What Wasn’t Written Down (Klaus Viehmann, June 1997)

1997: The Year of the Pig?

1997 risks proving the bad joke that history is nothing more than a sum of lies—the lies that people consider convenient twenty years later. There are made-for-TV films, talk shows, new books, special issues of newspapers full of terror and stories about the guerilla, all celebrating a twentieth or thirtieth anniversary. They present as grippingly important a crude mishmash of BAW, Spiegel, and BKA journalists, along with former urban guerillas, urban guerillas from the very early days, and particularly important former urban guerillas. Attempting to act against this police bullshit cartel is pointless. What the bourgeois media wants to hear about is people distancing themselves. A book like that written by Rossana Rossanda and Mario Moretti about the history of the Red Brigades, which answers the need for a left-wing history that reflects on politics and isn’t a chronicle of renunciation, might be read by one or two thousand people in Germany, but millions will watch a sham made-for-TV film about the Schleyer kidnapping (paid ghostwriters: crown witnesses Peter Jürgen Boock and Silke Maier-Witt).

The situation might be different if there was actually a strong (militant) left, possibly even an armed practice, but these days, in the late nineties, with the armed struggle of the seventies gone, and with very few people holding on to a revolutionary perspective and just as few new people developing one, any criticism of this 1997 mise-en-scéne would be limited to the left-wing scene and would not reach a mass audience. What’s most notable is that some of these publications are finding their way into the left, particularly the defectors’ memoirs, with their residual left-wing credibility. Why are defectors being invited to provide the benefit of their thoughts at left-wing meetings?

Bang! Bang! Tittle-Tattle Until You Run Out of Ammo

What’s the appeal of these defectors’ memoirs? Why do people find political discussions and debates so much less interesting than this personalized collection of anecdotes about armed struggle? Abstractly, people know that these reminiscences are rife with lies, omissions, and distortions, so what causes even conscious leftists to find these abysmal books acceptable and to lend credibility to these caricatures?

Memoirs offer a glimpse into a hidden world, a world that is often unfamiliar, but which appears interesting (or has been made interesting by sensational reports). Who doesn’t want to know what “it was really like,” who said what and when or did what or, if possible, thought what?

It’s actually more pleasant to sit in the living room reading about queens and princes in the Goldene Blatt,[1] than it is to read critical historical research into feudalism and its modern aftermath. Everybody recognizes the difference in substance and educational content, and that one is for brainlessly leafing through, while the other is for seriously working to gain an understanding. Scene gossip is captivating in the same way: people want to be “informed” without having to think… That’s exactly how the “insider reports” from the urban guerilla work: dazzling figures, villains, and leading lights, rather than the political background and the discussion process; line after line full of love and resentment, rather than evenhandedness and nuance; good and evil, rather than real people. Often the writing is appalling, but it provides the reader with a glimpse of automatic gunfire, dark dungeons, and love in the underground.

On the other hand, there are also good examples of personal reports; e.g., the testimonies of former Tupamaros, where personal experiences, with all their contradictions, are combined with political consciousness and ongoing hatred of the ruling system. What stands out is the willingness to be self-critical and to treat former associates fairly.

That, however, is not what the capitalist market wants. It’s after kicks, gossip about relationships, awesome people, perhaps strong women. It wants pronouncements about and insights into how nothing came of it—the armed struggle was a mistake, and no one should even think about any other way of looking at it. Nobody will get paid for enduring hatred of the system and unspectacular honesty.

Vanity at the Ministry of Truth

In Communist Party histories, some people and political positions disappear, while others take on greater importance, as the situation requires. For example, in a history of Brandenburg prison, which appeared in numerous editions in the GDR, the role of the later dissident Robert Havemann was gradually reduced until, in the final edition, he simply disappeared. At the same time, Erich Honecker evolved from his modest role as a medic’s trusty into a central figure in the resistance. The difference in defectors’ memoirs: people and positions disappear in the first edition and the author is immediately very important. Someone else is always responsible for whatever shit went down.

