5-2 | Table of Con­tents | http://​dx​.doi​.org/10.17742/IMAGE.TGVC.5-2.2 | Seil­er PDF


Andres Veiel’s 2001 doc­u­men­tary film, Black Box BRD, links the biog­ra­phy of Alfred Her­rhausen, RAF vic­tim, with one of the 3rd gen­er­a­tion RAF ter­ror­ists, Wolf­gang Grams. In my paper, I trace how the film’s aes­thet­ics intro­duce an image mon­tage of two life sce­nar­ios by estab­lish­ing both par­al­lels and con­trast, and there­fore, fol­low­ing Susan Hay­wards def­i­n­i­tion “cre­ates a third mean­ing” (112). I exam­ine how the film estab­lish­es an aes­thet­ic con­cept of Aussteigen (get­ting out)—along of the alive, vis­i­ble bodies—the con­tem­po­rary inter­vie­wees, and dead, invis­i­ble bodies—of Her­rhausen and Grams.

Le doc­u­men­taire Black Box BRD d'Andreas Veiel explore la biogra­phie d'Alfred Her­rhausen, vic­time de la Frac­tion armée rouge (RAF), en lien avec le por­trait de Wolf­gang Grams, l'un des ter­ror­istes du groupe de la troisième généra­tion. Dans mon exposé, je mon­tre les procédés esthé­tiques du film qui établit des par­al­lèles et con­trastes entre deux scé­nar­ios de vie par un sys­tème de mon­tage d'images, et donc, comme le sug­gère Susan Hay­wards, "crée un troisième sens» (Hay­ward 112). J'examine com­ment le film met en place une esthé­tique de l'Aussteigen ("se retir­er") - le long des corps vivants et visibles—ceux des inter­viewés con­tem­po­rains, et des corps morts et invisibles—ceux de Her­rhausen et Grams.

Anja Katha­ri­na Seil­er | The Uni­ver­si­ty of Ten­nessee, Knoxville

Aussteigen (getting out) Impossible—Montage and Life Scenarios in Andres Veiel’s Film Black Box BRD

Introduction[1]—What is in the ‘black box’?

The RAF (Red Army Fac­tion) pro­claimed its self-dis­so­lu­tion in March 1998. The almost twen­ty-eight year rev­o­lu­tion took its toll—twenty-six dead peo­ple in the ranks of the RAF and 34 mur­der vic­tims, numer­ous vio­lent abduc­tions, bank rob­beries, and bomb attacks. At the turn of the mil­len­ni­um, “a chap­ter” in the Bun­desre­pub­lik Deutsch­land (BRD), the for­mer Fed­er­al Repub­lic of Ger­many (FRG), “closed,” and at the same time an oppor­tu­ni­ty pre­sent­ed itself for soci­ety “to come to terms with the caus­es,” after­math and the effects of left-wing ter­ror­ism (Volk 9).[2] In terms of the “col­lec­tive mem­o­ry”[3] of the RAF, what is fore­most present in people’s minds are the icon­ic images of the first-gen­er­a­tion RAF, includ­ing Andreas Baad­er and Ulrike Mein­hof, their arrests, the mug shots, their impris­on­ment in iso­la­tion in Stuttgart-Stammheim, which then led to the actions of the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion. Most­ly known is the Com­man­do “Big Raus­hole” (Big Break Out)—the code word that the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion RAF used for the planned lib­er­a­tion of Andreas Baad­er, Gudrun Ensslin, and oth­er first-gen­er­a­tion RAF mem­bers who were impris­oned in Stammheim (Pass­more 109).

