chapter capsules Chapter 1 — Ulrike

1934 to 1967, 14 pages: Chapter One steps well back from the May 1970 anecdote in the introduction and briefly tells the story of Ulrike Meinhof. It describes Meinhof’s beginnings: her father and mother dying while she was young, her being raised as a teen by a renowned Socialist philosopher. She marries a publisher of a radical student-oriented magazine and becomes its editor. In 1962 doctors diagnose a large brain tumor in her head that requires immediate removal. Five months pregnant, Meinhof refuses to undergo brain surgery because the doctors cannot guarantee that her unborn twins’ lives will not be endangered. The doctors tell her that she is risking her own life, but Meinhof is adamant. After three months of horrendously painful headaches, Meinhof gives birth to twin daughters. The doctors immediately operate on her head, only to find that the tumor is actually an engorged blood vessel — the doctors put a clamp on it and sew her back up. Over the next few years Meinhof moves into chic leftist society, and becomes a very prominent female journalist. The chapter ends as Meinhof begins to attend the student demonstrations that were becoming commonplace throughout Germany.

This chapter establishes much of the psychological makeup of Meinhof — a women who is extremely successful at everything that she does, yet is perpetually plagued by self-doubt. Meinhof’s refusal to risk her unborn daughters’ lives will reverberate in coming chapters as Meinhof struggles with competing instincts to be a proper mother for her children and a desire to throw her whole bourgeois life away and become a revolutionary.