chapter capsules Chapter 19 — Mother’s Day

May 1976 – September 1977, 22 pages: This chapter will close the sad saga of Ulrike Meinhof. It will feature a vividly drawn description of Mother’s Day 1976. The other defendants, particularly Baader, have grown increasingly critical of Meinhof. With no one left to turn to, she grows increasingly depressed. She knots together several strands of a torn towel, ties the homemade rope through the grate in her cell door, and hangs herself.

At this point in the chapter the narrative will stop to reflect on Meinhof and her troubled life. Surely her suicide on Mother’s Day was no coincidence. Late that night she probably asked herself the same questions that all of Germany had been asking: how could she give up her two beloved daughters for a life on the run? How could she agree to the plan to let them be taken to Jordan to be raised as terrorists, never to see their parents again? At one time the answer seemed self-evident. To be a committed revolutionary meant to break all ties with your past, including parental ties. Several times in the past she had thrown off supposedly integral elements of her character—first her almost nun-like devotion to her church, then later her apparently unwavering commitment to pacifism. If her “new” character didn’t fit her, she was always able to find a new cause with a new cadre of friends. When she abandoned her kids and threw her lot with Baader, she felt that she had finally found the perfect cause to adopt. Of course she knew that this time there would be no turning back. Unfortunately she was quickly moved to the sidelines within her terrorist faction, and she realized that she was no happier than she had been at any other stage in her life. She was out of options this time, save one: suicide.