It’s a particular human quality to insist upon seeing one’s own personal experience receive the greatest possible exposure: the quality of vanity. You yourself are the hero in the limelight and the old collective serves as nothing more than an insignificant prop. Unlike left-wing historical accounts, these memoirs are the work of the writers alone. They don’t want their version of the story to be discussed and corrected, because a collective history wouldn’t leave enough room for the yarns they spin. That’s why clear facts are often lacking. It’s the only way that old friendships and rivalries can be used today, with the balance serving your own interests at your own discretion. Reports from the (former) underground allow for the old smoke-without-fire trick: they insinuate things, but don’t say anything so clearly that it can be rebutted—something of it will always remain. Using a combination of codenames, real names, and false names creates a gray zone, where insinuations, omissions, and defamation fit particularly well. If you’re asked, you can always say: I’m referring to her/him; or, alternately, it’s always useful to be able to make excuses when you’re put on the spot. You can always use numerous different names for the same person, allowing for limitless slander or praise.

Most importantly, the profits won’t need to be divvied up. What is primarily a collective anti-capitalist history will be shared at book launches, talks show appearances, and readings. Former comrades will never be asked how the money should be spent. Nothing in particular is expected of the left; it’s the bourgeois public that provides wide circulation and high ratings. Advance publication in Spiegel or a TV appearance satisfies vanity better than a report on free radio or any left-wing event; you can’t swagger about behind a podium.

To be successful, a defector’s story requires that one diligently distance oneself from one’s former politics—not as much as would be necessary with the police and the justice system to win a lighter prison sentence but still enough so that the stories can be passed off as an insider report, on the one hand, while, on the other hand, being consumed by the general public as the account of someone who “has come to their senses since then.”

Consumer satisfaction and vanity blend together very nicely, because neither wants to see the error and weakness that the author avoids rehashing, so the author comes across as caught in a dilemma (the tragic hero or heroine) and seriously internally conflicted (love or the guerilla). The public is free to revel in this spiritual schmaltz, and because more than 10,000 copies are printed, the author also gets the desired strokes.

Vanity hits the wall in prison. It’s not a place for loudmouths and wannabe stars; you have to survive a ten- or fifteen-year setback. For those who renounce, their personal fate is more important than their previous political convictions. Once in prison, their priority will be finding a way out! If a breakout attempt isn’t possible, they’ll turn their attention to any option that will get them out (earlier). Remaining in prison for a long time and watching oneself grow old is an unbearable calamity for vain people.

What Wasn’t Written Down…

Why even bother to address a book like Inge Viett’s Nie war ich fruchtloser?[2] Some former group members don’t want to hear about it anymore, others are irritated to varying degrees, and the dead can’t defend themselves. I also thought long and hard about whether or not there was any point in doing so. If it was just some book, it wouldn’t be necessary, but, in 1997, it is part of the fuss meant to put a definitive end to the guerilla—and it’s an example of sleazy history. In the absence of a better collective history, a book like this is read as a sort of replacement for an actual history book; that’s why it cannot be left unchallenged.

One personal reason for doing this is my sense of disbelief when reading passages dealing with events and people I know all too well. Inge Viett writes about a period of almost two-years when I was living underground. Some things are unrecognizable, while others are a violation of my personal history that goes as far as defamation.

To evaluate the book you have to consider the background against which it took form and who its author is. Anyone who has followed the press coverage or read about her sentence has known for years that public impressions to the contrary notwithstanding, Inge Viett made statements to the BKA—admittedly, she said less that the other defectors to the GDR—and received a crown witness sentence reduction. If after that she had kept a low profile, there would be no particular need to publicly expose her behavior. However, since she published a book, reactions and criticism are inevitable.

There is not a word in the book about the crown witness regulations or her early release, and to date there has been no (self-)criticism. When people attending a public meeting and book reading called on her to address this, she cut the meeting short. The basis for her crown witness sentence reduction was her incriminating statements about the cooperation between the RAF and the Stasi in the early eighties, particularly the training that, according to her statements, took place during the run-up to the action against U.S. General Kroesen. On the basis of these statements, the BAW laid charges against four or five former Stasi people, who ended up in remand. (However, only for a few weeks or months, while waiting for a BVG ruling on whether or not actions in the territory of the GDR were criminally punishable, and on the basis of the ruling, Inge Viett’s statements proved insufficient for a conviction. There were also contradictory statements from prisoners from the RAF on the whole issue.) When she was sentenced, the basis for applying the crown witness regulations was both the charges against the Stasi people and the “destabilization of the RAF,” whose members might “face further criminal charges.” (The exact wording can be read in the Koblenz OLG August 26, 1992 ruling.)

Why Inge Viett incriminated the Stasi representatives who helped her in the GDR, and whom she worked for while there, is something that she really ought to clarify, particularly given that she speaks so highly of the GDR in her book.

