“Baader-Meinhof” shoots its way onto American screens

Nadja Uhl as terrorist Brigitte Mohnhaupt

Nadja Uhl as terrorist Brigitte Mohnhaupt

WAS WESTERN INDUSTRIAL SOCIETY in the late 1960s and early 1970s really just inches away from a return to open fascism? The very notion sounds quaint today, even absurd. And yet those years saw the rise of a generation of idealists who were prepared to give their lives – and take many others – to prevent this scenario from occurring. This is the backdrop to Bernd Eichinger’s Oscar-nominated film The Baader-Meinhof Complex, which is finally opening in American cinemas.

In West Germany the situation seemed dire enough. Nazi war criminals walked the streets in freedom and several of them held high posts in government and industry. The young democracy was making sweetheart deals with Third World dictators, such as the Shah of Iran. Germany’s supposed liberator and ally, the United States, was napalming civilians in Vietnam. “The Jews” were in the process of transforming themselves from victims to imperialists by occupying the West Bank. Through all of this, the German population was being progressively dumbed down by trashy pop culture and materialism. Could true fascism be far behind?

This time around, the younger generation didn’t want to get caught supporting the wrong side. Ulrike Meinhof, an ambitious left-wing journalist and frustrated housewife, shared the outrage of millions of other “Nazi children” when the student Benno Ohnesorg was shot to death by a West Berlin policeman during a demonstration against a state visit by the “fascist” Shah. Soon afterward the revolutionary Rudi Dutschke was laid low by an anti-communist assassin. When the charismatic terrorist couple Andreas Baader and Gudrun Ensslin – the Bonnie and Clyde of the Beetles generation – captured the headlines by exploding bombs in two Frankfurt department stores, she knew she had found her true calling…



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