Of course you can shoot them

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Presentation of an unpublished article by the German revolutionary Ulrike Meinhof

The article that now appears under the title “It is clear that you can shoot them” was published by the German magazine Der Spiegel in issue 25, of June 15, 1970, pages 74 and 75[I]. As stated at the head of the report (written in italics), the text consists of the transcription of passages from an interview recorded on a tape recorder with journalist Ulrike Marie Meinhof (1934–1976), who, by taking part in the rescue of political prisoner Andreas Baader (1943-1977), had just gone underground. For this very reason, traces of orality are perceived, at the same time that the activist's discourse is captured only indirectly. This factor also marks the choice of title, which is certainly consistent with the desire of the newsroom to highlight only one constant aspect of the words of the message sender. Despite the indirect nature of the record, it can be said that the interview is part of a corpus of seminal texts, which expressed the intentions and opinions of the Rote Armee Fraktion[ii] of the Red Army), the name chosen by the group of which Ulrike Meinhof became the main leader, already in the course of its history under clandestinity. Together with this text, integrating the same corpus, could be “Die Rote Armee aufbauen” [Build the Red Army], published by the West Berlin militant newspaper, Shake 883, on May 22, 1970; with identical title, the letter sent to the editors of Shake 883, “Die Rote Armee aufbauen”, published in issue 62, 5 June 1970 and signed by Gudrun Ensslin (1940-1977); as well as the flyers Stadtguerilla & Klassenkampf [Urban Guerrilla and Class Struggle] (with sixty pages), Das Konzept Stadtguerilla [The Conception of the Urban Guerrilla], dated April 1971, Uber within Kampf in Westeuropa [On Armed Struggle in Western Europe] (May 1971), among others[iii]. All of them still await a translation into Portuguese.

But it should be noted that the interview was later criticized by Ulrike Meinhof. In the work published clandestinely ten months later, Das Konzept Stadtguerilla, whose text is signed by the RAF, but most likely written by Meinhof – like almost all texts from the political grouping –, the (co)author would address the interview translated here:

The tape that Michele Ray had, from which some extracts appeared in the Spiegel, was by no means authentic; and it came from a context of private discussions. Ray wanted to use the recording to support his memory for an article of his own. She deceived us, or else we underestimated her. if our practice had it been so hasty, as in some formulations that appear there, they would have already caught us. A Spiegel paid Ray a $XNUMX fee for the interview[iv].

The curious fact is that, according to the Spiegel which precedes the translated text, the interviewer was invited by the members of the RAF to participate in their discussions. Michèle Ray (1939) was already known to Ulrike Meinhof through connections established during the latter's work at the Hamburg-based left-wing magazine, concrete[v]. The French journalist was also well known in the public sphere. After her career as a professional model, having worked for major French brands, she gained fame as part of a group of models that did a curious campaign for the Renault car brand, performing journeys from rally off the American continent. Later, when carrying out an advertising campaign for the same car, Michèle Ray would begin a career as a war journalist, having corresponded in Vietnam, which must have earned her points in the opinion of the left. Already working in this political-journalistic niche, Michèle Ray would be a correspondent in Bolivia, sent to cover the case of the murder of Ernesto Che Guevera (1928-1967), which occurred on October 9, 1967. The work yielded an important report in the militant magazine of the United States of America, linked to the Christian left, ramparts[vi]. Along with the report, the magazine presented a convincing summary from the journalist:

Michèle Ray, former Chanel model and amateur racing car racer (as a poster girl for Renault, she and three other girls once drove the Land of Fire [esp. in orig.] to Alaska) traveled to Vietnam in 1966 as a reporter for the Le Nouvel Observateur and other French publications. She had been there for seven months when she was captured by the Vietcong and detained for 21 days. After her release, she wrote several articles, probably the most significant effort today in interpreting the Vietcong and their revolution for Europeans. While in Vietnam, she gained such respect from American soldiers for her willingness to enter combat zones that an American offensive operation was named by her – Operation Michèle.