In his 2001 doc­u­men­tary film Black Box BRD[4], Andres Veiel shifts focus to the more cere­bral third-gen­er­a­tion that was active between the ear­ly 1980s until the liq­ui­da­tion of the group in 1998.[5] Unlike in the 1970s, the RAF was by then quite iso­lat­ed from the rad­i­cal left wing in the BRD and with­out an exten­sive net of sym­pa­thiz­ers (Veiel, “Black Box BRD” 270). The third-gen­er­a­tion instead per­pe­trat­ed spe­cif­ic sys­tem­at­ic assaults (Volk 22), such as the bomb attack on the Rhein-Main Air Base on August 9, 1985, the mur­der of the Deutsche Bank CEO Alfred Her­rhausen on Novem­ber 30, 1989, and the exe­cu­tion of the pres­i­dent of the Treuhandge­sellschaft (trust com­pa­ny), Detlev Carsten Rohwed­der on April 1, 1991 (25).[6] The third-gen­er­a­tion RAF sup­pos­ed­ly car­ried out ten mur­ders between 1985 and 1993. Wolf­gang Grams and Bir­git Hogefeld reput­ed­ly act­ed as com­man­dos of these oper­a­tions (Veiel, “Black Box BRD” 211). Left-wing ter­ror was not yet at an end, but the third-gen­er­a­tion itself and then society’s cop­ing with the ter­ror caused by the third-gen­er­a­tion took a dif­fer­ent path. Herrhausen’s assas­si­na­tion, in par­tic­u­lar, “soon dis­ap­peared from the head­lines.” The “reuni­fi­ca­tion” of the BRD and the Deutsche Demokratis­che Repub­lik (the Ger­man Demo­c­ra­t­ic Repub­lic, or GDR) was right around the cor­ner. “The mur­der and its after­math” got lost in the excite­ment about “the tremen­dous polit­i­cal changes at that time” (Veiel, “Black Box BRD” 267).

The film, as point­ed out in the research, approach­es the top­ic of the third-gen­er­a­tion RAF by devel­op­ing par­al­lel por­traits of RAF vic­tim and Deutsche Bank CEO Her­rhausen and the mur­dered RAF ter­ror­ist Grams (Home­wood, “Mak­ing Invis­i­ble His­to­ry Vis­i­ble” 231) (see figs. 1 and 2). By inter­view­ing asso­ci­at­ed peo­ple from the respec­tive social spheres of both Her­rhausen and Grams, Veiel cre­ates a mon­tage[7] of two ‘life scenarios’—a term I use to high­light the con­struct­ed­ness of the “film nar­ra­tive” (Trn­ka 4)—that at first appear­ance do not have much in com­mon (Trn­ka 11). While some schol­ars (Home­wood, “Chal­leng­ing the Taboo” and “Mak­ing Invis­i­ble His­to­ry Vis­i­ble”) draw upon the­o­ries of “col­lec­tive mem­o­ry” to read Veiel’s approach, I will pur­sue, fol­low­ing Sabine Hake’s label­ing of Black Box BRD as an “essay film” (211) the ques­tion of how the film por­trays two human beings in their absence, estab­lish­es an aes­thet­ic image con­cept of Aussteigen (get­ting out), and com­mu­ni­cates the dri­ving forces for their per­son­al and polit­i­cal acts (Volk 9, also Griese, Pal­frey­man, Trn­ka[8]). Through the mon­tage of the images of the liv­ing and dead, the vis­i­ble and invis­i­ble bod­ies, also emerges an image of a nation at a spe­cif­ic time peri­od, the begin­ning of the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry, which has been coined by the so called ‘Erin­nerungs­boom’ (boom of remem­brance) of both the Sec­ond World War and left wing ter­ror.[9] There­fore, accord­ing to Home­wood and Trn­ka, the two threads of Her­rhausen and Grams could also be read on a larg­er scale as the nar­ra­tive, name­ly a mon­taged por­trait of the BRD, as the film title suggests—meant to “demys­ti­fy” the third-gen­er­a­tion (Thomas Elsaess­er 12) This ‘demys­ti­fi­ca­tion’ is still going on today, as there was the twen­ti­eth anniver­sary of Bad Kleinen on June 27, 2013. Twen­ty years after Bad Kleinen, the media and the research on the top­ic still dis­cuss, to quote Butz Peter’s book title, The last myth of Bad Kleinen.[10]

Veiel, as a direc­tor in the ear­ly 2000’s, was able to take a neu­tral stance on the left and right even though he can­not be com­plete­ly neu­tral, since he is a prod­uct of his soci­ety and its his­tor­i­cal move­ment (Volk 9–10). Although the film is a doc­u­men­tary and not a nar­ra­tive fic­tion, the direc­tor chose the images we see, and there­by manip­u­lates the viewer’s under­stand­ing of the top­ic. Black Box BRD’s film aes­thet­ics estab­lish a mon­tage of dou­ble sub­jec­tive narrators—the inter­vie­wees that tell their sto­ry and the sto­ry line cut by the direc­tor.[11] This approach is sub­jec­tive and selec­tive (Volk 10) and high­lights the sub­jec­tiv­i­ty of what might be a ‘col­lec­tive mem­o­ry’ and how it is a mys­ti­fi­ca­tion (Ass­mann 188).

