pre-1968 > 1968 > 1969 > 1970 > 1971 > 1972 > 1973 > 1974 > 1975 > 1976 > 1977 > post-1977

The Crisis Years

The crisis years between 1968 and 1977 represented the most tumultuous era in West Germany's entire internal social-political history. The student protests of 1968 that promised so much hope, quickly fizzled into riots. Many of the leftist students would follow Rudi Dutschke's clarion call and begin their "long march through the institutions" (a decade later many of these former radical students were the main force behind the Greens party). But a select few of the radicals had no time for any nebulous march -- they wanted Revolution now, and sought to kickstart the cause through terrorism.

For a time, it seemed as if the West German flavor of leftist urban guerrilla warfare might have a measure of success. German polls showed an extraordinary number of Germans supported their cause in one way or another (only 10 to 20%, but a remarkable number nonetheless).

But the support fizzled to almost nothing when the West German terrorists stopped merely robbing banks and began killing people.

Most of the leaders of the most famous West German terrorist group, the Baader-Meinhof Gang, were captured in mid-1972. Their followers would kidnap and kill close to a dozen people over the next five years in an effort to secure their leaders' release from prison, but it was all in vain. The German government had no intention of releasing them.

The German government used the terrorist crisis to approve new laws giving them broad powers in combating terrorism. Hard-core leftists grumbled, but the majority of the German people were firmly on the side of the government.

Late in 1977, after an airplane hi-jacking by Palestinian comrades failed to secure the release of the three imprisoned leaders of the Baader-Meinhof Gang, the terrorists saw the writing on the wall. Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, and Jan-Carl Raspe all committed suicide deep in the night of October 17, 1977. The Baader-Meinhof Era was over.

The links to the left connect to very detailed pages describing the crisis years of 1968-1977. Every important name and term is linked to a separate page offering more detailed background information.


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The Decade of Terror