At the very end of The Baader Meinhof Complex, after the efforts for pressing the RAF leaders free have failed and they thus commited suicide in Stammheim prison, Brigitte Mohnhaupt speaks to the next generation of RAF members, who are enraged that the government allegedly pulled through with the executions they were afraid of.

However, Mohnhaupt directly contradicts them and reveals that it was their plan to commit suicide all along in a controlled community effort:

Mohnhaupt: They are no victims and never were.

RAF member: What? What's that shit now? You yourself said the lives of the Stammheimers are in danger, that we have to get them out now, now! Those were your words.

Mohnhaupt: They have determined their situation till the last moment. That means they did it and not that it was done to them...You never knew those people. Stop seeing them like they were not.

Now the Stammheim deaths have in the past been somewhat of a breeding ground for conspiracy theories and I don't intend to pull the truth of the film's (and largely official) version into question nor debate the ultimate truth of who exactly knew what about whom doing what. But what I do wonder is why Brigitte Mohnhaupt deliberately destroys a possible martyr myth that would support their view of the government. In fact she has previously told only Boock about it and specifically instructed him to keep it to himself. But her ending dialogue has an almost disillusioning quality, especially the final sentence.

Now the film stays decidedly neutral and objective and rather shy of too elaborate character sketches, but it seems quite unusual that she would deliberately contradict a possible legend building this way and I wonder why she would do that. If the film's characters and themes stay shy of an explanation, I'd further ask how accurate this specific scene actually is and if the real Brigitte Mohnhaupt has possibly ever comented on what version about the Stammheim deaths she perpetuated to the rest of the RAF (afterall the film was published not too long after her release from prison).

Or did the writers take complete creative freedom here to insert somewhat of an intentionally demystifying closing statement? Have the filmmakers ultimately attributed a self-reflection to Ms. Mohnhaupt here that might not be completely accurate or how else is that closing dialogue to be interpreted?

1 Answer 1


There is indeed a factual basis for this scene, or at least for Mohnhaupt explicitly telling others about the suicide. I could not find any statement from Mohnhaupt herself, but according to this newspaper article from 1990, the then-recently arrested second generation RAF member Monika Helbing claimed that Mohnhaupt told her the deaths were suicides in an apartment in Baghdad:

Kurz nach dem Tod von Baader, Ensslin und Raspe und der Ermordung Schleyers habe Brigitte Mohnhaupt eingeräumt, so Helbings Aussage, "daß die Gefangenen in Stammheim keinen anderen Weg sahen, als sich selbst umzubringen". Anlaß sei jedoch nicht etwa "Verzweiflung" über die gescheiterte Befreiung gewesen, sondern der Wunsch, "die Politik der RAF weiter voranzutreiben".

My translation:

Shortly after the death of Baader, Ensslin and Raspe and the assasination of Schleyer, Brigitte Mohnhaupt admitted, according to Helbing's testimony, "that the prisoners in Stammheim saw no other way except killing themselves". The trigger was, however, not "despair" over the failed rescue, but the desire "to further advance the politics of the RAF".

As for interpretation, instead of "demystifying" or "self-reflection", it can be seen as Mohnhaupt asserting her own position as the new leader of the RAF: "You never knew them, you don't know what happend, but I do!" - and according to reports she was quite an authoritarian leader.

But also keep in mind that while we hear her say that as the movie audience, it was in fact a private statement. In their public statements, as far as I know, the RAF did cultivate a martyr myth. They certainly never prevented their sympathizers from doing so.

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