In this essay, I will ana­lyze how Herrhausen’s and Grams’s con­tem­po­raries rep­re­sent them­selves and are, in turn, rep­re­sent­ed by the film­mak­er in mon­tage. After dis­cussing a few the­o­ret­i­cal thoughts on the film’s spe­cif­ic doc­u­men­tary style, I will focus on select­ed images and sequences that cap­ture the sim­i­lar­i­ties and dif­fer­ences between Her­rhausen and Grams. Final­ly, tak­ing into account Veiel’s book and inter­view state­ments, I will show how the mon­tage nar­ra­tives cre­ate a “fram­ing” (Hay­ward 162) of the con­cept of Aussteigen, tying in a larg­er frame­work of the nature of the third-gen­er­a­tion RAF and Germany’s fail­ure to process this final phase of RAF ter­ror­ism.

The fac­tu­al uncer­tain­ty of Grams’s involve­ment in Herrhausen’s mur­der makes the approach of this doc­u­men­tary more inter­est­ing. Through its refusal to answer this ques­tion def­i­nite­ly (Volk 10), the film main­tains its ten­sion (Öhn­er 25). It focus­es on the trag­ic-moral ques­tion, which is con­tin­u­al­ly inten­si­fied through­out the film, of whether Grams is Herrhausen’s mur­der­er. This effect results from the documentary’s tech­nique of omit­ting a direct inter­view­er (Griese 166).[12] It plays with this trope by estab­lish­ing “a com­par­a­tive tem­po­ral struc­ture that ana­lyzes,” accord­ing to Christi­na Ger­hardt in her essay on ‘Nar­rat­ing Ter­ror­ism,’ “events both syn­chron­i­cal­ly and diachron­i­cal­ly” (66). On a syn­chron­ic lev­el, the film por­trays Grams and Her­rhausen. “The major­i­ty of films about the RAF orga­nize their nar­ra­tives diachron­i­cal­ly” (66).

Herrhausen and Grams—how their paths (may have) crossed

The film starts by elab­o­rat­ing on how Herrhausen’s and Grams’s paths (may have) crossed. On Sep­tem­ber 11, 1977, the board mem­ber of the Deutsche Bank, Alfred Her­rhausen wrote a let­ter with the fol­low­ing words: “In the case of some­body kid­nap­ping me, I do not want the gov­ern­ment to respond to the kidnapper’s extor­tion, which is against the con­sti­tu­tion­al democ­ra­cy.”[13] He put the let­ter in his night table, con­scious­ly tak­ing this action five days after the kid­nap­ping of Hanns-Mar­tin Schley­er, at that time deutsch­er Arbeit­ge­ber­präsi­dent (Pres­i­dent of the Ger­man Employ­ers’ Asso­ci­a­tion) who was lat­er killed by the RAF on Sep­tem­ber 18 (Veiel, “Black Box BRD” 118). Her­rhausen wrote this tes­ta­ment dur­ing the so called ‘Ger­man Autumn,’ a set of events in late 1977 that includ­ed kid­nap­ping and mur­der by the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion RAF, who demand­ed, accord­ing to their Big Raus­hole com­man­do, the release of RAF mem­bers detained in prison. Her­rhausen knew, in trag­ic fore­shad­ow­ing, that he could be on the list of the RAF (118). Twelve years lat­er, on Novem­ber 30, 1989, Alfred Herrhausen’s wife Traudl hears a bomb det­o­nate: her hus­band has been killed on his way to work just a few min­utes after he left the house (9).[14]

