terminology German Autumn

Deutscher Herbst

“The German Autumn” was the name given to the 44 days in the fall of 1977 when all of Germany was gripped in a terrorist crisis.

It began on September 5, when the industrialist Hanns-Martin Schleyer was kidnapped in Cologne by the Red Army Faction. For the next month and a half, his kidnappers attempted to secure the release of the the imprisoned leaders of the RAF; Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, and Jan-Carl Raspe being the most prominent of the prisoners.

In Mid-October Palestinians hijacked a German plane, demanding, among other things, the release of Baader and his fellow prisoners. After a GSG-9 raid ended the hijacking, Baader, Ensslin, and Raspe all committed suicide in prison, bringing the German Autumn to an end.

The name “German Autumn” is of course significant beyond it’s mere descriptive use; it served to reinforce the notion that German society was at an end of an era, that the progressive optimism of the late sixties had degenerated into a morass; an increasingly chilly time before the dark of winter.