Furthermore, charges related to the Lorenz and Palmer kidnappings and the Meyer liberation were stayed, although in related trials other people received fifteen-year sentences. The time Inge Viett spent in remand in the seventies was factored in against the thirteen years she received this time, a major accommodation on the part of the BAW. A six-year prison sentence for (attempted) “murder of a police officer” is extraordinary. Furthermore, anyone who knows anything about prison conditions knows what kind of behavior is necessary to receive perks like furlough, day passes, and housing in an open institution: do hard, brain-numbing work for 10 DM a day, shut up, and cultivate good relations with the psychologists and social workers.

She wrote her book in prison under the conditions described and sent it through the censor to the publisher. Obviously, in the end, it was written in such a way as to not jeopardize her release after six years. Positive statements about the RAF, for example, would have been out of the question. Her defense strategy also relied on the claim that at the point she shot at the French cop, she had already started an internal process of breaking the RAF, unlike active RAF members in general who would have been charged with “intent to commit murder,” with the consequent “life sentence” and sixteen to twenty years in prison. However Inge Viett feels about the RAF and the armed struggle today, she could not have written anything other than what she wrote. In the book, Inge Viett does not devote a single line to what behavior on her part got her out of a life sentence—she is silent about her crown witness sentence reduction, as well as about her furloughs and her early release.

If Inge Viett has criticisms of the RAF or of armed struggle in general, she should make a political statement about them. That’s something she rarely does; she personalizes things instead. In her book, in very personal terms, she criticizes her former comrades who are doing considerably more time than she did, because they didn’t make statements and have nothing to offer the (bourgeois) public (or don’t want to) to defend themselves against her published version of history, which is just horrifying. She herself writes that prison is not the best place to write a book, because one must rely exclusively on one’s memory. So why did she do it? She could have waited and asked comrades questions later. There was no good reason to write it in prison.

Anyone who looks at her first time in prison in the mid-seventies and compares it with her prison time in the nineties will notice that there is a difference between the old Inge Viett and the new one. Then there was rebellion against the regulations—now one has the sense that prison has “decisive power” over her. What’s consistent, however, is that she, “above all, wants out.” It’s just the way out that is entirely different. Then with a duplicate key—now with the BAW’s approval. Then she saw her fellow prisoners as “family”—now she just writes about her “survival instinct.” Her politics have sunk under the weight of her self-interest.

The advance publication of the book and the exclusive rights to the first interview following her release were sold to Spiegel and Spiegel TV for 50,000 DM. (Spiegel threatened junge Welt and taz with six-figure lawsuits if they failed to respect the exclusive contract and published interviews of their own.) This marketing to a medium like Spiegel, which could pass as the BKA house organ, and the paid appearances throughout the FRG are a form of historiography and historical presentation that runs clearly counter to the standards of left-wing historiography and debate. Sell, sell, sell—that is the capitalism that was being resisted during the days of the urban guerilla, and that Inge Viett’s much vaunted GDR hoped to overcome.

Hanni and Nanni Go Underground[3]

This section is not a complete book review but should serve to clarify the degree to which the previously described elements of a defector memoir are to be found in Inge Viett’s book.

First Example

Inge Viett mentions the RAF and the 2nd of June Movement umpteen times in her book, but not once does she mention the RZ or Rote Zora. Both they and their aboveground “supporters” had disappeared by the time the first edition came out. When events or people that could draw attention to these omissions are discussed, one encounters distortions and lies.

Along with these groups—and at the time, there was solid contact—the positions they stood for disappear. They had a different approach to the guerilla than the RAF; in some small ways they resembled the old 2nd of June Movement. For Inge Viett, who at the time crossed over to the RAF, they just weren’t a part of the picture. They are nothing more than an annoying reminder that there were options. Perhaps the omission echoes the fact that at the time the RZ/Rote Zora and the aboveground comrades were summarily characterized from on high as “not to be taken seriously,” “don’t really want to struggle,” etc. In any case, there’s a method to this omission.

Second Example

Overly pedantic assessments of inconvenient people can be found in the book in places where Inge Viett wants to rationalize the way she behaved at the time but can’t without contradicting her current version of history. In the book, she shamelessly employs this sort of psychologized dissection from above when it suits her needs—something that Inge Viett later accuses the RAF of having done, when she was on the receiving end. It’s nothing more than jealousy, censorship, and competition, like with Hanni and Nanni.

