History of Europe

1982:RAF terrorist Klar falls into the trap

Last updated:2022-07-25
by Janine Kühl, NDR.deChristian Klar is considered one of the heads of the second generation of the RAF. He was convicted of nine counts of murder in 1985.

November 16, 1982. Around noon, a man in a blue jogging suit locks up his green bicycle near the Friedrichsruh S-Bahn station. Everything indicates that the person wants to go jogging in the Sachsenwald east of Hamburg. But instead, the man goes off the beaten path deep into the undergrowth of a fir forest. There, on the edge of a hidden hole in the ground, the trap snaps shut. Police units from Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg overwhelm Christian Klar, the nationally and internationally wanted terrorist of the Red Army Faction (RAF).

Christian Klar:Third RAF arrest within a few days

Just a few days earlier, on November 11, 1982, the police had arrested two other RAF members, Brigitte Mohnhaupt and Adelheid Schulz. The two women are caught by the Federal Criminal Police Office at a central terrorist depot near Frankfurt. On the women, the police found a coding key for a site plan that the officers had discovered in the Frankfurt city forest at the end of October 1982. The earth depot "Daphne" in the Sachsenwald is also listed on this. Around 90 false passports, numerous weapons and more than 10,000 DM are stored in the hiding place.

New infrared technology in use

The police track down Christian Klar with the help of a detector. He allows himself to be arrested without resistance.

In the extensive forest area near Hamburg, the police are proceeding with extreme caution and are also using new technology. Thanks to an infrared detector that reacts to body heat, the special forces officers can wait for the wanted person at a distance from the depot for days until the detector finally goes off at around 1:15 p.m. on November 16. After calling "hands up", Klar immediately throws himself to the ground and allows himself to be arrested without resistance. He carries a Danish passport that identifies him as Martin Barbarossa Wymand. But the fingerprints prove:It is actually Christian Klar. The then 30-year-old, together with Mohnhaupt and his girlfriend Schulz, is regarded as the head of the so-called second generation of the RAF and is strongly suspected of having been involved in the murders and attacks in the German autumn of 1977.

At Klar, the police find a loaded and unlocked pistol. First there are rumors that a second person was staying nearby. However, after an unsuccessful search in the cordoned-off area in the Sachsenwald, the police say that the arrested person was alone.

Clearly in the trap:carelessness or intention?

Why Klar accepts the high risk of going to the depot remains unclear. Federal Prosecutor General Kurt Rebmann said at the time:"As a former terrorist with a 'polished' criminal record, Christian Klar made amazing mistakes. After the code location map of the RAF depots had been exposed, under normal circumstances he should never have visited the hiding place in Hamburg." Many investigators suspect that Klar's will to persevere is broken. Or that he urgently needed money, passports and weapons and saw no other option. The Federal Prosecutor's Office and the BKA consider the RAF to be weakened due to the arrests of Klar, Mohnhaupt and Schulz.

Christian Klar is convicted of nine counts of murder

Christian Klar was summoned as a witness in another RAF trial in Stuttgart-Stammheim in 1983.

After his arrest, Klar was held in custody in Hamburg before he was transferred to the Bruchsal prison. In April 1985, the Higher Regional Court of Stuttgart sentenced Klar to five life sentences and 15 years in prison for nine counts of joint murder and eleven counts of attempted murder. The court accuses the accused of involvement in all acts of the RAF since 1977. In another trial in 1992, Klar was again sentenced to life imprisonment. In 1997 the Higher Regional Court decided that Klar had to remain in prison for at least 26 years.

From draft evaders to RAF terrorists

Klar was first targeted by the police in 1974 when he and Schulz took part in occupying the Hamburg offices of Amnesty International. The aim of the action is to draw attention to the prison conditions of the RAF terrorists. In 1976 Klar joined the RAF. The son from a middle-class family refused to do military service after graduating from high school on the grounds that he never wanted to point a gun at another person. Born in Freiburg, he first studied political science and philosophy before joining the RAF in 1976 and becoming one of the most wanted terrorists in Germany.

Debate on plea for clemency and release

In 2007, Federal President Horst Köhler rejected Christian Klar's plea for clemency.

Klar twice addressed a plea for clemency to a Federal President:in 2003 to Johannes Rau and in 2007 to Horst Köhler, who even met the prisoner for a personal hearing. Both presidents reject a pardon. When it became known that the RAF terrorist was to be released from prison in early 2009 after 26 years, a public debate about this step flared up. Critics accuse Klar, who remained a member of the RAF until it was dissolved in 1998, of a lack of remorse and a lack of awareness of what was wrong. "I let the other side have their feelings and I respect their feelings, but I don't own them," Klar explained in a 2001 television interview.

Christian Klar was released from Bruchsal prison on December 19, 2008. In protest against this, Jürgen Vietor, co-pilot during the hijacking of the "Landshut" by RAF sympathizers to Mogadishu in 1977, returns his Federal Cross of Merit.