German Autumn
The German Autumn was a set of events in late 1977, associated with the kidnapping
In criminal law, kidnapping is the taking away or transportation of a person against that person's will, usually to hold the person in false imprisonment, a confinement without legal authority...

 and murder of industrialist Hanns-Martin Schleyer
Hanns Martin Schleyer
Hanns-Martin Schleyer was an SS officer, a German business executive and employer and industry representative, serving as President of the two influential organizations Confederation of German Employers' Associations and Federation of German Industries...

, President of the Confederation of German Employers' Associations
Confederation of German Employers' Associations
The Confederation of German Employers' Associations or BDA is the umbrella organization for German employers' associations...

 (BDA) and the Federation of German Industries (BDI), by the Red Army Faction
Red Army Faction
The radicalized were, like many in the New Left, influenced by:* Sociological developments, pressure within the educational system in and outside Europe and the U.S...

 (RAF), and the hijacking of the Lufthansa airplane "Landshut"
Lufthansa Flight 181
Lufthansa Flight 181 was a Lufthansa Boeing 737-230 Adv aircraft named Landshut that was hijacked on October 13, 1977 by four members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine...

 by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is a Palestinian Marxist-Leninist organisation founded in 1967. It has consistently been the second-largest of the groups forming the Palestine Liberation Organization , the largest being Fatah...

 (PFLP). They demanded the release of ten RAF members detained at the Stammheim Prison
Stammheim Prison
Stammheim Prison is a prison in Stuttgart, Baden Württemberg, Germany. It is situated on the northern boundaries of Stuttgart in the city district of Stuttgart-Stammheim — right between fields and apartment blocks on the fringes of Stammheim...

 plus two Palestinian compatriots held in Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 and US$15 million in exchange for the hostages. The failed kidnapping and murder of the banker Jürgen Ponto
Jürgen Ponto
Jürgen Ponto, was a German banker and chairman of the Dresdner Bank board of directors. Previously, he had worked as a lawyer...

 on July 30, 1977 marked the beginning of the German Autumn. It ended on October 18, with the liberation of the "Landshut", the deaths of the leading figures of the first generation of the RAF in their prison cells, and the death of Schleyer.

The term "German Autumn" is derived from the 1978 film Deutschland im Herbst (Germany in Autumn), which is a German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 film-collage in the form of a short film with news-report format. An omnibus film, it collectively covered the social atmosphere during the time of the RAF, while offering different critical perspectives and arguments pertaining to the situation. The directors involved were Heinrich Böll
Heinrich Böll
Heinrich Theodor Böll was one of Germany's foremost post-World War II writers. Böll was awarded the Georg Büchner Prize in 1967 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1972.- Biography :...

, Hans Peter Cloos, Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Rainer Werner Maria Fassbinder was a German movie director, screenwriter and actor. He is considered one of the most important representatives of the New German Cinema.He maintained a frenetic pace in film-making...

, Alexander Kluge
Alexander Kluge
Alexander Kluge is an author and film director.-Early life, education and early career:Kluge was born in Halberstadt, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany....

, Maxmiliane Mainka, Edgar Reitz
Edgar Reitz
Edgar Reitz is a German filmmaker and Professor of Film at the Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung in Karlsruhe.- Early life and education :...

, Katja Rupé, Volker Schlöndorff
Volker Schlöndorff
Volker Schlöndorff is a Berlin-based German filmmaker who has worked in Germany, France and the United States...

, Peter Schubert and Bernhard Sinkel. Kluge and Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus edited the film.

Jürgen Ponto kidnapping/murder

On July 30, 1977, Jürgen Ponto
Jürgen Ponto
Jürgen Ponto, was a German banker and chairman of the Dresdner Bank board of directors. Previously, he had worked as a lawyer...

, the head of Dresdner Bank
Dresdner Bank
Dresdner Bank AG was one of Germany's largest banking corporations and was based in Frankfurt. It was acquired by competitor Commerzbank in December 2009.- 19th century :...

, was shot and killed in his house in Oberursel
Oberursel is a town in Germany. It is located to the north west of Frankfurt, and is the second largest town in the county of Hochtaunuskreis and the 14th largest town in Hessen.-Extent of municipal area:...

 in a kidnapping that went wrong. Those involved were Brigitte Mohnhaupt
Brigitte Mohnhaupt
Brigitte Margret Ida Mohnhaupt is a German militant associated with the second generation of the Red Army Faction members. She was also part of the Socialist Patients' Collective...

, Christian Klar
Christian Klar
Christian Klar was a leading member of the second generation Red Army Faction between the 1970s and 80s...

 and Susanne Albrecht
Susanne Albrecht
Susanne Albrecht is a former member of the Red Army Faction.-Early life:Albrecht was the daughter of a successful maritime lawyer, and spent her childhood living in a wealthy suburb of Hamburg. She did not fit in well in public school, and was later sent to a private school in Holzminden...

, the last being the sister of Ponto's goddaughter.

Hanns-Martin Schleyer kidnapping

On September 5, 1977, an RAF 'commando unit' attacked the chauffeured car carrying Hanns-Martin Schleyer, then president of the German employers' association, in Cologne
Cologne is Germany's fourth-largest city , and is the largest city both in the Germany Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and within the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Area, one of the major European metropolitan areas with more than ten million inhabitants.Cologne is located on both sides of the...