Today it is still not clear who killed Her­rhausen (22), but the third-gen­er­a­tion RAF mem­ber Wolf­gang Grams is sus­pect­ed “to have been impli­cat­ed in the mur­der” (Ger­hardt 66), though this has nev­er been ver­i­fied. He was nev­er charged with the assas­si­na­tion, since he died in an oper­a­tion by the counter ter­ror­ism GSG9 com­man­do on June 27, 1993 in the Meck­len­burg town of Bad Kleinen (Home­wood, “Chal­leng­ing” 120). The unit mem­ber Michael Newrzel­la was shot by Grams and died from these wounds. Grams, also severe­ly wound­ed, died short­ly after Newrzel­la. It has nev­er been resolved whether Grams com­mit­ted sui­cide or whether he was mor­tal­ly shot (Veiel, “Black Box BRD” 275). That led to con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries ques­tion­ing the role of the Fed­er­al Repub­lic of Ger­many, con­fi­den­tial infor­mants and intel­li­gence ser­vices being pos­si­bly involved in the mur­der of Grams (21–22). The con­fi­den­tial infor­mant, Klaus Stein­metz, who worked for the Ver­fas­sungss­chutz Rhein­land-Pfalz (Fed­er­al Office for the Pro­tec­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion Rhineland-Pala­tine), and who had held a posi­tion in the com­man­do lev­el of the RAF since 1991, had ini­ti­at­ed the stop at the train sta­tion in Bad Kleinen, after he led him­self toward the RAF since 1991 (273–74). Grams’s girl­friend, Bir­git Hogefeld, also present in Bad Kleinen, got arrest­ed for var­i­ous charges caused by the RAF (274). She was released in 2011 from prison as the last RAF mem­ber.[15]

Veiel iden­ti­fies two “ten­sion-filled sub­jects” by link­ing these two biogra­phies. Fur­ther­more, the film tells us, as the title sug­gests, about a “blind spot,” the unre­solved case, in the his­to­ry of the RAF ter­ror in the BRD, and it attempts to offer insights in to this black box (Griese 170). The uneasi­ness of the unre­solved case enhances the viewer’s under­stand­ing. Pair­ing Her­rhausen and Grams is a way to demys­ti­fy the unsolved case—a risky approach since one can eas­i­ly under­mine the assump­tion that Grams killed Her­rhausen (Öhn­er 25).

Fig. 1

Fig. 2

A black box within a black box—a documentary without commentator

The film suc­ceeds through the mon­tage and the dou­ble nar­ra­tor “with­out a mod­er­at­ing voice” (Pal­frey­man 32). At first glance, the sto­ry-telling tech­nique uses no explic­it nar­ra­tor. The inter­view­er Veiel is “visu­al­ly” and “acousti­cal­ly” absent (Griese 166). In the inter­view sequences, no ques­tions are explic­it­ly posed. In addi­tion, old pho­to and film mate­r­i­al is pro­vid­ed and edit­ed in-between the close-up inter­view sequences. Panoram­ic shots of Frank­furt alter­nate with inter­views and re-con­tex­tu­al­ized passed-on images of the main events in the his­to­ry of the RAF and the BRD to estab­lish a com­mon thread (Pal­frey­man 29).

Michael Haber­lan­der high­lights point­ed­ly in his review[16] that the view­er does not need any “Denkhil­fen” (clue indi­ca­tions) to “visu­al­ize the set of events and the peo­ple involved,” and nor even to “see through” to the—“to some extent”—“hanebüch­ene Geschwätz” (out­ra­geous gib­ber­ish) as enact­ed in the set of the fol­low­ing three scenes (Haber­lan­der): Herrhausen’s twin sis­ter, Anne Koch is posi­tioned in front of deer antlers, as she explains how her broth­er always worked hard­er than the mediocre major­i­ty of soci­ety (fig. 3). The anti­quat­ed antlers under­line the absurd­ness of Koch’s expressed Protes­tant work eth­ic (Trn­ka 15). Paul Brandt, a friend of Her­rhausen, sits in front of a pole dancer and smirks as he describes how much Her­rhausen enjoyed these nights of sex­u­al enter­tain­ment (fig. 4). In the next scene, Gerd Böh, a close com­pan­ion of Grams, sits in front of his bour­geois arbor, wear­ing a han­dle­bar mous­tache, as he explains “that one had to see the big boss­es” only “in ihrer Funk­tion” (in their func­tion) (fig. 5).

Fig. 3

Fig. 4

Fig. 5

The film enters the hid­den politic of a doc­u­men­tary with­out com­men­tary. It is up to the view­er to bal­ance out the dis­so­nance of the images and state­ments. It is obvi­ous: The dra­matur­gy is con­cep­tu­al­ized by the direc­tor before­hand. It is a mon­tage. In an inter­view about his doc­u­men­tary style, Veiel com­ment­ed on his film tech­nique: “There’s a fine line between my own dra­matur­gi­cal wish for the devel­op­ment of a per­son and its own real­i­ty. And nat­u­ral­ly they col­lide.”[17] I read this as a dou­ble sub­jec­tiv­i­ty estab­lished through­out the film via a dou­ble nar­ra­tor.

