chapter capsules Chapter 16 — Lex Baader-Meinhof

December 1974 – January 1975, 8 pages: This chapter will detail the extreme measures that the German government is willing to utilize to stamp out terrorism. The Bundestag rams through a series of amendments to the German Basic Law—their constitution—which are aimed squarely at the Baader-Meinhof Gang. The laws, which become known as Lex Baader-Meinhof, allow a judge to exclude a lawyer from defending a client merely if there is a suspicion that the lawyer has “formed a criminal association with a defendant” (one lawyer finds himself excluded for referring in a letter to his client as “comrade.”) The new laws also allow for trials to continue in the absence of a defendant if the reason for the defendants absence is of the defendants own doing, such as if they are ill from a hunger strike. An international outcry from civil rights activists, especially in the United States, is loudly felt. Four prominent American lawyers, including Chicago Seven defender William Kunstler, and former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, fly to Germany to officially protest the laws.

These laws will present a good opportunity to discuss the important role of the Baader-Meinhof lawyers. While lawyers are being excluded left and right for perceived philosophical support for their jailed clients, leftist Germans are outraged. The irony is that the German government would later prove to be entirely justified in their concern, because many of these lawyers were in fact fully committed to their client’s causes. Many of the lawyers during this time period are smuggling dozens of items into Stammheim, including, incredibly, two pistols. One of the excluded lawyers, Siegfried Haag, goes underground and regroups the remnants of the Baader-Meinhof Gang, which is now mostly comprised of former Socialist Patients Collective members.