Thursday, September 30, 2010

When Revolutionaries Grow Old

Two hours ago, Al Jazeera English posted a story announcing that Germany has begun the prosecution of a former member of Red Army Faction, what was once called the Baader-Meinhof gang.

Verena Becker is charged with the 1977 murder of Siegfried Buback, a West German prosecutor. Buback was killed along with two others, (his chauffeur and bodyguard). Their car stopped at a traffic light, two people on a motorcycle pulled up, and the passenger on the bike fired at their car, killing all three.

Previous testimony has alleged that the shooter on the back of the motorcycle that day was Stefan Wisniewski. But several witnesses described the shooter as "a petite woman".

If you read the entry on Verena Becker at Wikipedia, it's clear the woman was fairly hard-core, and certainly not just a wannabe revolutionary. She was shot and captured after a gun-battle with police in May of 1977. Having served 12 years from 1977 to 1989, she was then pardoned by the President of Germany, and has been living quietly for the 21 years since.

The new prosecution is the result of DNA, allegedly that of Verena Becker, found by a new analysis of old evidence.

The thing that sets Baader-Meinhof, and indeed many of the radicals of the 70's, apart from what we think of as terrorists today, is the matter of their targets. They did not simply murder random innocents, they attacked specific targets - the military, the politicians, the rich industrialists, the government prosecutors.

I am old enough to remember this era. In May of 1977, when Becker was captured after a shoot-out with the police in Southern Germany, I was living and working in London, England. She is only 7 or 8 years older than I am.

It is impossible to capture with words any valid description of the 70's. What we think we know today about that decade is simply a caricature, a collection of cliches and vignettes that we think of as representing the 1970's. They do not.

But what was she thinking? Assuming for the sake of argument that Verena Becker was the shooter on the back of the motorcycle that day, what was going through her head? When you look at her picture in that AJE story, she looks so ordinary, the sort of an older woman you'd pass in the frozen foods aisle at the grocery store, and never give a second glance.

I have shot a fair number of animals, and I have been shot at by humans a few times, but I have never actually pointed a weapon at a member of my own species. I understand the hunter's mindset; was it like that?

Assuming Becker was the shooter, this wasn't her first operation. She wasn't going to be suffering from buck fever.

But what was she thinking?

No comments:

Post a Comment