOK).

“The spectacular Baader escape and the RAF media campaign against the West German state now caught the attention of the Stasi. Wanted posters advertising a reward of 10,000 DM with Meinhof’s photo were pasted ubiquitously in public spaces all across Western Germany. In the early afternoon of August 17, Meinhof surfaced in East Berlin wearing dark sunglasses, knocking at the door of the FDJ headquarters. She asked to be put in touch with the Stasi and mentioned Werner Lamberz and Horst Schumann, two functionaries she had known from an earlier meeting with the FDJ. She viewed East Germany as a promising base from which to launch attacks on the Federal Republic, or at least as a safe haven for when her troop came under surveillance pressure. At first, the Stasi decided not to take any risks with this unknown crowd, but Erich Mielke, longtime head of the Stasi, changed his mind, and on August 20, 1970, orders were given that Meinhof be allowed access to East Germany ‘when she wishes.’ As we have seen repeatedly, the Stasi always played with the idea of using the APO and the student rebellion as a weapon in the fight to destabilize West Germany, and this opportunity looked too promising to ignore. From the point of view of the SED, the problem had always been that the student movement consisted of unpredictable clusters and individuals who had no clear ideological direction. To orthodox Marxist-Leninists, the wild students were viewed as anarchists, and as such unreliable or, worse, heretics. On the other hand, these assemblages could be ‘useful idiots’ in the subversive strategy followed by Marcus Wolf, the head of the HVA, the foreign intelligence service of the Stasi. This calculation may well explain Mielke’s about-face. After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, more than a few ex-RAF terrorists were discovered to have found refuge in the communist state.”

—Elliot Neaman, Free Radicals: Agitators, Hippies, Urban Guerrillas, and Germany’s Youth Revolt of the 1960s and 1970s

Praise for Elliot Neaman’s Free Radicals

“Neaman’s book is truly a tour d’horizon through the magical years of awakening in the sixties, which started in the San Francisco Bay Area and didn’t stop when it came to Germany, as well as covering the depressing slide into years of terrorism that followed.”
Wolfgang Kraushaar, Hamburger Stiftung zur Förderung von Wissenschaft und Kultur

“A much-needed, careful, and well-researched history of the leftist radicalism of West Germany’s 1960s and its aftereffects on the leftist terrorism of the 1970s. Free Radicals the best English-language examination of the intersection of ideas, lives, and politics in these tumultuous and very violent years in West Germany.”
Jeffrey Herf, Distinguished University Professor, Department of History, University of Maryland

“Its pages steeped in vast learning, Free Radicals is both accessible and diverting, offering a wonderful reenactment of a fascinating and fateful period in recent history.”
Samuel Moyn, Harvard University, Jeremiah Smith, Jr. Professor of Law and Professor of History, Harvard University

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