November 30, 1989: Red Army Faction assassination of German banker

The Red Army Fraction (aka the Baader-Meinhof gang) assassinated a German banker in November 1989

The Red Army Faction (aka the Baader-Meinhof gang) assassinated a German banker in November 1989.

BAD HOMBURG VON DER HOHE, GERMANY – You know you are important when you have a terrorist group named after you!

Fame is fickle as we all know. Even if Andy Warhol was right and we all get our proverbial 15 minutes of limelight, it happens all too frequently that fame ebbs quickly, never to return.

Interestingly, there are cases where one’s name is applied to a whole country! There is perhaps no better example than that of Saudi Arabia, derived from the Al Sa’ud family. How’s that for advertising?

In the world of terrorism there are few instances where this transpires. I recall the Abu Nidal Organisation (ANO) that was active in the 1980s and 1990s predominantly, carrying the name of the leader. Other than that, most groups use other images and historical references.

On at least one occasion in the recent past, a group known primarily by one name was given a second one by the media. I am referring to the Rote Armee Fraktion (German for Red Army Faction), a leftist terrorist organisation that was behind a number of attacks in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. One of those actions occurred on this day in 1989.

The Chairman of Deutsche Bank, Alfred Herrhausen, was being driven to work when his car passed what looked like a construction crew. The men in hard hats were, however, actually a team of terrorists. Beside the road, a parked bicycle held a sack of armor-piercing explosives. The detonator was connected by the electric wire under the road to a trigger activated by an interruption in an infrared beam shining across the road. Herrhausen’s car triggered the detonator and an explosion occurred: he died at the scene.

I still hear that bomb every day.

Herrhausen’s widow

In June 1990, German police arrested 10 RAF members who had fled to East Germany to avoid arrest for other crimes. To the police’s surprise, they were willing to talk. Equally confounding to authorities was that all had solid alibis. None was charged in the Herrhausen attack. Two decades later the emphasis shifted to the role the former East German security service, the Stasi, played in the attack.

Oh, back to that name. The RAF is maybe more often known as the Baader-Meinhof Gang, after two of the main characters: Ulrike Meinhof and Andreas Baader. How’ s that for fame?

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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