Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Baader Meinhof Gang

Working With Abandoned Boys

Thorwald Proll, Gudrun Ensslin, and Andreas Baader found a cause that other like-minded people were working on and which warmed their hearts. The plight of teenaged boys in the Federal Republic's group homes caught their attention. These youths included orphans, runaways, and "throwaways" (teenagers whose families had kicked them out of their homes). Some radicals believed these young people were victims of the system and Proll, Ensslin, and Baader joined others who tried to agitate among them. They went to youth homes and distributed pamphlets urging the boys to demand more choices and a greater say in how their institutions were run.

Some of the radicals offered to take the boys into student hostels or their own homes. As might be guessed, some also had second thoughts after inviting rebellious, troubled, defiant teenagers to live with them and the young fellows found themselves thrown out of yet another home.

The radicals tried to politicize these adolescents and some of the boys were quite flattered to be receiving so much attention. They dutifully put pictures of Chairman Mao and other left-wing heroes up on their walls.

It must be said that, to their credit, Baader, Ensslin, and Proll did provide the young boys with walking around money and gave them affection. The SDS provided the leftists with money for their work with troubled boys and so did many sympathetic, wealthy members of West Germany's radical chic, or Schili, as they were known. One of the latter was the wife of a boutique owner and she was so impressed by Ensslin and Baader that she gifted them with a brand new Mercedes Benz. Baader had always cherished this expensive make of car.

Some of their young, deprived charges resented seeing their mentors tool around in a Mercedes. Perhaps they were motivated by a sense of "proletarian" grievance so they revolted against the privileged in their own midst by rambunctiously jumping on the top of the automobile until they had dented its top and hood.

Such behavior might be expected of teenaged boys. The behavior of Andreas Baader, a man in his twenties who was supposed to be helping his charges, was more bizarre. According to an anecdote related by Becker he once "stood on a chair with a wad of ten-mark notes in his hand, bent between finger and thumb, and let them fly, and roared with delight when the boys scrambled and fought for them."

Most of the youths did not show much solid enthusiasm for making revolution. Given little encouragement by their advisors, they usually did not conscientiously seek employment either. Rather, the fellows spent their days loafing and talking as well as using mind- and mood-altering drugs like LSD and pot when they could get them. Some of them remained loyal to the young adults who had befriended them and others later complained that they had been exploited for partisan political purposes.

In November 1969, the appeals of the convicted arsonists were rejected. Söhnlein turned himself in. Baader, Ensslin, and Proll fled West Germany. They went to France, then to Switzerland, and then to Italy. Finally, the fugitive couple circled right back to West Germany but without turning themselves in. Rather, they found a refuge in Ulrike Meinhof's West Berlin apartment.

Andreas Baader and some of his pals were driving when cops stopped the car. Andreas confidently handed an officer a faked driver's license showing that he was Peter Chotjewitz, a writer rather well known in Berlin. The suspicious police asked Herr Chotjewitz the names and ages of his children. There followed a somewhat embarrassing scene in which the false Herr Chotjewitz stammered that that information had slipped his mind. The police may not have been German versions of Sherlock Holmes but neither were they Keystone Kops.

They took Baader and the two with him into custody.

It was not long before they found out whom it was they had arrested and the restless Andreas Baader was once again cooped up in prison. It was during this stay that he and some confederates, including Ulrike Meinhof, cooked up the prison escape described at the beginning of this story.

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