|Ulrike Meinhof's Suicide|
Ulrike Meinhof commits suicide:
During the night of Saturday, May 8th 1976, the anniversary of the war, Ulrike Meinhof hung herself in her prison cell. She was found the next morning. The post-mortem examination was carried out that afternoon by Professor Rauschke and Professor Mallach at the Stuttgart Citizens’ Hospital. The brain and parts of organs were removed from the body for detailed examination of the tissue at a later stage. The definite conclusion reached that day was suicide by strangulation with no extraneous factors. Another autopsy requested by her sister led to the same conclusion.
The press sparked an intense debate: Was it murder or suicide? Did the German government or justice system kill Ulrike Meinhof? Certainly, the isolation of the prisoners led to this outcome.
In hindsight, it almost seems as if the death of Ulrike Meinhof was used by the extra-parliamentary left to further politicize the German population as well as increase the influence of their ideology and doctrines. According to the RAF theory, Meinhof did not commit suicide but was murdered. Even if she hanged herself, the RAF argued it was the entirety of the hated German state – the judicial system, the police “Bullenschweine,” and the capitalist ruling class – that murdered Ulrike Meinhof. She was the victim of a political show trial that deprived her of other alternatives so that she had to kill herself by default in order to be heard. Months before her death, she had noted on the margin of a paper on strategy “Suicide is the last act of rebellion”(Aust 1985, 1998).
Among others, Otto Schilly, who later became the Federal Minister of the Interior, called for an ‘International Investigatory Commission’ that subjected the official results to another critical evaluation. The commission looked into the findings of the chemical examinations carried out by the Stuttgart Police which at first suggested rape, but plausibly explained that the protein traces could not result from spermatic filaments. Moreover, the length and texture of the toweling rope used by Ulrike Meinhof to hang herself was cause for doubt according to the Commission. In addition, the absence of a farewell note stroke the commission as highly untypical.
Among the extra-parliamentary left, everybody was suspicious: from SPD Chancellor Helmut Schmidt to the wardens. They all were partly to blame for the death because they were moral accomplices and belonged to the corrupt system. Rumors of special agents of the secret service that intruded the cell and murdered her disguising their act as a suicide made the rounds. Many such theories circulated and provoked a heated political debate.
Why did Ulrike Meinhof commit suicide?
The next Sunday would have been mother’s day. Was it Meinhof’s
guilty consciousness that plagued her? At this point, she had broken
off all contact to her daughters whose letters she returned unopened.
As a result of her suicide, the proceedings against her were at end, however, the trial continued against the defendants Baader, Ensslin, and Raspe.
On May 16th 1976, Ulrike Meinhof was buried on the cemetery of the
protestant Holy Trinity church in Mariendorf, West Berlin. Over 4000
supporters followed her coffin, but her daughters had to stay home
for security reasons. On the graveside, people remembered Meinhof’s
commitment to the anti-atomic bomb campaign, the Vietnam War, her journalistic
work that she ultimately regarded as ineffective, and her fate-determining
decision to go underground to fight the system. The Berliner publisher,
Klaus Wagenbach, attributed her going underground partly due to the
external conditions which labeled people as extremists who questioned
the status quo.
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