Verena Becker is presently on trial in Germany, charged as an accomplice in the murder over thirty years ago of Siegfried Buback, then Germany’s prosecutor-general, in a drive-by shooting. Becker, if you have never heard of her, was once a member of a collection of terrorists generally known as the Baader-Meinhof Group, after the two principal leaders, though they preferred to call themselves the Rote Armee Fraktion – Red Army Faction – or the RAF.
These people had declared war on what was then the Federal Republic of Germany, Buback being a prime target, an agent of the ‘fascist’ state. The fact that Buback’s driver was also killed probably counted, if it counted for anything at all, as a terrorist version of ‘collateral damage.’
Becker and her crowd were part of a generation now known in Germany as the Achtundzechzigers – the 68ers – the student cohort of 1968, born to put the world to rights, born to compel their parents – the Auschwitz generation - to face the facts of their past, to face the fact that Germany had not been liberated at all in 1945, that the Federal Republic was not a true democracy, merely a continuation of the Hitler state.
Knowing nothing about Becker and next to nothing about German urban terrorism I read Utopia or Auschwitz; Germany’s 1968 Generation and the Holocaust by Hans Kundani, a London-based journalist. It’s quite a tale, a story of political pathology, intellectual delusion and sophistry of the most tortured kind imaginable.
The RAF was supposedly of the political left but it’s almost impossible to determine where these people, the generation of 68, belong ideologically. They started off with a radical Marxist agenda but there were always undertones of distinct forms of German nationalism, allowing them to perceive the United States as an occupying power in the West as the Soviets were in the East. They began in criticising Nazism with attitudes, outlooks and practices that were distinctly Nazi in tone. They began by upholding Auschwitz as a symbol of absolute evil only to relativise it, placing it alongside the bombing of German cities and the sufferings of the Palestinian people, before, in some cases, wishing to forget it altogether, or even denying that it happened at all.
Yes, that was another of their favoured causes, Palestine in the wake of the Six Day War, an event that transformed Jews and Israel from history’s victims to history’s perpetrators. In an article published in The New Republic in August 2001 Paul Berman put it thus: “To the West German students Israel became the crypto-Nazi state par excellence, the purest of all examples of how Nazism had never been defeated but instead lingered into the present in ever more cagey forms.”
It certainly did, not in Israel, not in the German State, but in people like Becker, people that Jurgen Habermas, once the doyen of radical thought in Germany, described as ‘left-wing fascists.’ The anti-Semitism was, of course, disguised in the usual dishonest way as ‘anti-Zionism’, a wholly enlightened process that saw a bomb planted in a Berlin synagogue on 9 November 1969, which just happened to be the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the infamous Nazi pogrom of 1938; a wholly enlightening process that saw a ‘selection’ of Jews by some 68ers following the Entebbe hijacking in 1976.
Horst Mahler, an RAF activist who supported the murder of Israeli athletes in Munich in 1972, is a Nazi. No, that’s not an insult; he is a leading neo-Nazi, currently in prison for using the Hitler salute and Holocaust denial, both of which are crimes in Germany.
It went on, the tortuous delusions went on, specifically in the sporadic murder campaign of the RAF, a substitute for action by the proletarian masses, ever immersed in ‘false consciousness’, who had to be shown how things were done, how things were to be done, how the inconvenient were to be done away with.
Becker’s trial will doubtless draw a curtain on one of the most shameful periods, on one of the most shameful generations, in German history, the real children of Hitler, people who saw murder as a means to an end, utopia on skulls. It seems to me that the capacity of power to corrupt is not nearly as great as that of idealism.