RAF Documentation

(In collaboration with Bernhard Gierds)

Most collected volumes of primary source documents on the history of German leftist terrorism are characterized by idiosyncrasies, limitations, and obvious shortcomings. Some reveal the editors’ tendency to sympathize with and legitimate the acts of terrorist groups. The perspective of others tends to coincide with that of the West German government of the period and justify the actions of various authorities involved in combating terrorism, investigating crimes, or prosecuting those suspected of terrorist activities. The criteria that led the editors of these volumes to select texts and formulate annotations are often obscure, making evaluation difficult. One of the main goals of this project is therefore to compile a source volume that meets the standards of historiography.

In preparing this collection, the provenance of relevant source documents published to date is being retraced and the texts subjected to thorough scrutiny. Groups of documents will be established based on the premise that the "Rote Armee Fraktion" [Red Army Faction, RAF] was a product of the disintegration and transformation of the German New Left movement (referred to in
Germany as the 1968er movement). The volume will situate the RAF within this historical process, and original sources will be arranged first according to the groups of actors involved and then within these groups chronologically. This approach ensures that continuities, changes, and characteristics are documented as they were typically expressed in texts authored by each group. Relevant actors are the terrorist groups and their members, on the one hand, and the state authorities, prosecutors, and courts that investigated crimes and prosecuted criminal suspects, on the other. Other actors are government officials and parliamentarians who influenced the course of the conflicts and controlled the conditions under which they were played out in federal and state governments and parliaments. The spectrum of actors reflected in selecting documents also includes those who contributed to and intervened in public media debates within the context of their political or professional positions. All forms of written and printed documents and archival sources are being screened; assessing and including radio and television documents is not feasible.

The first section of the collected volume will contain a collection of texts that are considered to document the main justifications of concepts for guerilla tactics authored by the groups in question.
Declarations and other texts written within the context of the German New Left movement of the late 1960s before the first armed groups emerged make up the second section. Statements from terrorist groups that explicate their self-understanding are documented in the third part in chronological order; this section begins with papers from the Tupamaros West-Berlin, includes texts from that group’s successor organization, the Bewegung 2. Juni, and concentrates mainly on RAF documents before ending with texts from the Revolutionäre Zellen and Rote Zora. The fourth section offers a selection of documents authored by left terrorist groups in other countries, especially those that were in contact with German groups. Texts in the fifth part help to recreate the response of state authorities to leftist terrorism. Judicial actions, including key decisions by the highest German court, the
Federal Constitutional Court, are presented in the sixth section, which also comprises legal commentaries and legal analyses of key events. Statements by victims of leftist terrorism or their family members make up part seven. These are followed in section eight by source documents from parliaments and texts from parliamentary investigation committees. Public commentaries from journalists, church representatives, writers, and scholars make up part nine. The tenth and final section documents controversies over terrorism within the spectrum of leftist groups that existed at the time.

(Last modified March 2010)