Anger over Baader-Meinhof Biopic Victims' Families in Uproar over New German Terrorism Film

"The Baader-Meinhof Complex," a new film chronicling the murderous exploits of the Red Army Faction, a German left-wing terrorist group, is stirring anger among relatives of the group's victims. The head of one family says she will return Germany's top civilian honor in protest.


The recently released German film "Baader Meinhof Complex" has triggered protests from family members of victims who complain the film glamorizes the violence committed against their loved ones.
AFP

The recently released German film "Baader Meinhof Complex" has triggered protests from family members of victims who complain the film glamorizes the violence committed against their loved ones.

Amid accusations its makers are guilty of "hero worship" and glorifying murderous activists with "terrorist-chic," a new German film that recreates the dramatic history of 1970s terrorist gang the Red Army Faction (RAF), is becoming a lightning rod for impassioned protests from spouses and children of those killed by the group. Just over a week after its release, the debate over the "Baader-Meinhof Complex" continues to rage in Germany.

Launched and led by radical history professor Andreas Baader and journalist Ulrike Meinhof, the RAF, or the "Baader-Meinhof Gang" as they are sometimes called, claimed 34 lives in a wave of attacks against businesses, industrialists, bankers and government officials in West Germany that spanned a three-decade period that began in the late 1960s and continued into the '80s.

One of those lives belonged to Jürgen Ponto, the former head of Dresdner Bank. As a protest against the film his widow, 79-year-old Ignes Ponto, says she will return the Federal Cross of Merit, Germany's highest civilian honor, that she received in 1988 for founding a group committed to promoting the teaching of music in the country's schools. The decision by Ponto, a professional musician, to return her award was made public on Tuesday by her daughter, Corinna Ponto.

The film has been roundly criticized for glamorizing the RAF and for exploiting its aura of "terrorist-chic" in order to make a splash at the box-office. Meinhof's own daughter, journalist Bettina Roehl, went so far as to call the film's depiction of her mother's crimes the "worst-case scenario," saying "it would not be possible to top its hero worship."

The film, which is based on a book by former SPIEGEL editor in chief Stefan Aust, has been selected as Germany's official entry for best foreign film in the 2009 Oscar race.

According to Ponto's daughter, who was 19 years old when her father was killed, the family has been forced over the years to accustom itself to painful public discussions of their family's tragedy. She says that the release of the film, however, reaches a "whole new level of public indignity."

In addition to glamorizing terrorism, the Pontos accuse the film of getting the facts wrong and drifting into "fantasy." The film's visual reconstruction of Jürgen Ponto's murder is "entirely false," Corinna Ponto told the German newspaper Die Welt. "Up until now, there had never been any pictures of my father's murder," she said. "That always gave us a measure of comfort and also protection. The film's inaccurate incursion into our private lives feels to me like a special betrayal."

The family also criticized the government for continuing to fail, after all these years, to dedicate any kind of plaque or memorial to the RAF's victims. Corrina Ponto also attacked the government for providing public art subsidies to help finance a film she considers "unhistorical" and "dangerous."

"The Baader-Meinhof Complex" will be released in the United States and Britain in November.

cpg -- with wire reports

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