The radical left-wing Red Army Faction (RAF) terrorised Germany for close on 30 years in the belief that the country was in the throes of reverting to fascism.
It described itself as a communist and anti-imperialist “urban guerrilla” group, and its members killed 34 people in a series of shootings, bomb attacks and kidnappings which only came to an end in 1998 when the group disbanded.
Just last year Stuttgart’s criminal court jailed one of the RAF’s last former members for complicity in the 1977 murder of federal prosecutor Siegfried Buback, during what became known as the German Autumn – one of the bloodiest years Germany has seen since the Second World War. Mr Buback was shot dead by a motorbike pillion passenger, and the identity of the gunman has still to emerge.
The 2008 movie The Baader Meinhof Complex, directed by Udi Edel, was nominated for best foreign language film at the Oscars for its depiction of the RAF’s activities. But now, Stuttgart has consigned the Red Army Faction to history. A new exhibition at the city’s historical museum is devoted to the gang, even displaying the red Suzuki GS 750 that was used for Mr Buback’s assassination. It starts in a bright red painted funnel and describes how the RAF emerged from radical 1960s student protest and quickly evolved into an anti-imperialist killer organisation. By the time the visitor reaches the end of the funnel its walls have turned a deep blood red. By treating such a recent and painful phenomenon as history, the exhibition breaks new ground.
Many of the RAF victims’ closest friends and relatives are still alive. Several of the murderers are now free after serving lengthy jail terms. “It still hurts,” says the exhibition’s director, Thomas Schnabel.
Germany’s Federal Criminal Bureau clearly agrees; it is keeping the helmets worn by the motorbike driver and passenger locked up. The hope is that someday they will be used in evidence against Mr Buback’s killer.