What is the greatest finesse in history

The history of the RAF

Dr. Wolfgang Kraushaar

To person

The political scientist Wolfgang Kraushaar, born in 1948, works at the Hamburg Institute for Social Research. There he researches protest and resistance in the history of the Federal Republic and the GDR. His main areas of work include the 1968 movement and the Red Army faction.

State action during the so-called German Autumn

Large crisis team, contact blocking law and news blocking - in the "German Autumn" the German constitutional state came to the brink of a state of emergency.

The small and the large crisis team

In his first public reaction, a statement made exactly four hours after the kidnapping of Schleyer in the ARD studio in Bonn, the Chancellor (Helmut Schmidt, editor's note) clearly stated the attitude with which he was to face the challenge from the RAF remembers: "The state [...] must respond with all the necessary severity. All police and security organs [...] therefore have the unreserved support of the federal government and also my very personal backing."

Chancellor Helmut Schmidt also called on the "Great Crisis Team" to "think the unthinkable". (& copy AP)
From this attitude, an almost ideal type of claim against the strong state, the fundamental decision can be derived that the large crisis team makes the following evening. Three goals are to be pursued "simultaneously and side by side": 1. To free the hostage alive; 2. to seize the kidnappers and bring them to justice; and 3. not to release the prisoners. This decision, taken on the night of September 6th to 7th, has never been deviated from, not even after the worsening caused by the hijacking of the Lufthansa plane. With unshakable consistency and accepting the greatest risks, including losing government power as a result of events, the law of action has been defined from the idea of ​​the strong state. Or, as a participant of the Great Crisis Team who was not known by name later openly stated: "For reasons of state, Schleyer was sentenced to death."


However, this fundamental decision to give the reasons of state absolute priority over the lives of individuals does not yet reveal the entire dimension of the problem. Perhaps even more important is the fact that constitutional reasons have to take a back seat to reasons of state: first when creating a new decision-maker not provided for in the constitution. Because the responsibility for actions, which are relentlessly subordinate to the raison d'etat, no longer rests solely with the federal government, but with an all-parliamentary group executive that integrates the opposition. In the documentation published by the Federal Government's Press and Information Office on the events surrounding the Schleyer kidnapping, it is referred to as the "Large Political Advisory Group"; in the press it is openly called the "Great Crisis Team". That this terminological distinction is by no means a minor finesse can be seen from where the responsible Federal Minister of Justice locates the responsibility.


Discussions with federal prosecutors at the time about legislation in times of RAF terrorism: In the Federal Republic of Germany, under the impression of RAF terrorism in the 1970s and early 1980s, procedural and criminal law was tightened. Felix Kaul, Joachim Lampe, Peter Pöpperl and Dirk Fernholz were federal lawyers at the time and were involved in important investigations and proceedings against leading RAF members. How do you rate the state's reactions to the terrorism of the RAF?
In the above-mentioned meeting on the night of September 6th to 7th, Federal Justice Minister Hans-Jochen Vogel (SPD) sets out the legal requirements for joint action. In the documentation, his explanations are summarized in the opinion that when it comes to the question, whether prisoners could be released because of blackmail, "not a normative decision, but a purely actual act". It goes on to say: "The basis of this decision, however, is a constitutionally-oriented, political discretionary decision, which is not made by the relevant justice ministers and senators of the federal states, but must be drawn up in the large political advisory group and taken responsibility by those involved." This means that the responsibility no longer rests solely with the federal government, but with the supervisory body introduced without a legal basis and without a formal resolution. The self-designation "advisory group" is denied precisely because of the explicit acceptance of responsibility. And the characterization of the resolution as a political discretionary decision that is "constitutionally oriented" can only be understood in such a way that it first has to bypass the constitution in order to then orientate itself on it.

Not even criteria for the composition of the large crisis team are given. It is true that the impression is given that the parties represented in the Bundestag are represented equally by their parliamentary group and party chairmen, but the consideration of the former CSU regional group chairman - Friedrich Zimmermann was, it is laconically said, "regularly present" at the meetings - fails realize that this cannot by any means have applied to all roles. All participants are subject to a "confidentiality postulate"; they are not allowed to leak anything about the deliberations held in the large crisis team and the decisions that have been made. According to this, the party and parliamentary group leaders are also bound to secrecy vis-à-vis their own members of the Bundestag. As a consequence, this means that adequate parliamentary control over the executive is ruled out.

All members of that other executive body, which has also been created en passant, which is officially called the "Small Situation" and referred to in the media as the "Small Crisis Unit", are also represented in the Large Crisis Unit. In addition to the Chancellor, Federal Interior Minister Werner Maihofer (FDP), Federal Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher (FDP) and Federal Justice Minister Hans-Jochen Vogel are represented in it, which meets much more frequently. In addition, there are State Minister Hans-Jürgen Wischnewski, State Secretaries Manfred Schüler, Siegfried Fröhlich and Heinz Ruhnau, BKA President Horst Herold, Federal Prosecutor Kurt Rebmann and sometimes the North Rhine-Westphalian Interior Minister Burkhard Hirsch (FDP).

On the evening of September 8th, Helmut Schmidt called on the participants of this staff to "think the unthinkable" and also to submit "exotic suggestions". At the end of the meeting around 10 p.m., the keeper of the minutes recorded nine different "models". They range from the introduction of the leniency program to the creation of an "internment camp for terrorists" to the persecution of released prisoners by a "special detachment". The most legally inconsiderate proposal is made by Attorney General Kurt Rebmann. His action variant (No. 6) reads: "The Bundestag immediately changes Article 102 of the Basic Law, which reads: 'The death penalty has been abolished.' Instead, according to the amendment to the Basic Law, people can be shot who are to be freed from terrorists by taking hostages in a way that is extortionate. The verdict of the highest court will result in the death sentence. No legal remedies possible. " Federal press spokesman Klaus Bölling, Federal Justice Minister Hans-Jochen Vogel and cabinet chief Helmut Schmidt reject reprisals. The Chancellor, who nonetheless advocates a violent liberation of Schleyer while accepting his death, ends the deliberation by stating that none of the models can be "accessed operationally". The "previous line" should be continued.

What this line consists of is particularly clear from two operational elements: the ban on contact for imprisoned RAF members and the ban on news for the press, radio and television. With the isolation of the prisoners from outside information, the presumed communication with the kidnappers is apparently to be interrupted; With the information control, the executive tries to secure a monopoly of decision-making for the progress of events. If, with the creation of the two executive bodies, the Small and Large Crisis Management, the control function of the legislature, the Parliament, is switched off, the public cannot be completely blocked by the filtering of news, but it can be influenced at crucial points.