The left-wing Red Army Faction (Rote Armee Fraktion--RAF) became internationally known through its bloody exploits in West Germany and through its contacts with terrorist groups in other countries. The RAF was an outgrowth of the Baader-Meinhof Gang, which held up banks, bombed police stations, and attacked United States army bases in the 1970s. By 1975 some ninety members of the gang were in custody. In the middle of her trial in 1976, Ulrike Meinhof, one of the RAF ringleaders, committed suicide in prison. Another member, Andreas Baader, was sentenced to life imprisonment, but in 1977 he too took his own life in prison.
By the early 1980s, the original leaders of the RAF had been succeeded by a new and equally violent group that was Marxist-Leninist in orientation and saw itself as part of an international movement to topple the power structures of the capitalist world. A core group of twenty to thirty terrorists carried out the most deadly operations of the RAF. Periodic attacks were mounted against United States and NATO military leaders and bases and against prominent German officials and businesspeople. Demonstrations were held throughout the country to support a hunger strike by RAF prisoners and to protest the introduction of intermediate-range ballistic missiles. RAF violence had declined somewhat by 1990, although the RAF and other left-wing radical groups like the Revolutionary Cells carried out attacks against United States government and business targets. In November 1989, the chief executive of the Deutsche Bank, Alfred Herrhausen, was assassinated. In April 1991, Detlev Rohwedder, the director of the Treuhandanstalt (Trust Agency), the mammoth agency charged with privatizing East German state enterprises, was murdered by terrorists with connections to the Stasi. In August 1992, the RAF published a lengthy statement admitting past errors and announcing a decision to suspend the strategy of violence in carrying on its struggle.