Germany: Democracy in Trouble

Germany: Democracy in Trouble

Coping with Terrorism

The recapture of the hijacked plane at Mogadishu, the death of three leading terrorists in Stammheim prison, and the murder of kidnapped industrialist Schleyer may, for a while, have put an end to the wave of terrorism in West Germany. But the larger questions remain: how could it develop in a country where dissent can be rather freely expressed, and what might be its effects on the society? To explore these questions, even to properly pose them, requires a look at some of the facts.

After a two-year lull, which had followed six years of intermittent terrorist activity, the recent months have seen a succession of spectacular actions:

• in April, the assassination of the Baader-Meinhof trial’s Chief Federal Prosecutor Buback and two of his assistants;

• in July, the killing of prominent banker Jurgen Ponto in the course of a failed kidnap attempt that was guided by a girlfriend of his daughter (armed with a bouquet of red roses—a scenario straight out of Jean-Luc Godard);

• in September, the kidnapping of industrialist Schleyer, head of the German equivalent of the NAM, during which his chauffeur and three bodyguards were gunned down while stopping the car for a baby carriage that had been put across a residential street (another touch of Godard).