In 1970 Ulrike Meinhof abandoned a career as a political journalist to join the Red Army Faction; captured as a terrorist along with other members of the group in 1972, she died an unexplained death in a high-security prison in 1976. A charismatic spokesperson for the RAF, she has often come near to being idealized as a freedom fighter, despite her use of extreme violence. In an effort to understand how terrorism takes root, Sarah Colvin seeks a dispassionate view of Meinhof and a period when West Germany was declaring its own "war on terror." Ulrike Meinhof always remained a writer, and this book focuses on the role of language in her development and that of the RAF: how Meinhof came to justify violence to the point of murder, creating an identity for the RAF as resistance fighters in an imagined state of war that was reinforced by the state's adoption of what Andreas Musolff has called "war terminology." But its all-powerful identity as a fighting group eroded the RAF's empathy with other human beings -- even those it once claimed to be "fighting for." It became a closed unit, self-justifying and immobilized by its own conviction that everything it did must be right. This is the first specialized study of Meinhof and the RAF in English -- which is remarkable given the current interest in the topic in both Europe and the U.S. Sarah Colvin is Professor and Eudo C. Mason Chair of the German Department at the University of Edinburgh, UK.
Ulrike Meinhof and West German Terrorism