Friday, December 16, 2011

Baader-Meinhof Graffiti

When I was a kid growing up in Cardiff the ‘coolest’ terrorist group to impinge itself upon my consciousness was Rote Armee Fraktion (Red Army Faction), or as they were known in the tabloids - the Baader-Meinhof Gang. They didn't just want to épater les bourgeois they wanted to blow them all to smithereens. Which was absolutely fine by my pubescent self. Leading members of the group were Andreas Baader, Ulrike Meinhof, and Gudrun Ensslin on whom I had a terrible schoolboy crush. Ulrike and Gudrun were like terrorist versions of Charlie’s Angels. To my naive mind they seemed impossibly glamorous as they went around Europe robbing banks, kidnapping industrialists, executing bankers and planting bombs. Members of the group would sometimes get captured and then manage to escape again, usually in a big shoot out. There was an unreal, almost cartoonish quality to their exploits. Of course, what they were doing was horribly real as they were responsible for the deaths of dozens of entirely innocent people. Eventually the leading members of the gang were caught and incarcerated at Stammheim prison. In 1977 a Lufthansa plane was hi-jacked by Arabic terrorists and the release of Baader et al demanded. Their plan was thwarted when a team of German special police stormed the aircraft and shot them all. Andreas Baader, Jan-Carle Rasp and Gudrun Ensslin responded by killing themselves in a prison suicide pact. In Cardiff, in the wake of their deaths, pro-Red Army Faction graffiti began springing up around the city. The main targets were university buildings. The anatomy department of UWIST at Cathays Park, for instance, was daubed with huge slogans in red spray paint: 'RED ARMY' 'BAADER WAS MURDERED' (see pic) and 'BAADER LIVES', which seems to contradict, somewhat, the previous statement. Eventually the graffiti attacks stopped and the slogans faded away. The perpetrators were never caught. Pretty soon you could purchase RAF tee-shirts from Cardiff's punk emporium, Paradise Garage, just like the one that Joe Strummer used to wear.