1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites
Deutschland Christian Klar
Christian KlarImage: picture alliance/dpa/N. Försterling

Ex-RAF member working for German politician

Kathleen Schuster
February 22, 2016

Nearly 20 years after the Red Army Faction disbanded, one of its leading figures has re-entered the spotlight. This time, the ex-RAF member Christian Klar is trying to work for the government instead of against it.


The Left has faced a lot of scrutiny over its past connections: The party is the successor to the Communist rulers of East Germany, and members are said to have sympathized with the Baader-Meinhof Gang, later known as the Red Army Faction (RAF).

These connections are in the news again after the Bundestag Council of Elders denied a request by the Left legislator Diether Dehm to accredit one of his freelancers: a former RAF member who had spent a quarter of a century in prison for crimes he committed with the group. The Council of Elders cited "security concerns" for its decision.

Arrested in 1982 and convicted of nine counts of murder and 11 counts of attempted murder in 1985, Christian Klar was sentenced to multiple life sentences. In 2008, deemed no longer dangerous, he walked free.

Deutschland Hannover Dieter Dehm
Diether Dehm left the SPD in 1998 to join the PDS, the predecessor to today's LeftImage: picture-alliance/dpa/P. Steffen

Dehm said Klar, now 63, had completed his parole with a clean record and done an "outstanding" job running the politician's official website.

"The Left is decisively a party of the rule of law," Dehm said in a video statement posted on his website. "Banning him from work would be irreconcilable with the chance of social rehabilitation." Dehm added that Klar did not have access to sensitive information in his role.

Run of terror

The RAF's activities led to the deaths of more than 30 people within Germany over nearly three decades. The group also lost 27 of its own members.

In the early 1970s, the "first generation" - led by the reformed criminal Andreas Baader and former journalist Ulrike Meinhof - attacked US facilities and German authorities as retribution for the Vietnam War.

Klar was one of the leaders of the second generation, which employed assassination and hostage-taking in its efforts to pressure the West German government to negotiate the release of the RAF's founders.

After killing a bank official who had been tricked into welcoming RAF members into his home by a friend and then the attorney general in broad daylight in 1977, the group attempted to increase the pressure with a double hostage-taking that ultimately failed.

Schleyer Entführung 1977
Schleyer became a target of the RAF for his Nazi past and business success. It is still unknown which member killed himImage: AFP/Getty Images

The RAF held the industrialist Hanns Martin Schleyer for over a month after taking him hostage, but received no concessions from Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. At that point, a Palestinian faction that allied with the RAF joined the fight by hijacking a Lufthansa plane bound for Frankfurt, diverting it from Mallorca to Mogadishu.

German soldiers stormed the aircraft five days later, dealing a blow to the RAF. The group murdered Schleyer in response and dumped his body in a French forest. Nearly all of the imprisoned RAF members apparently lost hope of release and committed suicide in their cells.

'Served his time'

Convicted RAF members are now free, with eight of them receiving presidential pardons. But Klar has never publically distanced himself from his RAF activities, and in 2007 President Horst Köhler refused to pardon him if he would not show remorse.

News of Klar's working for a system he once dismissed as "swine," and potentially in a high-security facility, drew sharp remarks from some German politicians.

Stephan Mayer, a lawmaker for Bavaria's right-wing Christian Social Union, called the effort to accredit Klar for the Bundestag "sleazy" and a "scandal."

RAF Fahndungsfoto Fahndungsbild
The founding members of the RAF distanced themselves from the strategy of the second generation: "The political militaristic action of the urban guerrilla never takes aim at the people."Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Dehm continued to defend his decision over the weekend, telling the Sunday edition of "Bild" that the former RAF member is "a sensitive person and not a radical rabble-rouser in the least."

Dehm also attempted to change the focus of the attention from his decision to hire Klar and put the spotlight on the Bundestag Council of Elders after the right-wing weekly "Die Junge Freiheit" called him within an hour of the body's decision.

"This story stinks to high heavens," Dehm said in the video statement on his website. He questioned whether one of the council's 23 members had leaked the story to the newspaper, which is known for publishing extremist content.

"Bundestag President Lammert should address why something like this is possible within his council," Dehm said.

Skip next section Explore more
Skip next section DW's Top Story

DW's Top Story

three soldiers operating an M777 howitzer

Why is the US sending 'downgraded' weaponry to Ukraine?

Skip next section More stories from DW
Go to homepage