For example, Nada: When describing the November 1977 Palmers kidnapping in Vienna, from which the 2nd of June movement netted nearly 5 million DM, the old comrade Nada is mentioned. (She was one of the ones liberated by the Lorenz kidnapping, and she died of cancer two years ago.) Errors were made during the Palmers kidnapping. It was discussed with some young Austrian anti-imps who were subsequently involved in the action but found themselves in over their heads. They would later make statements and disappear into the dungeons for years. It was a heavy episode. When it comes to who made the error of involving the Austrians in the action, Inge Viett writes: “Nada fell in love with a Vienna comrade, and we involved him in the action far too quickly.” The fact is that the Austrians were approached by Inge Viett, because in discussions they shared the then-new “anti-imperialist” line held by Inge Viett. By the time the section of the group based in Berlin met the Austrians, they had been fully integrated. Inge Viett points at a smitten Nada to dodge her own responsibility for this error.

For example, Biene: the description of Biene is a crass example of resentment and retaliation long after the fact. It is not hard to see that Biene is Juliane Plambeck, who died in an accident in 1980. About her, Inge Viett writes: “Biene was consistent in her unwavering indecisiveness regarding political and practical questions. Only when pressured could she make decisions about even the smallest and most insignificant things.… She had a closet full of clothes, because when shopping she simply solved her problem by buying different variations of everything.… Over the years, she maintained a deeply anti-RAF position.… However, when her uncertainty was at its high point, she unconditionally endorsed a strong and confident RAF.… She had fallen in love with Christian.” In other words: an apolitical and opportunistic aunty. A few pages later, she adds fuel to the fire: about the RAF’s expectations, Inge Viett and Juliane Plambeck had a “competitive relationship, because in comparison to me (Inge Viett), Biene was in a secondary leadership role and felt oppressed.” Inge Viett writes: “Biene was always too indecisive and inert in the face of responsibility to provide the group with any direction.… I began to quietly detest her.” Quietly—apparently, Inge Viett wasn’t too loud about it when Biene was alive, but twenty years later, we all need to know the “truth” about Juliane Plambeck: she was simply too sluggish to compete with an Inge Viett. The whole thing is truly repulsive.

Kowalkski: The first time the name popped up in the book, I didn’t think it was me. After all, Inge Viett and I didn’t meet each other in late 1977 in Vienna, as she wrote, but in July 1976 after the Lehrter women’s prison breakout. We lived together in very close quarters for weeks, and that was when we together decided that I should stop playing the role of aboveground supporter and go underground. From then until early 1978, we dealt with each other quite a bit—besides the Palmers kidnapping, trial records describe us both participating in bank robberies.

I became a supporter in 1975–1976, when the 2nd of June was under heavy attack but still stood for a social-revolutionary practice, and the new “anti-imperialist” line that would later lead to the RAF had not yet developed.

I also had very friendly relations with the RZ. Around the time of the Lehrter breakout, my house was searched in connection with distributing Revolutionären Zorns, the RZ newspaper. When later, as a 2nd of June Movement representative, I met with an RZ member under relatively conspiratorial circumstances, we were amused to discover that we already knew each other from the aboveground scene and had seen each other only a few days earlier. At the time, we cooperated closely with RZ members. In autumn 1976, when the women who had broken out of Lehrter had escaped to the Middle East, we even planned a joint action: liberating Till Meyer from the Berlin-Tegel prison. Four well-armed people, of whom three are now dead, waited tensely at the outside wall. A jammer neutralized police radios, but a convict heard the saw. That fucked everything. This action required a lot of working together and involved some risk, and was meant to be a repeat of the Lehrter breakout. It wasn’t so much about Till personally; it was just that it was potentially possible to free someone from Tegel, but not from Moabit, where the others were being held. Someone—and there weren’t that many people it could have been—later reported the details of the action and the names of the participants to the Stasi. I came across the report years later in a file and in a book based on Stasi files.

As I said previously, Inge Viett’s book completely eliminates the RZ and Rote Zora, although by 1976–1977 there were discussions about whether we should join forces with them—or with the RAF. Inge Viett was unambiguous about that: not with the RZ. She didn’t take them seriously, and she didn’t like what they were writing.

