Ulrike Meinhof is much more than a terrorist for the Germans; she is a myth that cannot be forgotten. Audacious journalists referred to her as Joan of Arc, a courageous fighter against injustice, fantasized about a Meinhof-Medea who had abandoned her children, portrayed Ulrike Meinhof as the victim of a promiscuous husband, and glorified her acts of terrorism.
In 1976, just after Meinhof had committed suicide the former Chancellor Gustav Heineman said:
“Whatever she did, however incomprehensible it might have been, she did it for us.”
Up to this day, Ulrike Meinhof remains a much debatable figure. By some, she is referred to as “Ulrike,” she is admired, mocked, and loathed by others. Nevertheless, many people identify with her consciously or subconsciously. Somehow the imagination of a strong Ulrike Meinhof with a machine pistol is fascinating, even more so because many share a mistrust against the state desiring change.
Ulrike Meinhof is seen as the intellectual force of the RAF and the woman that shaped the ideology by utilizing her journalistic experience to present the RAF to society. It has been stressed over and over again that she was a talented student, a young journalist with extraordinary rhetorical skills, and a passion for politics. She is depicted as a political peace activist, a convinced socialist who tirelessly worked towards poverty alleviation and social justice within Germany as well as worldwide. 1968 was the watershed in Meinhof’s life in which she abandoned her life as a star journalist and began to slide into a life illegality. As co-founder of an urban guerilla movement that embraced militant struggle against the imperialist state, she is seen as a heroine who did not hesitate to risk her life to spark the revolution. However, she proved to be much less influential than the name Baader-Meinhof Gang suggests. After nearly four years in prison, she took her life at the age of 41.
Although the RAF had separated itself from the student movement since it embraced the principle of violence as a means to force social change, the members were still children of the time. Hatred against the establishment, admiration for socialist theory were underlying factors of both movements, and so was the importance of fantasy, the belief than can change your behavior.
Burkhard Garweg, Ernst-Volker Staub and Daniela Klette have emerged after 23 years
So why did women, including Meinhof, become terrorists?
Some women, for example Ulrike Meinhof, take part in terrorism when there are few perceived outlets for gender equality. Frustrated with a lack of outlets for their public activism, women turn to the kinds of strategies that many alienated groups have adopted: to fight against mainstream political institutions/states using extreme tactics including terrorism. Ulrike Meinhof became a terrorist because she saw few alternatives for pursuing political justice and had little trust in the German government or other institutions. However, the RAF did not specifically encourage women to become terrorists. Rather, it was the fear of the outbreak of a global atomic war, the desire for long-term peace, and the confrontation with the National Socialist past, the rebellion against the Neo-Nazis, and the hate for the “system/state” that united these young female and male intellectuals causing them to establish the left-wing terrorist group – the RAF. It should be noted, that women in the group were stronger or equally represented as the men.
“you should try to measure up the chances of an urban guerilla movement succeeding in the Federal Republic of Germany, against the social reality in this country……….the Federal Republic (of Germany) is not a place for an urban guerilla movement of the Latin style…..
You can expect nothing but a bitter enmity from the German public…you had no illusions about the power machine here…when the (student) protest……failed to bring solidarity, the Revolution conspicuously failed to materialize.Give up Ulrike !”
letter from Ulrike Meinhof’s foster mother Renate Riemeck in Nov. 1971