Stefan Aust was more implicated in the West German "urban guerilla" movement of the early '70s than many who would go on to comment on it. He actually retrieved Ulrike Meinhof's two children from a hiding place for their father - in the process provoking the wrath of the RAF, who threatened his life. Despite this decided lack of critical distance and the fact that this book was written less than a decade after the "German Autumn" of 1977, Aust's study of the RAF remains the definitive source on the group and the era, and I would venture to say one of the best works on 20th century left-wing terrorism, period.
As Aust makes clear from the start, this book is neither approval nor condemnation. He holds true to his claim, maintaining a carefully objective stance throughout. This immediately sets him apart from most who have written on the RAF: Jillian Becker's book Hitler's Children is a discordant mix of detailed biographical information (especially on the pre-Frankfurt arson W. German student movement) and thinly-disguised conservative polemic. Even authoritative terrorist scholars such as Walter Laqueur are often dismissive of the RAF and other West German urban guerilla groups.
Aust's book is a carefully researched and wonderfully detailed study of the terrorist zeitgeist of 1970-1977. What emerges from the many accumulated details and infromation is a singularly thrilling story, replete with intriguing, complicated characters, high drama, frightening fanaticism, and tragic pathos.
For students interested in the RAF and this period of history, this is by far the best and most authoritative source. The problem is, the English translation is long out-of-print and very difficult to find (often when tracked down it sells for more than $100). A reprinting of this book is a dire necessity, especially as terrorism becomes more and more a central concern of the world. This is a truly excellent study of an oft-neglected period of western history that everyone deserves to be able to read.