There were constant disputes between people underground about the different “lines”—the groups were small, and often a “line” was represented by two or three people—regarding the question of working with other groups (RAF, RZ, PFLP); carrying out meaningful independent 2nd of June actions always brought the organization face to face with the weakness of lacking its own distinct political theory. The RAF, the RZ and Rote Zora had all the possible urban guerilla theories covered. The 2nd of June needed to find its own political place, but instead it found itself adrift. Today, it’s clear that by 1976 the 2nd of June Movement no longer had what was necessary to develop its own position and theory. The work and the actions—on the basis of the principle of the lowest common denominator—necessarily strengthened the unity that everyone thought was necessary. Of course, along with the conflicts, there were love affairs and personal animosities, but they always took a back seat to the political decisions. Using them to attempt to clarify things and making them public without the consent of those involved is a right that Inge Viett claims for herself.

In spite of the shared work and various actions, the different daily experiences and discussions always led to tension. For example, those in Berlin who were in contact with aboveground comrades saw skyjackings differently than someone like Inge Viett, who was often in the Middle East with the PFLP, and who, living outside the country, had no contact with the aboveground left—as even she writes, she lived an entirely different life. In that regard, there was, at the time, a very important debate, about which Inge Viett doesn’t write a thing, but which she must remember very clearly: the plan for a skyjacking together with a Palestinian group, which could have been the 2nd of June’s Entebbe.[4] Fortunately, the action never happened. The decision to participate was taken by a small circle, including, among others, Inge Viett, despite objections from the person she now calls Kowalski. (Something about the action must have been stricken from the manuscript of the book, because at the end of the book there is a misplaced note about it that does not relate to anything in the book.) Actually, that was when it became clear that it was time to leave the group, and, in retrospect, it was an error not to have done so.

In the autumn of 1977, the airliner skyjacking[5] led to new differences over the legitimacy of skyjackings, which were never properly addressed. There was a sense that that debate would expose unbridgeable contradictions, and by that point everyone dreaded what that would mean for the group. The people underground only got together as a group every couple of months at the most, and many of them ran in small circles and lived far from each other. After Stammheim[6] the question of unity arose: Was the RAF so crippled that fusion would no longer make any sense? Some people saw it that way. Furthermore, in late 1977, some aboveground comrades in Berlin were extremely critical of skyjackings and made it clear that they rejected the 2nd of June Movement’s anti-imperialist line. They correctly saw that if there wasn’t a successful shift in strategy the limited logistics remaining would make complete collapse a serious possibility.

Rather than a debate and a strategy—once the Palmers kidnapping had solved the money problems—there was an action meant to overcome the political divisions. A bit earlier, the idea had been to liberate all six 2nd of June men held in Moabit during yardtime. Almost the entire underground would have had to be there, and it would have led to a shootout with the guards in the watchtowers and the cops who would have certainly shown up. The risk was completely out of whack with the likelihood of success, and the action was eventually scrubbed. The later Meyer liberation was actually a limited version of that action, when research uncovered an additional vulnerability in the old cells set aside for meetings with lawyers.

There were differences within the group about the viability of this action and about the capacity of the remaining logistics to bear the weight of the large-scale manhunt that would be sure to follow. There were also differences about whether or not a new prisoner liberation action was something that could be carried out without reinforcing the image of the guerilla-liberating guerilla. Inge Viett doesn’t write anything about the fact that a “Nabil Harb Commando,” named after a Palestinian shot in Mogadishu, claimed the Meyer liberation action, which amounted to giving the nod to skyjackings.

Whether or not what was left of the Berlin scene should be put at risk for this action was something that the group members active outside of the country saw differently than those who still hoped to do something more with the aboveground left in Berlin and with the RZ. After the arrest of the other group members, whom Inge Viett never mentions in her book, the person Inge Viett calls Kowalski was the person underground who, with a couple of aboveground comrades, whom Inge Viett also never mentions, represented the “Berlin line”—though too halfheartedly, much too late, and not consistently enough. As I already said, the split was long overdue, and, at that point, it arrived suddenly and intensely with the conflict over the likely success and the wisdom of the planned Meyer liberation. So, when Inge Viett claims a “relationship” led to (!) the political differences and the split, she’s simply lying. The accusation of cowardice presents a psychologically crude but satisfying explanation for the interested reader, but it is actually nothing more than the old trick of defending yourself against critics by claiming that they “don’t want to struggle.”