. His driver, Heinz Marcisz, 41, was forced to brake when a baby carriage suddenly appeared in the street in front of them. The police escort vehicle behind them was unable to stop in time, and crashed into Schleyer's car. About 20 masked RAF members sprayed machine gun and machine pistol bullets into the two vehicles, killing Marcisz and a police officer, Roland Pieler, 20, who was seated in the backseat of Marcisz's car. The driver of the police escort vehicle, Reinhold Brändle, 41 and a third police officer, Helmut Ulmer, 24, who was in the second vehicle were also killed. The hail of bullets riddled over twenty bullet wounds into the bodies of Brändle and Pieler. Schleyer was abducted and held prisoner in a rented apartment in an anonymous residential neighborhood near Cologne. He was forced to appeal to the center-left West German government under Helmut Schmidt
Helmut Schmidt
Helmut Heinrich Waldemar Schmidt is a German Social Democratic politician who served as Chancellor of West Germany from 1974 to 1982. Prior to becoming chancellor, he had served as Minister of Defence and Minister of Finance. He had also served briefly as Minister of Economics and as acting...

 for the 'first generation' of RAF members (then imprisoned) to be exchanged for him. Police investigations to locate Schleyer proved unsuccessful.
On October 18, 1977, three of the imprisoned RAF members were found dead in their cells. In response, Schleyer was taken from Brussels and shot dead en route to Mulhouse, France, where his body was left in the trunk of a green Audi 100 on the rue Charles Péguy. After the kidnappers phoned the location of the Audi to the Deutsche Presse-Agentur office in Stuttgart, Schleyer's body was recovered on October 19.

Landshut hijacking

When it became clear that the government was unwilling to entertain a further prisoner exchange given the experience of the kidnapping of Peter Lorenz
Peter Lorenz
Peter Lorenz was a German politician of the Christian Democratic Union .In 1975 Lorenz was a candidate for mayor of West Berlin. He was kidnapped by the militant Movement 2 June group three days before the elections on 27 February...

 two years earlier, the RAF tried to exert additional pressure by hijacking the Lufthansa aeroplane Landshut
Lufthansa Flight 181
Lufthansa Flight 181 was a Lufthansa Boeing 737-230 Adv aircraft named Landshut that was hijacked on October 13, 1977 by four members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine...

 on October 13 with the help of the allied Palestinian group PFLP. After a long odyssey through the Arabian Peninsula
Arabian Peninsula
The Arabian Peninsula is a land mass situated north-east of Africa. Also known as Arabia or the Arabian subcontinent, it is the world's largest peninsula and covers 3,237,500 km2...

 and the execution-type killing of Captain Jürgen Schumann, the hijackers and their hostages landed in Mogadishu
Mogadishu , popularly known as Xamar, is the largest city in Somalia and the nation's capital. Located in the coastal Benadir region on the Indian Ocean, the city has served as an important port for centuries....

, the capital of Somalia
Somalia , officially the Somali Republic and formerly known as the Somali Democratic Republic under Socialist rule, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. Since the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in 1991 there has been no central government control over most of the country's territory...


After political negotiations with the Somali leader Siad Barre
Siad Barre
Mohamed Siad Barre was the military dictator and President of the Somali Democratic Republic from 1969 to 1991. During his rule, he styled himself as Jaalle Siyaad ....

, the West German government was granted permission to assault the plane Lufthansa 181. This was carried out on October 18 by the special task force GSG 9
The GSG 9 der Bundespolizei , is the elite counter-terrorism and special operations unit of the German Federal Police.-History and name:...

, which had been formed after the 1972 Munich Olympics hostage crisis
Munich massacre
The Munich massacre is an informal name for events that occurred during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Bavaria in southern West Germany, when members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage and eventually killed by the Palestinian group Black September. Members of Black September...

. Only one GSG 9 member and one flight-attendant were injured; of the hijackers only Souhaila Andrawes
Souhaila Andrawes
Souhaila Sami Andrawes Sayeh, , is a Palestinian former terrorist and member of the PFLP. In 1977 she participated in the hijacking of Lufthansa Flight 181...


On the same night, three of the imprisoned RAF members – Gudrun Ensslin
Gudrun Ensslin
Gudrun Ensslin was a founder of the German militant group Red Army Faction . After becoming involved with co-founder Andreas Baader, Ensslin was influential in the politicization of Baader's voluntaristic anarchistic beliefs. Ensslin was perhaps the intellectual head of the RAF...

, Jan-Carl Raspe
Jan-Carl Raspe
Jan-Carl Raspe was a member of the German militant group, the Red Army Faction.- Young life :Raspe was born in Seefeld in Tirol. He was described as gentle but had difficulty communicating with other people. His father had said that he couldn't stand violence...

 and Andreas Baader
Andreas Baader
Andreas Bernd Baader was one of the first leaders of the German left-wing militant organization Red Army Faction, also commonly known as the Baader-Meinhof Gang.- Life :...

 – were found dead in their cells.
The official investigation into the deaths of the imprisoned RAF members concluded that they had committed suicide: Baader and Raspe using handguns smuggled into the Stammheim maximum security prison by their lawyer Arndt Müller, Ensslin by hanging herself. Irmgard Möller
Irmgard Möller
Irmgard Möller is a German militant and a former member of the Red Army Faction...

, who was imprisoned with them, survived with four knife wounds in her chest. She later claimed that the suicides were actually extrajudicial killings. On November 12, Ingrid Schubert was found hanged in her cell.
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