Ecstatic liberator of women or gravedigger of the 68ers? Thoughts on the reception of Andreas Baader
Man’s need to discover a high or even sublime meaning in bloodshed is elementary, since reason is at a loss in the process.
Martin van Creveld
I would rather have a dead, than a naughty son.
Martin Luther, Table Talks, Sheet 66.
Even in the course of the most recent reprocessing of the ŽGerman AutumnŽ, the Baader phenomenon still seems to be subject to an inner prohibition of speech. There is no informative biography about him, neither as a book nor as a film. In the numerous publications on the so-called RAF complex, Baader was treated either as a destructive and murderous appendix of the political conflict of generations or as a martyr and cool avenger – Prada-Meinhof – of a social utopia that finally led him to a violent death.
Although both of these explanations are true, they are not sufficient to explain this "lost" son home. In the minds of Germans, Baader is still an indigestible foreign body, who broke all the rules of an authoritarian and servile society that had been prescribed democracy after the war. Instead of liberal dialogue, he called for the hardest game that "the great adventures of men", the war in which he became more and more involved until it had become deadly serious. Since Baader, no one in Germany has dared to do this – not even virtually.
Contrary to all attempts to make him so, however, Baader does not seem to have been a determined warrior, but rather someone who for a certain period of time was intuitively identified with the progressive tendency of a collective consciousness and had the historical good fortune to encounter the energetic potential as well as the flotsam and jetsam of a failed student revolt, which he partially inherited. It was only in this climate that Baader’s transformation from player to public enemy number one could take place step by step.
Like all media, it took Baader a while to become aware of his power and the resulting historical opportunity; to use it for an ecstatic flight into the sky, which finally led him into a biographical abyss and once again manifested the dark side of ecstasy before the eyes of the German Ohnemichels. Perhaps this made Baader the gravedigger of the 68ers, who, deeply affected by the decline of their militant faction, withdrew so far from public life.
Without the outgoing student revolt, which had produced a general dissatisfaction, especially within the female portion, Baader would probably have remained stuck in the ductus of the petty criminal and red-light milieu. His biographical environment, his awareness of his own uniqueness and sensitivity, cultivated from an early age through exhibitionistic displays of personhood (as if the world were a stage for the sole purpose of displaying his uniqueness), eventually led to a perceived mandate as a self-proclaimed bearer of his own identity "of real life" – The text is, by the way, not unlike Che Guevara, who, like Baader, is now reappearing as a symbol and icon on T-shirts and record covers. The makings of a star.
Both men failed to break free from their persona of self-mortification until the end of their lives and remained stuck in gross danger, darkness, chaos, eventually to meet a violent death. In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, they became idols, who at least dared to live in the consciousness of many people "instead of in slippers in front of the TV on death by beer" to wait.
Whether Baader’s life was in fact not marked by a struggle against the political conditions of the then FRG, but rather represented a search for individual inspiration and ecstasy, is one of the main questions still to be clarified about Baader’s person and the entire student revolt. The struggle to detach the persona from the collective is seen as a crucial step on the way to becoming human. In the psychology of archetypes, he also represents the struggle with the dead – the father killed in the war and the legacy of the Nazis – as well as the "coarse mother" – the women by whom Baader was surrounded throughout his life and with whom he knew how to communicate far better than with the male sex or his nemesis, the BKA chief Horst Herold.
Thorwald Proll, Horst Sohnlein, Andreas Baader and Gudrun Ensslin (v.l.) on the archive picture before the pronouncement of the verdict before the Fourth Criminal Chamber of the Frankfurt/Main Regional Court on October 31, 1968. October 1968.
