The Baader-Meinhof Gang Gudrun Ensslin

Contrary to what many people think, Gudrun Ensslin, not Ulrike Meinhof, was the real female leader of the Baader-Meinhof Gang. Gudrun was a politically active student in the 1960s. She participated in the seminal 2 June 1967 Berlin protest where a young pacifist named Benno Ohnesorg was killed. After the protest she went to the local SDS office and screamed hysterically: “This fascist state means to kill us all! Violence is the only way to answer violence!”

At the time Ensslin was married to Bernward Vesper and had a baby son named Felix. By the end the year she had left both of them in pursuit of a more radical existence.

The next year Ensslin and her new boyfriend Andreas Baader attempted to burn down two Frankfurt am Main department stores. After serving a year in jail, Ensslin and Baader, and their two co-defendants Horst Söhnlein and Thorwald Proll were released temporarily pending an appeal. When the appeal failed, Ensslin, Baader and Proll escaped to France as fugitives. Later they agreed to become part of the lawyer Horst Mahler’s new urban guerrilla group. Baader was arrested soon thereafter and Ensslin convinces her friend Ulrike Meinhof to be part of a plan to break him out of jail in May of 1970.

Ensslin was captured on 7 June 1972 in Hamburg. She was tried and convicted in the longest and most expensive trial in German history. Depending on whom you believe, she either hung herself or was murdered early in the morning of 18 October 1977 in her prison cell in Stammheim Prison (Death Night).