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Conclusion

Voices and Echoes
  • Leith Passmore
Chapter

Abstract

Ulrike Meinhof struggled to find her voice. While courting attention in the student protest scene in the late 1950s, and rising to be a spokesperson for the student movement in the 1960s, she harbored doubts about her ability to convey her message. In 1970 she entered the underground at the height of her journalistic powers, transforming her renown as a writer, radio commentator, television personality, and filmmaker into an equal measure of infamy. Uncertainty continued to dog Meinhof as the Red Army Faction’s (RAF’s) underground and prison scribe. However, the voice she was increasingly unsure of in private, nonetheless reverberated publicly.2 Her fame had rested on being able to capture the mood of protest, and in the underground her words and actions performed what became the RAF brand of terrorism. After her arrest, Meinhof managed to reinvent RAF rhetoric for a prison context and subsequently for a trial audience. She was able to inspire a new generation of RAF members from her cell and ensure West German terrorism did not peter out in the mid-1970s. Her voice also echoed long after her death, as she prepared the discursive foundation for the RAF violence of the 1980s and 1990s, as well as much of the RAF myth of the twenty-first century.

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Notes

  1. 2.
    Colvin writes of the two private voices in Meinhof’s later works: her voice of determination and resolve, and her voice of anger and regret that her identity did not overlap completely with that of the RAF, see Sarah Colvin, Ulrike Meinhof and West German Terrorism: Language, Violence, and Identity (New York: Camden House, 2009), 225. The voices referred to in this conclusion are the voice Meinhof was constantly looking for in private and the voice she had in public.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Weisbrod writes of the brutal murder as having a performative effect that the terrorists did not expect: it transformed Schleyer from an object of hate to an object of sympathy; see Bernd Weisbrod, “Terrorism as Performance: The Assassinations of Walther Rathenau and Hanns-Martin Schleyer,” in Control of Violence: Historical and International Perspectives on Violence in Modern Societies, ed. Wilhelm Heitmeyer et al. (New York: Springer, 2011), 386.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    The “legal arm” supported what developed into a tiered structure led by the “commandos,” who lived in the underground and carried out deadly attacks against people. Below the commandos were the “illegal militants,” who carried out attacks on objects and were prepared to enter the underground if required to do so by the commandos. Below the illegal militants were the “militants,” who carried out the most risk-free, illegal operations, such as renting safe houses, hiding weapons, and establishing contacts with foreign terrorist groups. See Alexander Straßner, “Die dritte Generation der RAF,” in Die RAF und der linke Terrorismus, ed. Wolfgang Kraushaar (Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 2006), 494–95.Google Scholar
  4. 10.
    Bernd Weisbrod, “Terrorism as Performance: The Assassinations of Walther Rathenau and Hanns-Martin Schleyer,” in Control of Violence: Historical and International Perspectives on Violence in Modern Societies, ed. Wilhelm Heitmeyer et al (New York: Springer, 2011), 383.Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    For the 1992 communiqué announcing the de-escalation, see RAF, Die Eskalation zurücknehmen, http://www.rafinfo.de/archiv/raf/raf-10–4–92.php (accessed March 17, 2011).Google Scholar
  6. 12.
    “Vor fast 28 Jahren, am 14. Mai 1970, entstand in einer Befreiungsaktion die RAF: Heute beenden wir dieses Projekt,” see RAF, “RAF-Auflösungserklärung,” http://www.rafinfo.de/archiv/raf/raf-20–4–98.php (accessed March 17, 2011).Google Scholar

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© Leith Passmore 2011

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  • Leith Passmore

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