With the possibility of having to survive prison for many years hanging in the balance, there was good reason to be frightened, but it’s simply not the case that, at that time, anyone ducked out because they were frightened. Back then, we were all relatively fearless, because we had all learned that fear made it easier for you to be controlled. That became even more the case the more actions and dicey situations a person had survived, and after a year or two underground, it was simply a fact. The remaining feelings of fear also disappeared behind the idiotic delusion of being able to die more or less meaningfully for the revolution—we all suppressed the thought of many years in prison or serious injuries.

The person she calls Kowalski left the 2nd of June movement—that’s true. However, he didn’t do so by himself, but with some of the few remaining aboveground comrades, none of whom were defectors. They all wanted to engage in a different kind of politics. (The Vergassungsschutz and the cops alleged that with persons unknown, I was later involved in a couple of actions in early 1978, including the kneecapping of a court-imposed lawyer in the Lorenz trial, which the RZ later claimed responsibility for. Five years later, the RZ and Rote Zora carried out a number of actions to support a hunger strike in the Bielefeld high security unit, describing me as a “friend and comrade.”)

I was captured a week after the Meyer liberation, as I was getting into a car that the “Nabil Harb Commando” had left me. It was on the search list, and the SEK[7] was waiting. A double slip-up: the commando hadn’t told me it was hot, and I should have checked myself. I never did get an explanation for the first part of this slip-up, and there’s also nothing about it in Inge Viett’s book. As a result of this car, I would later get a thirteen-year prison sentence. I never said anything about it, because I had no interest in an I’m-not-guilty defense. In any case, the Palmers kidnapping and a couple of bank robberies were sufficient for the overall fifteen-year prison sentence.

In her book, she says that the person she calls Kowalski was initially suspected of stealing a million DM of the Palmers money, although she clarifies on the next page that the group simply failed to search for it properly, and it was found during the second search. I know this story all too well: it circulated about me in 1978. This denunciation traveled by kite through the prison, and the RAF was even cryptically warned about me. It’s this smoke-without-fire sort of denunciation that can drive someone in prison crazy with rage. No one directly confronts you, and even though there are no concrete facts, the rumor circulates. There’s nothing you can do to stop it. It wanders around like a stray dog, and a year later pisses on your foot. Even today, I don’t know who made the “conspiratorial” claim that I had stolen from comrades. Whoever it was might still not know any better. As far as I know, when the money was found, no one thought it necessary to reign in this stray dog. Now, after twenty years, Inge Viett finally did so. Should I be thankful for that today?

Anyone with an interest in doing so can imagine what it is like to sit in prison for fifteen years, with no access to information, unable to purchase anything, and denied parole, because you rejected all of the cops’ and the justice system’s offers, and then to be portrayed as a hapless dope in a book by someone like Inge Viett, who, for her part, spent eight good years free in the GDR, and as a result of her crown witness role got off with a couple of years in prison. Anyone who berates someone as a “deserter” for leaving in 1978, because he wanted to do something different politically, and then herself defects four years later, would do better to address her own personal and political integrity rather than that of others.

Till and the Detective

One shouldn’t even bother reviewing a crime thriller like Meyer’s Staatsfeind,[8] where you find phrases like “the wedding night took place on a prison toilet” or “the sudden clatter of automatic weapon fire.” One thing, however, is typical of the defectors’ memoirs: when renouncing, you can (like Inge Viett) say absolutely nothing, or you can (like Till Meyer) finesse things. When addressing my transfer out of the Moabit security unit, he skews events and dates. He writes that I was transferred “as I wished, to West Germany,” and that he hadn’t “shed any tears over me” (what a snappy ring that has!), and that then he and Ralf and Ronni[9] remained as a group of three in the unit. Besides that, he claims that we had berated him as a “traitor” and a “pig”! All nonsense.

The truth is that a representative from the Berlin Justice Senate came to the unit in mid-1982 and said that Till, Ralf, Ronni, and I would soon be transferred to West Germany, if we weren’t prepared to discuss “a broader correctional plan.”[10] I wasn’t the first to go in. Under the circumstances, Ralf and Ronni refused to make any political statements. Till went in and, behind our backs, distanced himself from the armed struggle and the rest of the group in the unit, because he didn’t want to be sent to West Germany under any circumstances. The Stalin photo in his cell and the endless watching of TV from the GDR really got on our nerves, and I found it tragicomic how he would defend nuclear power plants in the GDR as safer because they served the people, but nobody ever called him a traitor. When, following his “conversation” with the justice system administration, I bluntly said that he had distanced himself long ago and that he no longer needed to pretend on our account, he had a temper tantrum, disappeared into his cell and stayed there.