Baader, like Che Guevara, has become the hero of those who threatened to fail because of similar constellations, or the incarnate Antichrist of those who have always feared the confrontation and the encounter with the irrational, the Dionysian, and who today in the German media landscape manage the news from the Fourth Reich every Monday (while they still regard the Third Reich exclusively as the "Third Reich") "Cancerous growths on the body of a society that has lost its way" treat.) The mere amption that the National Socialist atrocities are not atavisms or remnants of a meanwhile outdated tendency to the irrational, but possibly acts of a still latent lethal attempt at ecstasy that goes back in time far beyond the beginning of the Third Reich, still leads to the accusation of fascism in Germany fifty years after the end of the war. Censorship is in force, materials, books, files are kept under lock and key or are banned. The fear of the emergence of new information is coarse – perhaps as coarse as the fear of the emergence of Baader and the RAF, after the Summer of Love.
The emergence of the irrational, the feminine, the search for meaning and ecstasy has been associated with the stigma of the Holocaust in Germany since the Third Reich – if we disregard the Oktoberfest and the Love Parade – and the fear of German ecstasy seems justified in view of our recent history.
To brand the professionless Andreas Baader and the students Gudrun Ensslin and Ulrike Meinhof, in the face of the organized terror of German concentration camps, as terrorists and their sympathizers as criminals, and to impose professional bans on them, seems today rather like the continuation of a helpless attempt to externalize this unconscious ecstasy smothered in Zyklon-B. One wanted to meet on a smaller and positive denominator and eliminate an inner enemy of our democracy – the right of the individual to a "Rough life". This attempt has been made again and again by the economic miracle with its infantile garden gnome culture and the continued high regard for minor art and trivial cultural products in the German literary and film world to this day. Andreas Baader tried to escape from this small life.
To understand Baader’s role in post-war German history, one had to ask some uncomfortable questions. This includes how a patriarch from the red-light milieu, of all people, was able to instill in his women the self-confidence of an equally entitled femininity and motivate them to engage in an armed, actually very unfeminine struggle – namely, to take up the gun and print it?
Does Andreas Baader still represent in Germany a muhsam sociologically biographed taboo subject, because he presents us in reality an old, but in the western society still threatening male image – that of a man who can be characterized, in the words of his friend Rainer Langhans, as a type of the Orient and who symbolizes one of the last rough threatening conflicts in this world, that between Muslims and Christians? Why were the bourgeois women around Baader, such as the journalist Ulrike Meinhof, stylized as tragic victims, while Baader, who had a criminal record, was declared the gravedigger of the left??
What was Baader’s attraction to the female sex?? His acknowledgement of feminine power – the female power of the "cunt" – as he himself expressed it, was and is something that the bourgeois wife does not receive from her husband. Did Baader’s women represent something other than inferior men??
In war, men in particular enter a realm of human experience that is at least as far removed from the everyday as "the sacred". Was the escalation of the warlike actions around the RAF in reality a technique of ecstasy, like maybe, sex, ecstasy and techno? Are "Fucking and pushing a thing", as Baader claimed?
The encounter group Kommune 1, in which Baader trained himself in group dynamics, served to overcome himself – a concept not unlike the Nietzschean ubermensch, who learns to transcend the chains of his origins, family, society and deity. In which German tradition are Baader and the RAF with their idealism and their destructive consequence?? Was Baader already the forerunner of a modern lifestyle, a new type of utopian who, far from all theories, trusted only his own experience, an experiential God who naturally had to be ecstatic?? How did the planned ascent to heaven become a hollowness and how is this descent avoidable?? Without asking oneself these questions, one will not understand the phanomenon "Baader" and the RAF cannot continue to understand, Baader will continue to be the "bloodthirsty bimbos" or the "Anarcho-Dandy" as which he is still presented in the media.
The documentary "Baader" by Christopher Roth is showing today in competition at the Berlinale
If we understand the young Baader as a member of a traditional family of German groblebenchers and ecstatics who sought the wild life in Germany, we may be able to take a deeper look at the German soul feverish for salvation and the berserk part of that force which is always "Good wants and Boses creates" and whose ecstasy efforts still led us Germans in the end into insane seriousness, abysmal insanity or the Holocaust.
Is there now a life in Germany with and after the ecstasy of 1968 or does it lead us, as with Andreas Baader, inevitably back into the solitary confinement of our so-called reality and into death?? And if so, how could it look?