Stasi RAF Ulrike Meinhof

The Red Army Faction (RAF) was a left-wing terrorist group in the Federal Republic of Germany. The State Security (Stasi) first collected information about the terrorists, observed their activities and tolerated their travels to the Middle East via East Berlin’s Schönefeld Airport. In the 1980s, contacts intensified and the State Security offered refuge in the GDR to ten RAF dissidents. In addition, the MfS trained some terrorists in the handling of weapons.

In August 1970, RAF terrorist Ulrike Meinhof wanted to sound out in East Berlin whether the group could coordinate the “armed fight” from there. Meinhof tried to enter Friedrichstraße via the border crossing with a forged French passport. The Stasi staff of the local passport control unit copied the document.

Back then it was much easier to forge passport as no sufficient security features were applied on passports. However, this forged French passport was poorly forged as it was instantly detected by the authorities. This case and events are a significant part of German (passport) history.

Stasi RAF Ulrike Meinhof

In fact, the terrorists hoped to find a safe haven in the GDR. Ulrike Meinhof, a member of the RAF who was already wanted in the RAF, wanted to sound this out in August 1970. With a passport of the French journalist Michèle Susanne Ray, provided with her picture, she traveled to the GDR and demanded a contact interview with “responsible comrades” in the building of the Central Council of the Free German Youth (FDJ). To support left-wing terrorism in the West, however, seemed too politically sensitive for the State Security. If this had become a reputable act, it would have resulted in serious damage to the image and diplomatic distortions. The MfS and the SED did not want to risk this. In addition, “individual terror” was considered worthy of criticism from the traditional Marxist point of view.

For this reason, Meinhof was detained during her first visit on 17 August 1970. When she tried to enter the country again under a false name on the following day, she was rejected at the Friedrichstraße border crossing. In the meantime, the State Security had imposed an entry ban on her.

Founded in 1970 by Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, Horst Mahler and Ulrike Meinhof, the RAF saw itself as an “anti-imperialist urban guerilla” modeled on South America. Until its dissolution in 1998, the group never consisted of more than 20 people at any one time. The history of the RAF is divided into three “generations” of terrorists, some of whom differed considerably in their ideology, goals, and brutality.

The RAF was responsible for 34 murders of political and business leaders and their drivers and bodyguards. Police officers, customs officers, and American soldiers also lost their lives. The group tried to press members detained by kidnappings freely, carried out bomb attacks with over 200 injured and financed itself by bank robberies. 27 members and supporters of the RAF lost their lives as a result of foreign influence, suicide, hunger strike or illness.

The state security truly supported the RAF. It thus ensured the release of RAF members imprisoned in Eastern Europe. On several occasions, the MfS let the Federal German search run empty-handed, for example by laying “false tracks”. In the first half of the 1980s, employees of Division XXII gave active RAF members shelter in “Object 74”, a secret accommodation near Frankfurt/Oder, and trained them in the use of weapons at a firing range.

The original text is in German and the Stasi Mediathek granted me the right in written form to publish this article in English, for which I am grateful.

Stasi RAF Ulrike Meinhof