chapter capsules Chapter 12 — The Quickening

January 1972 – May 1972, 38 pages: With Böll and other prominent leftists supporting their cause, the Baader-Meinhof Gang now has hold of the national conscience as they have never had before. This chapter will explore how the gang begins to feel the necessity to live up to their role as Germany’s self-appointed revolutionaries, and the horrific violence that results.

As the group’s fame escalates, a backlash develops within the core of German leftists that support them. German radicals begin to grumble that the Baader-Meinhof Gang is only interested in tactical actions, such as bank robberies, document thefts, and issuing communiqués. If they are true revolutionaries, when are they going to begin attacking the state? It doesn’t help much when Germany’s other left-wing terrorists, Movement 2 June, bomb the British Yacht Club in Berlin, killing a man. It seems that the younger gang is quickly outpacing the veteran terrorists in the race for true revolutionary status. More shoot-outs with the police follow in the coming months; one shoot-out leaves a Hamburg policeman dead, another leaves a young gang member, Thomas Weisbecker, dead.

Feeling the pressure of their critics, the Baader-Meinhof Gang provides the definitive, violent answer to their criticism in Mid-May. Ensslin, Holger Meins, and Jan Carl-Raspe leave three pipe bombs in the officer’s mess in the US Army V Corp headquarters in Frankfurt on May 11. Lt. Colonel Paul Bloomquist is killed when a shard of flying glass lodges in his jugular vein. The following day Angela Luther and Irmgard Möller sneak two bombs into the Augsburg police department; the resulting explosion injures five policemen. That afternoon Baader, Meins and Ensslin leave a car bomb in the Munich office of the Bundeskriminalamt. The explosion that follows destroys 60 cars. Two days later Baader, Raspe, and Meins plant a bomb under the car seat of Federal Judge Wolfgang Buddenberg—the man who had signed most of the Baader-Meinhof arrest warrants. Buddenberg’s wife uses the car before her husband and miraculously survives the explosions, albeit with severe injuries. Four days later Baader-Meinhof Gang members place six bombs throughout the Hamburg offices of Springer Press. Three fail the explode, but the other three injure 17 typesetters. Five days later Irmgard Möller and Angela Luther drive two cars onto the Campbell Barracks of the US Army Supreme HQ European Command in Heidelberg. Later three US soldiers are killed. Captain Clyde Bonner is blown into so many small pieces that the police have to collect his body in a pillow case. Specialist 4 Charles Peck is crushed to death when a Coca Cola machine falls on him.

These two weeks in May cause much soul searching among the leftist community in Germany. Before, the actions of the Baader-Meinhof Gang seemed exciting and fun—young radicals could live vicariously through the revolutionary escapades of the gang. But now, with this deadly turn of events, most of the Germans who had voiced tacit support for the group turn their heads in shame. Never again would they give knee-jerk support for left-wing “revolutionaries” without the lingering scent of rotting corpses wafting into their noses. For many Germans an era is over; the golden age when Baader-Meinhof-style terrorism was not perceived to be the work of pathological extremists, but instead represented the legitimate vanguard of the political discourse of the day.