The Brown Army Faction A Disturbing New Dimension of Far-Right Terror


Part 4: A New Kind of Terrorism

A possible connection between the victim and the presumed murderers is that they were all from Thuringia. Kiesewetter was from Oberweissbach in the Thuringian Forest, while Böhnhardt and Mundlos were from Jena. Kiesewetter had never worked in Thuringia. She was about 10 years younger than her presumed killers, and it seems highly unlikely that there was a personal connection.

The killers, for their part, had no reason to shoot two police officers in broad daylight. It was too risky. They already had guns, so the dangerous and horrific attack on the officers would not have been necessary simply to steal their service weapons. Then what was the reason?

Despite the DVDs found at the house in Zwickau, which show an image of the Pink Panther holding a gun to a police officer's head and pressing the trigger, the investigators are still left with many loose ends, partly because the group doesn't fit into any pattern.

Until now, only two forms of political terrorism have existed, whether it was committed by people on the left or the right or by Islamists. One involved the "propaganda of the deed," as the 19th-century French anarchist Paul Brousse dubbed his concept, which was later perfected by Russian and Italian anarchists. According to Brousse, deeds were meant to speak for themselves and be self-explanatory for the masses. Words merely deprived deeds of their power.

The second approach merely requires the deed as a template for the declarations, manifestos and claims of responsibility that follow. For each of its attacks, Germany's Red Army Faction wrote a long letter in which it explained why a particular high-ranking political or business figure supposedly deserved to die. Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden regularly explained himself in video messages and called for attacks on the West.

Survival Guarantee

For Böhnhardt, Mundlos and probably Zschäpe, their alleged actions, which lasted over a decade, followed neither approach. They certainly must have been pleased to read all the speculation over who could be responsible for the doner murders, the police killing in Heilbronn and the many bank robberies. But none of them ever left any indication that there could be a political motivation for their crimes, and right-wing extremists were also kept out of the loop. As a result, there could be no copycats, no public supporters, as in the case of the RAF, and no way of gauging the public reaction to the attacks. The trio had to be content with the knowledge of what they had done.

From a crime-fighting perspective, it was a recipe that ensured survival for 13 years. Silence was a sort of survival guarantee, even if it came at the cost of no one understanding the racist motivations for their alleged deeds. Only in the last few months did the neo-Nazis apparently feel strong enough to take the next step and reveal the reasons behind their deeds. Perhaps the trio had indeed gathered a group of supporters and was planning to launch a new deadly offensive.

But what kept them going over the years? Was it pure hatred, aimed at foreigners and the government alike? Fascist fantasies of omnipotence? The items that investigators are gradually recovering from the debris in Zwickau provide at least a few clues. Why, for example, did Mundlos, Böhnhardt and Zschäpe want to keep Kiesewetter's pepper spray, weapon and handcuffs? For neo-Nazis with a 9mm Luger automatic pistol in their closet, four-year-old pepper spray couldn't have been very useful.

Mundlos and Böhnhardt could also have put Kiesewetter's weapon in a plastic bag and dropped it into a lake, and no one would have been able to solve the murder. They could have done the same thing with the Ceska that was used for the doner killings. These items only acquire significance as trophies.

The DVDs also fit into this pattern. It seems as if, in the end, Böhnhardt and Mundlos did want to leave behind a document detailing their exploits.

Funeral Pyre

The two men must have known that there was no way out. Their suicide was apparently planned in advance, as were the explosion in the apartment and the fire in the camper, which became a funeral pyre for the two suspected right-wing terrorists.

The only person who could provide information about what happened is the last surviving member of the group, Beate Zschäpe. But she isn't talking.


Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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Eleos 11/15/2011
1. Neither left nor right is morally superior
In any society there are small minorities of “extremists” at both edges of the spectrum that represents political opinion. In a truly free and democratic society they are allowed to have their say. Because of the constitution and laws forced on Germany by the allies when the republic was formed, and because of the sense of guilt which has been nurtured and monitored by these same “allies” Germany is not a country where the full range of political expression is given rein. Just as in the Nazi period left wing views were suppressed and prosecuted, now right wing views are. This leaves a very small number of people feeling that they have no other course than to resort to violence. A people truly at ease would attribute no moral superiority to either left or right.
deekoo 11/24/2011
I don't think their violence can be attributed to German restrictions on free speech - there have been numerous murderous far-right organizations operating here in the US, including Minutemen American Defense, The Order, and the Ku Klux Klan, for example. Also, it's not fair to compare modern German restrictions with those of the Nazi era. The Nazis imprisoned a much wider spectrum of their political opponents, and were far more brutal to them even before the extermination program began.
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