German Joys Uncut: Michael Buback on RAF Terrorism

The debate about the possible early release of RAF terrorists Brigitte Mohnhaupt and Christan Klar intensifies. One recent contribution is an essay in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung written by Michael Buback. He is the son of Siegfried Buback, former Attorney General of Germany, who was murdered by RAF terrorists in 1977. The piece is called (in my translation) Debate about Strange, Distant Murderers (G). My translation, presented complete and unedited, appears below.

Debate About Strange, Distant Murderers

Why it is almost unimportant for a survivor whether an RAF terrorist remains in custody or is freed. An essay by Michael Buback, the son of Attorney General Siegfried Buback, murdered in 1977.

It is entirely proper that relatives of the victims do not participate in decisions on clemency for murderers. My essay could actually be limited to this one sentence. If, however, I write further, I do so because I have been repeatedly implored to give a detailed statement of my position and because I belong to the ever-diminishing group of people who still have strong memories of the events of 30 years ago.

To be sure, one hardly needs an especially good memory here. The event is chiseled into my memory, as it surely is with most people who have lost relatives to crime.

One particularity of the killing of my father is that those who murdered him and two members of his retinue, Georg Wurster and Wolfgang Göbel, did not know their victims personally.  They defined the Attorney General as evil by virtue of his function in a state that they rejected and hated. In thier blind fanaticism, fathomless arrogance, and extreme cruelty, they chose him for death according to their perverted standards, along with members of his security detail just as innocent as he.

The Assassination was Aimed at the State

The assassination was primarily aimed at the Federal Republic of Germany, whose leading criminal-justice officials were marked to be “blown away” by the terrorists. Perhaps the terrorists’ hate for this Attorney General was increased by the fact that he recognized the enormous dangers of terrorism early (which one would, of course, expect from an official with so much experience in the investigation of crimes against the state) and gave clear warning of the possible dangers.

Later events show how correct his warnings were. We now see the ubiquitous threat of terrorism almost daily in news programs. We are confronted with the consequences of terrorist violence every time we board a plane. Leading politicians in free, democratic countries are forced to live subject to intensive security measures.

They must often work in areas screened-off from the public, behind security fences and protective walls. Sometimes, in fact, the buildings from outside are so fortress-like that they resemble buildings intended for prisoners. The fact that there are ever more terrorists whose fanaticism drives them to take their own lives in addition to those of strangers makes the planning and execution of measures against terrorist brutality especially difficult.

Little interest in the trials

In dealing with this terrible event, we were helped by the fact that my father was not killed because of his private identity – which was the only thing of importance to us – but as a representative of German justice. This also had the effect of making those who murdered him nothing more than remote strangers. I had little interest in the trials and judgments. For this reason, I am also not interested in attempting to influence the length of the murderers’ imprisonment in any way.

From my point of view, it is almost irrelevant whether Christian Klar – who was sentenced for participating in the murder of my father, among other crimes – remains in prison until the official end of his sentence in about two years, or if he is freed earlier by a grant of executive clemency from the Federal President. If competent officials believe with sufficient certainty that he will present no further danger, and if he recognizes his crimes and feels remorse for them, there will certainly be no objection to a grant of clemency from me.

The circumstances of the crime are still unclear

There is, however, another aspect of the case that concerns me. To my knowledge, the exact circumstances of the crime and the nature of the individual actors’ participation has yet to be clarified. Who was the driver of the motorcycle, and who was the shooter?

One might object that knowing this cannot undo the crime and that the criminals have already been sentenced for murder. However, for me, as a relative, it is still important to know the exact circumstances of the crime, in order to have a better chance of finally closing this chapter – just as relatives of accident victims wish to know the events leading to death as exactly as possible, to be able to understand and deal with what happened.

Shortly after my father’s death, an RAF-sympathizer published a text under the pseudonym “A Mescalero from Göttingen” under the title of “Buback – an Obituary,” which my family, and many others, found despicable.* It was a relief to me when, more than two decades later, the author revealed himself to me in a letter. I wrote him and told him this, although composing the letter was difficult, and I would have preferred to use a less sonorous address than “Dear Mr. H.” 

It still disturbs me that I do not know who killed my father, and it surprises me that a criminal, without acknowledging his crimes and without remorse, can expect clemency, even though he has not contributed to the clarification of the circumstances of the crime for which he has already spent 24 years in prison.

One would hope that the clemency request contains some of this information, which is of great interest to the victims’ relatives. Readiness to supply these facts, however, cannot and should not be a pre-condition to a grant of clemency. This readiness would, however, provide an indication that Christian Klar has come closer to the society that he urgently wishes to rejoin, after distancing himself so far from it by his crime.

—  Michael Buback, Professor of Technical and Macromolecular Chemistry in Göttingen, is son of the Attorney General Siegfried Buback, who was murdered in 1977 by the RAF.

