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The Baader-Meinhof Complex Paperback – 6 Nov 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Bodley Head (6 Nov 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847920454
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847920454
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 3.5 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 37,521 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Tautly written, gripping and suspenseful" (Guardian)

"Filled with fascinating information and piquant details" (Literary Review)

"Stefan Aust is well placed to write the history of the most notorious of several terrorist groups" (Michael Burleigh Sunday Telegraph)

"Stephen Aust's meticulously researched chronicle of German left-wing terrorism" (Philip Oltermann Guardian)

"Meticulous history of the most famous German terrorist group" (Dominic Sandbrook Daily Telegraph)


`Stephen Aust's meticulously researched chronicle of German left-wing terrorism.'

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Dr Burgess on 28 Dec 2008
Format: Paperback
I agree with much of the sentiments in the above review - it is by far the best and most balanced book on the subject in English, avoiding the mythologization of RAF's futile and delusionary 'armed struggle' characteristic of some later English language works while giving some clue into motivations and characters of Baader et al. Paradoxically, this refusal to demonize the RAF tends to underline their brutality and moral culpability, at least in my view, although the book is not didactic and leaves plenty of scope for readers to reach their own conclusions.

The book's only really weakness apart from some, in places, clunky translation from the German is its fragmented structure and highly journalistic style - it reads as series of vignettes or a compendium of high class news magazine articles. This makes for a fast and compelling read with some distinctly filmic qualities - it's easy to see why the book has been turned into a movie - but left me wanting to know more about the social and political background that spawned the RAF and also the psychology, background and personalities of those individuals who became active terrorists (Clearly, many, indeed most, German radicals of 1960s and 1970s chose other paths). Given that the context of the RAF is so historically distant, especially for English language readers, this would help avoid the tendency (evident in the film of the book) to reduce the "German Autumn" to a sort of Maoist Bonnie and Clyde.

An additional point not picked up by Aust (or the excellent above review) is that British SAS troops participated alongside German police special forces in the operation to free hostages in Mogadishu. The recently published Special Forces Heroes has the whole story.
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Franz Bieberkopf on 24 Dec 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I first read this in the 1980s, and it was then out of print for ages,being republished now as the film "The Baader-Meinhof Complex" (based on this)was released earlier this year.
This isn't the 1980s book,it has been substantially revised and updated,with some of the new material emerging from the Stasi archives after unification in 1989.Stefan Aust worked together with Ulrike Meinhof before she went undergraound in 1970, and so is one of the few outsiders to know one of the founders of the RAF(Red Army Faction) personally.He pulls few punches,noting that the armed struggle("the struggle of 6 against 60 million" as Heinrich Boll quite correctly pointed out)was a disaster for the left in Germany and more generally across Europe.It served only to strengthen police and security services,alienate ordinary citizens from leftist activists,and led to the untimely deaths of people who shouldn't have died, and didn't deserve to die.
Inside Stammheim prison after 1972,the leadership of the RAF fragmented and was divided aginst each other-not widely known,but Aust describes it well.
In retrospect,the climax of this period of German history is "The German Autumn" of 1977,the low points being the kidnapping of Schleyer,the hijacking of a Lufthansa plane,eventually stormed by German commandos in Mogadishu,Somalia,and the suicides of the remaining RAF leaders in Stammheim.Aust gives an excellent description of the coordination of activities of Palestinians and Germans,mainly directed from Iraq.He also has interviews with the German leadership,including General Wegner,the commander of the German special forces,the GSG 9.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Stefan on 5 Mar 2013
Format: Paperback
"The Baader-Meinhof Complex" is a frustrating read. Stefan Aust is, disappointingly, neither intellectually or linguistically up to the task. His writing (and thought) is unstructured, unfocussed and uncritical. And worse: Throughout the 600-odd pages there is not one word of interesting analysis or discussion of the intriguing phenomenon that was the RAF, not one word of interesting psychological insight into the minds of its members. The book is a mere toss-out of facts and anecdotes, and seemingly an unedited one at that. Aust's indistinction between relevant and irrelevant, important and unimportant gives the impression of an author without the necessary grasp on his subject, without the capacity to put fascinating facts into constructive context. The language is sloppy, too, denying the drama it describes.

This is very, very far from the book the Baader-Meinhof story deserves.

I hope the author will not write more on the subject, seemingly and worryingly cast as the literary "expert" on a theme evidently too complex for him.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Peter J. Wade on 3 Oct 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a History teacher who is used to worrying about the validity of sources and also somebody who lived through the student riots of the 1970s I found this book excellent. First and foremost I wanted to know what the RAF was all about, in the 1970s I wasn't politically interested but wondered why they were killing people, but never asked. Now I am a retired I was interested, and have the time, to find out what they wanted and what really happened. Stefan Aust's book answered those questions really well, it was easy to read but detailed enough to explain the philosophy of the RAF and explained the events of the "German Autumn" very well. The section on the imprisonment and trial of the 5 RAF leaders was both fascinating and incredulous by modern standards of Human Rights, I began to feel quite sympathetic towards their plight. It was at this moment that the History teacher in me kicked in and I began to wonder how neutral an author Aust was, after all he knew most of the main players, and worked with Ulrike Meinhof. Certainly he went some way to explain how he became a journalist when they became active revolutionary fighters, but there again as a primary source of events 30 years ago he was excellent and the additions from modern evidence enhanced the credibilty of the book for me. A wonderful read for anybody who wants to know about the Baader Meinhof Group.
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