terminology Revolutionary Cells

Revolutionär Zelles or RZ

The Revolutionary Cells were the third, and least prominent, of the three left-wing terror groups in Germany in the early seventies. Organized into independently functioning cells, the RZ was possibly the most successful of the groups in the sheer number of its terrorist attacks, but they seldom pushed their name to media outlets.

The Revolutionary Cells were formed in Frankfurt am Main around 1972-1973. They specifically rejected the Baader-Meinhof Gang’s approach to group dynamics — that is they felt that having their group go completely underground was self-defeating (it made the Baader-Meinhof group much easier to track down). Instead they organized into semi-autonomous cells, each aware of the group’s overall mission yet mostly unaware of the identities of other group members. Virtually all of the members of Revolutionary Cells were “legals” — meaning they held jobs, had families, and bombed a few buildings on the side. They were said to number in the several hundreds at one point in the mid-1980s, but no one really knows.

One cannot discuss the Revolutionary Cells without talking about another group with the same initials: Rote Zora (RZ). Rote Zora (Red Zora) was originally formed as a sort of women’s auxiliary of the Revolutionary Cells. Later they become more autonomous, and are still occasionally heard from today.

Much was learned about the secretive RZ when a former member, Hans-Joachim Klein (who was in hiding), gave an interview in 1978 to the left-wing Paris magazine Liberation. In the interview he discussed the organizational structure of the RZ. He also mailed his gun to Der Spiegel and sent them a letter denouncing terrorism. The following year Klein published a book (he was still in hiding) about his time in the RZ: “Return to Humanity.”