[Translated by Andrew Hammel]

* Buback here refers to an incident that occurred shortly after his father’s death. In a left-wing student newspaper at the University of Goettingen, an anonymous author, using the name "Mescalero," published a mock-obituary of Buback in which he admitted to a "clandestine joy" at Buback’s murder. He wrote that Buback’s killing would mean "one less face in the small red-and-black album" which will be publised "after the revolution, to hunt down the most-wanted and most-hated criminals in the world and subject them to a public interrogation." The piece attracted a great deal of attention. In the months following the publication of the "obituary," prosecutors all over Germany brought lawsuits against many press sources which re-printed the article on grounds such as "desecrating the memory of the dead" and "praising criminal activity."

9 thoughts on “German Joys Uncut: Michael Buback on RAF Terrorism

  1. reading comments from this martin-guy on this blog here, i get the feeling i must be living in germany under a terrible proto-fascist religious dictatorship without the right to free speech. thank god (ha!) there’s somebody so enlightened to point this out to me, cos indoctrinated as i am – i would never have noticed.


  2. @mark,

    hello, this is the martin-guy speaking. I believe that you can’t have partial free speech just like you can’t be partially pregnant. Fact is, each time you want to open your mouth while within the confines of German jurisdiction, you have to run your thoughts against a list of forbidden things before you voice them. That has the effect that people align themselves upfront with the officially proclaimed viewpoints of the establishment.

    Btw, note to self: Can you ‘persecute’ free speech? I guess you can only ‘persecute’ people. But I guess you get my point.


  3. martin, let me get this straight: each time you want to say something you have to first check yourself to make sure you don’t accidentally yell out “Heil Hitler” or “Auschwitz didn’t happen”? I think you are just slightly exaggerating the effects of the laws against Volksverhetzung. Holger Voss wasn’t sentenced, by the way.


  4. James W., thank you for proving Godwin’s law. For everyone else that’s reading this and is interested in a genuine discussion: Article 140 includes such dubious crimes as “Disturbance of the Public Peace”, or rather just the approval of it. Disturbance of the Public Peace is a typical vague bullshit concept created to just generally keep the masses in check. It must have been something along those lines that they justified the persecution (there we go again) of “Mescalero” with.


  5. martin, i don’t want to disturb your very informed view of german society and criminal law too much, but in § 140 the “disturbance of the peace” is not the crime. “disturbance of the peace” is a prerequisite to be charged for the actual crimes that § 140 lists, namely approval of a number of other crimes, including the preparation of an “aggressive war”, murder, genocide or rape. approval of such crimes becomes a crime when it is undertaken in a way that disturbs “the public peace”, that is publicly in a way that is offensive to the well-being of society. i agree that this is all very vague and one can question the validity of such a concept, but the provision has little to no effect on the openness of public debate in germany. the statistics i have list 3 convictions under § 140 for 1996, 2 for 1998 and 4 for 2000.

    on the other hand one should keep in mind that to my knowledge every society makes value-based judgements on the extent of the freedom of speech. this includes the US of A, where freedom of speech, despite the famous first amendment, isn’t without limits (see eric barendt, freedom of speech, oxford 2005, pp. 48-55).


  6. @mark,

    the statistics i have list 3 convictions under § 140 for 1996, 2 for 1998 and 4 for 2000.That’s about the same order of magnitude as the number of people shot at the former Iron Curtain each year. Proves to me that the system works in both cases.


  7. I have always have an interest in the RAF/Baader meinhof terrorism and have been following the trial of Becker. Jackie Stallone and Family recommended a new book just out,Pre-publication Ben bella Books of John Coventry’s ” I was, I am, I will be”. I got it via Amazon/Kindle. Anyhow,This book puts a whole new angle on things.
    The book shows evidence that the German Government allowed RAF/Baader Meinhof to assassinate the Chief Prosecutor,it shows a 30 year cover up and the evidence is shattering. They have got One man, one witness ,who knew the answers and held the secrets for over 30 years now exposes this conspiracy for the first time.
    It shows that RAF terrorist Becker was not even in Germany on the day of the shooting.
    For the first time the whereabouts of a apartment in Amsterdam where Badder Meinhof met in secret.
    The intelligence services meetings with Becker and why the Germans, British and Americans let the assassination go ahead.
    So now we know for the first time the names, the places and all the connections.
    This is wild,but the proof in the book is beyond doubt.
    I had no idea that the German Government had a MOLE inside the RAF/ Baader meinhof.


  8. John Coventry I was I am I will be. This is the best selling book that I have read for some time.
    Is it justifiable to torture a terrorist to save hundreds of people who would otherwise be killed ?
    The ” Killing” feature of this book is the Epilogue,that for the first time (that I am aware of),shows the real inside goings on within Badder Meinhof.


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