The first chapter of my Reminiscing Series…
The summer between 6th and 7th grade (1972) a terrorist group called The Red Army Faction (Rote Armee Fraktion or RAF) went on a terrorist bombing spree across West Germany. The press dubbed them The Baader-Meinhof Gang after two of its main “members”, lovers Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof. I can’t really say what their main gripe was, because, well, they were crazy terrorist urban guerrillas, and to try to understand them would be a waste of time. Let’s simplify it by saying they hated the post-Nazi German government, the U.S. involvement in the Viet Nam war, and capitalism. What’s mainly remarkable about this group is that they lasted from the mid-60’s to the mid-80’s, with much drama, and not insignificant support at times.
I don’t want to give them any more attention than that. I do want to tell you about my impression of that summer. One of the bombings took place at Campbell Barracks in Heidelberg, where 2 U.S. service members were killed. We would move to Heidelberg a few years later, but that summer we lived at Warner Barracks in Bamberg, Germany, where my father commanded the 3/35 Armor Battalion. It was a turbulent time anyway, with soldiers being drafted and trained for the war in Viet Nam, race riots, and rampant drug use, all in our little community. Nancy White picked a real fistfight with me on my first day as the new girl in 6th grade…my first and last physical fight with someone who was not a family member. It was, at times, a rough place to be an adolescent.
But that summer, after the bombing in Heidelberg I believe, the alarm when out to all the military installations that this gang was now attacking U.S. Military installations. Overnight we had armed guards parading up and down the sidewalk of the houses on “Snob Hill” (named because the highest ranking officers lived there), 24 hours a day. As a pre-teen with 3 older sisters, we were mainly concerned with how cute the soldiers might be, and each shift change had us coyly looking out the window or “just happening” to need to cross the street to tell our friends something super important. I can’t recall being scared. It was mainly just exciting, which I am sure is due to my mellow mother, who always maintained her sanity in the midst of any crisis. I seem to recall that the General’s kids had to be driven to school, but that would mean school either got out in June, or I’m not remembering it very well. Or they had to go to summer school. Hee Hee. Too bad for them.
All of the mothers on the block set up a schedule to provide refreshments to the dreamy soldiers. In our house we baked quite a bit anyway, and had a great time when our turn came around. We made sandwiches, cookies, cakes, brownies and lemonade and put it all out on a card table on our carport. It was quite the social occasion as I recall, when neighbors dropped by to see what we had to offer. And “Oh my, that looks good. Let me just have a taste.” Or that could have just been my chubby 11 year old self. I just remember eating really well.
I don’t recall how long the guards lasted or why they finally stopped. It could have been a couple of days or even a month, but eventually they stopped guarding us, some of the gang was captured, life went back to normal, and Nancy White and I were civil to each other in 7th grade.
As a footnote, you may experience the Baader-Meinhof Syndrome, also known as the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, or Plate Of Shrimp after reading this blog. Tell me if you do, and is it a coincidence or a conspiracy?
Footnote # 2: If I end up in a CIA interrogation room for writing this, we will know Edward Snowden was on to something.
Meg, it’s so funny you wrote about that gang. Last weekend Dad and I went to Williamsburg for Gen. Adams’ birthday party. We stayed at the Williams’ timeshare, and before the party, Howard, Miriam, Dad and I spent the afternoon reminiscing about Bamberg, We talked about feeding the guards and tried to remember names of all the neighbors.
I would say that’s your Baader-Meinhoff Syndrome at work! 🙂 I would love to hear your memories1
I worked the Bamberg riots in 1972 – I was a MPI agent assigned to the North Bavaria District in Nuremberg and we deployed 20 investigators to Bamberg and over 300 MP’s from Nuremberg and Stuggart. I worked on/off Warner Barracks with uniformed German Police and their K-9 units and with the Kripo (German Detectives) – Those were some difficult times. In addition to all the work we were doing going after Bader-Meinhof, RAF and other terrorists, we had to devote valuable time and resources to the racial tensions popping up everywhere throughout Germany. Take Care & Thanks for the Memories.
Lawrence, thanks for commenting. I remember the race riots very well. We heard the yelling all night long from our house on the hill. I can’t even imagine your experiences with all the terrorist activity. We have also been reminiscing all weekend about Bamberg because we just got word that it closed on Friday. Unbelievable how a place where I spent 1.5 years of my life can leave such an impression.