Red Army Faction

The Red Army Faction or Red Army Fraction (RAF; German: Rote Armee Fraktion), in its early stages commonly known as Baader-Meinhof Group (or Baader-Meinhof Gang), was post–World War II Germany's most prominent left-wing militant group. The RAF was founded in 1970 by Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, Horst Mahler, and Ulrike Meinhof. The RAF described itself as a communist and anti-imperialist "urban guerrilla" group engaged in armed resistance against what they deemed to be a fascist state. As such, members of the RAF generally used the Marxist-Leninist term "Faction" when they wrote in English.

The Red Army Faction existed from 1970 to 1998, committing numerous operations, especially in late 1977, which led to a national crisis that became known as "German Autumn". It was held responsible for thirty-four deaths, including many secondary targets, such as chauffeurs and bodyguards, and many injuries in its almost thirty years of activity. Although better-known, the RAF conducted fewer attacks than the Revolutionary Cells (German: Revolutionäre Zellen, RZ), which is held responsible for 296 bomb attacks, arson and other attacks between 1973 and 1995.

Although Meinhof was not considered to be a leader of the RAF at any time, her involvement in Baader's escape from jail in 1970 and her well-known status as a German journalist led to her name becoming attached to it.
There were three successive incarnations of the organization,

  • the "first generation" which consisted of Baader and his associates,
  • the "second generation" RAF, which operated in the mid to late 1970s after several former members of the Socialist Patients' Collective joined, and
  • the "third generation" RAF, which existed in the 1980s and 1990s.

On 20 April 1998, an eight-page typewritten letter in German was faxed to the Reuters news agency, signed "RAF" with the submachine-gun red star, declaring that the group had dissolved.

Read more about Red Army Faction:  Background, Formation of The RAF, Custody and The Stammheim Trial, German Autumn, The RAF Since The 1980s, List of Assaults Attributed To The RAF, RAF Commandos, Films, Fiction and Art

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