To meet the conditions of the justice system, a few days later, he publicly distanced himself in the taz and Tagesspiegel (August 4, 1982). His reward was a transfer to population on August 27, 1982, followed shortly thereafter by early release. The three of us spent another year in the unit. After some backing and forthing during a hunger strike and further conversations, Ralf und Ronni were allowed to spend their days outside of the unit working in the general population section of Moabit prison. I wasn’t interested, and because this solution implied that I would be spending my days alone in the unit and having solitary yardtime, I stopped raising legal objections to the Justice Senate’s long sought transfer and was transferred to West Germany in late June 1983 (taz June 29, 1983). I ended up in the new Bielefeld high security unit, where I soon ran into some serious grief. (Ralf und Ronni were finally released from the Moabit unit in August 1983.)

That Till Meyer has little to say about me in his book, and that what he says is negative, makes sense given the situation: the risk assumed on his behalf during the failed 1976 Tegeler action and my 1978 rejection of the action to free him. So, when we met in the new unit in 1980, he treated me like a representative of the “other” side and barely spoke to me. Later, he received early release after serving two-thirds of his sentence, while I remained in prison—ironically, convicted in connection with the Meyer liberation. That particular constellation of facts doesn’t ultimately tie anything together.

2002: Forward to Not Forgetting!

Defectors’ memoirs find a place on the left because there are no better histories. It is a failure on the part of all those who haven’t renounced that they haven’t produced a comprehensive history. Even the old two-volume Der Blues[11] or the small eponymous book by Ralf Reinders and Ronni Fritzsch[12] don’t do the trick. They are too old, lack commentary, and are too limited. Certainly, people have better things to do, and no one who is still active on the left today wants to be the schmuck digging through dusty files, but it would probably be better to sacrifice a year than to leave this crap forever unchallenged.

  1. The Golden Sheet: a women’s magazine akin to Cosmopolitan.
  2. Never Was I More Fearless.
  3. Hanni and Nanni are fictional twin girls who are classic brats. A number of German films have been made about their “adventures.”
  4. On June 27, 1976, a joint commando made up of members of the PFLP(EO) and members of the RZ hijacked an Air France airliner traveling from Tel Aviv to Paris, diverting it to Entebbe, Uganda. The guerillas demanded the release of fifty-three political prisoners held by Israel, West Germany, France, Switzerland, and Kenya, including several from the RAF and the 2JM. On July 4, an Israeli commando raided the airport, killing all of the guerillas, as well as over forty Ugandan soldiers who were guarding the area. More than one hundred hostages were freed and quickly flown out of the country. The skyjacking was considered a complete fiasco, doing so much harm to the Palestinian cause that British diplomats at the time even considered the possibility that it might be a Mossad false flag attack—but it wasn’t. It was in reaction to Entebbe that the United States established its first counterterrorist military units. As for Israel, the Mossad was given the mission of assassinating PFLP(EO) head Waddi Haddad, which it accomplished in 1978.
  5. Carried out on October 13, 1977, by the PFLP(EO) in solidarity with the RAF, who were holding business magnate and former Nazi Hanns Martin Schleyer hostage at the time (these events came to be known as the German Autumn). The skyjacking ended in Mogadishu when members of the West German GSG-9 special operations unit stormed the airliner.
  6. A reference to the deaths, considered state murders by many, of some of the most prominent prisoners from the RAF, in Stammheim prison on October 18, 1977.
  7. Spezialeinsatzkommando (Special Response Unit); a specialized Länder police unit, similar to SWAT units in the United States.
  8. Enemy of the State.
  9. Ralf Reinders and Ronald Fritzsch, imprisoned members of the 2nd of June Movement.
  10. Literally: “Vollzugsgestaltung” or “correctional plan.” Under German law, after an initial period, every prisoner has right to a “Vollzugsgestaltung”—a plan for her or his time in prison. For younger prisoners, for example, it includes an educational program, a trade apprenticeship, etc. For political prisoners in the FRG, it usually meant that after an obligatory time of isolation detention, they could get “Vollzugslockerungen” (i.e., be transferred from isolation into population) if they were willing to cooperate with the authorities, participate in their own treatment, and engage in no acts of resistance.
  11. A two-volume collection of documents related to the 2JM and the scene it came out of published in the early 80s.
  12. In 1995, Ralf Reinders and Ronald Fritzsch published a history of the 2JM simply titled Die Bewegung 2. Juni.”