Red Army Faction Member Caught After Decades in Hiding

The recent capture of a past member of the Red Army Faction (RAF), a group that caused a lot of trouble in West Germany during the Cold War, has made people take a fresh look at a very chaotic time in Germany's history after World War II.

by Faruk Imamovic
Red Army Faction Member Caught After Decades in Hiding
© Getty Images/Maja Hitij

The recent capture of a past member of the Red Army Faction (RAF), a group that caused a lot of trouble in West Germany during the Cold War, has made people take a fresh look at a very chaotic time in Germany's history after World War II.

Also known by the name Baader-Meinhof Group, the RAF started out as a group of students in the late 1960s who were really upset with society. They decided to make their point by setting off bombs, kidnapping people, and even killing.

They went after politicians, big business folks, and military leaders, creating a lot of fear and sadness that people still remember today.

A Legacy of Violence

The recent spike in interest comes from the capture of Daniela Klette, a 65-year-old who used to be part of the RAF, in Berlin.

German cops have been on the heels of Klette and her two partners in crime, Burkhard Garweg and Ernst-Volker Staub, for almost 30 years. This group, jokingly called the "RAF pensioners," was really wanted across Europe for some serious crimes like armed robbery and attempted murder, even years after the RAF had officially stopped its activities in 1998.

Klette was found and arrested in Berlin's Kreuzberg area, living quietly under a fake name. This shows just how much the RAF's actions still hang over Germany. Even though the group stopped causing trouble in 1998, their history of violence, supported in part by East Germany's secret police, the Stasi, still casts a long shadow.

Their attacks in the 70s and 80s were responsible for the deaths of 34 people, including big names like Jürgen Ponto from Dresdner Bank and Siegfried Buback, a federal prosecutor.

The Fight Against Forgotten Crimes

The story of the RAF is really about a deep fight over beliefs, where they stood firmly against what they thought was wrong with the world, like unfairness they saw in capitalism and the way countries dominated others.

Their actions went beyond just breaking the law; they were trying to make a loud statement against what they saw as big injustices, including the Vietnam War and the tense atmosphere of the Cold War. With the arrest of Klette and the hope of catching her partners, German officials are looking to finally put an end to a long history of fear caused by domestic terror.

But the mark the RAF left on Germany goes deep. Their fierce attacks on government officials and the economic system they couldn't stand shook up how Germany saw itself after World War II, leaving behind deep wounds and many unanswered questions.

Life in the Shadows: The Arrest of Daniela Klette

Going by the name Claudia Ivone, Klette seemed just like any other resident in the lively neighborhood of Kreuzberg in Berlin. For about 20 years, she was just another face in the crowd, tutoring kids in math and German, and taking her dog, Malaika, for walks.

You'd never guess from looking at her that she was once involved in some pretty serious crimes like bombings, kidnappings, and shootings with the RAF, all because they were against what they saw as the unfairness and domination in West Germany's way of life.

Police Storm Second Property In Search For RAF Fugitives© Getty Images/Maja Hitij

The Tip-Off and the Takedown

The way they finally caught Klette is a real mix of old-school detective work and the latest tech.

A hot tip pointed the cops to Kreuzberg, where they nabbed Klette on February 26. What's fascinating is that some investigative reporters, using a smart image search tool called PimEyes, played a big part in figuring out who she was.

It just goes to show how the game has changed for both the police and journalists. And when they found a grenade in Klette's place during her arrest, it was a stark reminder that, despite her quiet life lately, she was still considered very dangerous.

The Charges and the Cases

Klette is in hot water for a bunch of serious stuff, not just for what she did back when she was with the RAF, but also for crimes like armed robberies and even an attempted murder that happened after the group had officially called it quits.

These charges hint that she might have still been following the group's mission, even though they weren't active anymore. The fact that she's dealing with legal trouble for things she did both during and after her time with the RAF really shows how deep and lasting the group's influence was on its members.

Understanding the RAF's Emergence

To really understand why Klette's arrest and the search for her partners is such a big deal, we need to zoom out and look at the bigger picture of what was happening when the RAF first came onto the scene.

Back in the late 1960s, Germany was going through a rough patch, and the RAF was just one part of a worldwide movement of left-wing groups that didn't like the way capitalist and imperialist powers were running things. They decided to fight back against the German government and its friends with violence, taking cues from other big fights going on around the world, like the Vietnam War.

The Generational Divide

The RAF's history is like a story told in three parts, with each chapter having its own goals and ways of doing things. The first part was all about making a big splash with murders and taking hostages to shake up the German government and try to get their friends out of jail.

The second part kept up with this plan, but the third part, which Klette was likely a part of, had a slightly different aim. They wanted to really shake the foundations of society's big shots through assassinations and causing chaos.

This shift in tactics shows how the group changed over time, influenced by what was happening around the world and at home.