A month after Che Guevara's death, she went to Bolivia as a correspondent for the Paris Match and spent seven weeks investigating the circumstances surrounding the guerrilla leader's death.

Michele Ray's book, The Two Shores of Hell [The Two Shores of Hell], will be published in May of this year[vii].

The work, which addresses the Vietnamese experience of the French, appeared in 1967, by Robert Laffont, collection Enquêtes Actualités; the following year, the English translation would be published in London by John Murray Publishers and in New York (probably the future edition mentioned by ramparts) by editor David McKay. The journalist would also be an important character in editorial history, as she entered the intricate dispute related to the attempt to sell, by the Bolivian army, the campaign diaries of the Argentine-Cuban militant, a victim of this very army.[viii]. Everything indicates that Ray participated in the episode under the motto of not allowing the revolutionary's diaries to be sold to large American publishing companies. That is, a “militant” action.

It is with this media baggage, and in the sixth month of pregnancy[ix], that Michèle Ray received a call from individuals claiming to be members of the RAF. Despite the journalist's reticence, imagining at first that it could be an ambush, she ended up accepting the militants' invitation and flew from Paris to West Berlin. In the “island city”, Ray would have met Horst Mahler (1936), Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof, moment in which the interview that we now translate was produced.

Finally, it should be noted that the ellipses between square brackets that appear in this translation are from the original, although in this one, only the ellipses were spelled; by convention, they come here in square brackets. The ellipsis marks, probably, the omission of passages from the recording, chosen by the magazine. For the rest, it was decided to dispense with explanatory notes, which would lead to the imperative of a whole more in-depth study. In this way, this document is presented in its rawness so that scholars may access it and analyze it in their research. In its original version, in German, the article can be accessed on the database of the journal's website Der Spiegel.

*Felipe Castilho de Lacerda is a doctoral candidate in Economic History at USP.


[I]    The book can be found here: https://mariaantoniagmarx.blogspot.com/

[ii] the german word fraction can mean faction, a term normally used to translate the name of the RAF into Portuguese. But, in everyday life, the German term is more commonly found in the designation of the caucus of a party or a coalition of parties in parliament. In this way, the terms “bancada” or “coalição” would also be suitable for the translation of fraction. The word “facção” seems less appropriate, since, in Portuguese, it usually designates a criminal association, so that the term ends up colluding with the criminalization of an organization that has an eminent political character.

[iii] All texts mentioned are available online at: https://socialhistoryportal.org/raf, with the exception of Uber within Kampf in Westeuropa, the text of which is available at: http://www.rafinfo.de/archiv/raf/bewaffnetenkampf.php.

[iv] Rote Armee Fraktion, Das Konzept Stadtguerilla, sl, sn, April 1971, p. 4. Distributed in 1o May 1971. Own translation. Available at: https://socialhistoryportal.org/raf/5314.

[v] Jutta Ditfurth, Ulrike Meinhof. Die Biography, 4th ed., Berlin, Ullstein, 2015 [1. ed. 2009], p. 287.

[vi] About the magazine ramparts, see: Peter Richardson, A Bomb in Every Issue: How the Short, Unruly Life of ramparts Magazine Changed America, New York [New York]; London [London], The New Press, 2009.

[vii] Michele Ray, “Special Report. In Cold Blood”, Ramparts Magazine, sea. 1968, p. 23. Available at: https://www.unz.com/print/Ramparts-1968mar-00021/.

[viii] On the case of Che Guevara's campaign diaries in Bolivia, including the participation of Michèle Ray, see: Hernán Uribe, El Diario del Che Calls Cuba (1968-2008), 5th ed., La Habana [Havana], 2008.

[ix] “Affären. Baader/Meinhof. Bis irgendwohin”, Der Spiegel, no. 25, 1970, p. 71.

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