Veiel describes his work “as some sort of sci­en­tif­ic expe­di­tion”: “That means, there are always cer­tain phe­nom­e­na in real­i­ty,” the direc­tor states, “that are seem­ing­ly fast and easy to explain. And I see my task in […] dig­ging deep­er into these phenomenaid="_ednref18" href="#_edn18">[18] The the­sis of mon­tage first posed at the begin­ning con­flates with the com­plex­i­ty and depth of the “psy­cho­log­i­cal.” The con­se­quen­tial sug­ges­tion is main­tained through the film, since it nar­rates two cas­es of polit­i­cal mur­der, avoids putting Grams and Her­rhausen in pre-assumed roles of antagonists—“perpetrator and vic­tim,” respec­tive­ly (Home­wood, “Mak­ing Invis­ble His­to­ry Vis­i­ble” 231).

Through its nar­ra­tive style, the film estab­lish­es par­al­lels since the life sce­nar­ios are strin­gent­ly and diachron­i­cal­ly recon­struct­ed from child­hood to their deaths. At the end, the film sug­gests, that both were in their own way Aussteiger (escapist) and ide­al­ists pur­su­ing the same ide­o­log­i­cal move­ment: Her­rhausen could not sup­port the strin­gent­ly cap­i­tal­ist course of the Deutsche Bank any­more and rec­om­mend­ed the remis­sion of the Third World’s debts (Veiel, “Black Box BRD” 247). Veiel, in his book Black Box BRD, revealed that Her­rhausen stepped back from being the speak­er of the Deutsche Bank two days before his assas­si­na­tion (259). Grams, on the oth­er hand, sup­pos­ed­ly had thoughts about aussteigen (get­ting out) as well but failed to find a way to escape life under­ground (273). He and his girl­friend Bir­git Hogefeld stayed in con­tact with fam­i­ly and friends. She even dreamed about hav­ing chil­dren and putting the weapons down, accord­ing to Matthias Dittmer, a friend of Grams who met him in 1992 while he and Hogefeld lived under­ground (272–73). Her­rhausen and Grams shared, the view­er could assume, the sim­i­lar sta­tus of men who died as a result of their assumed polit­i­cal views. Both seem to have felt uncom­fort­able in their polit­i­cal box­es. The film plays with this con­sis­tent alter­na­tion between bio­graph­i­cal and polit­i­cal motives of act­ing. The prin­ci­ple of the “blind spot” (Griese 170), the blank space between the “polit­i­cal sphere and the per­son­al” (167) safe haven, the uneasi­ness about the unre­solved case, reap­pears as a theme in the inter­views of their com­pan­ions. The film avoids expla­na­tions. Rather, like Vrääth Öhn­er sug­gests in the film jour­nal Ästhetik & Kom­mu­nika­tion (Aes­thet­ics & Com­mu­ni­ca­tion), it might lend the recon­struct­ed life sce­nar­ios toward an air of “Ger­man ide­al­ism,” since both Her­rhausen and Grams are dis­tin­guished in their “uncon­di­tion­al com­mit­ment to their beliefs.”[19] The film traces the events and con­nec­tions of two biogra­phies but does not “inves­ti­gate fur­ther pos­si­ble evi­dence for dis­tinc­tion” (Öhn­er 24). On the con­trary, Öhn­er remarks, “recon­struc­tion of the past results in blur­ri­ness.” “Oppo­si­tions are soft­ened and con­ver­gence estab­lished through,” for exam­ple, Grams’s father’s past in the Waf­fen SS and Her­rhausen attend­ing an elite Nazi school (25). Towards the end, the film fur­thers this point, most obvi­ous­ly in Herrhausen’s project of debt for­give­ness for Third World coun­tries and in Grams’s wish to end liv­ing under­ground.

Fol­low­ing Öhner’s crit­i­cal state­ment of ‘blurred oppo­si­tions’: Does the film sug­gest, that RAF mem­ber and Deutsche Bank spokesper­son, poten­tial per­pe­tra­tor and vic­tim, in the end both were trag­i­cal­ly fight­ing, but on oppo­site ends of the polit­i­cal spec­trum? It is impor­tant to take into account the func­tion of this “blur­ri­ness,” Öhn­er states (25). Through the bio­graph­i­cal nar­ra­tion, the polit­i­cal dif­fer­ences of these two ene­mies would get resolved. This only works because of the film’s “recon­struc­tion of con­ti­nu­ities and breaks” in the life sce­nar­ios (25). Although I agree with parts of Öhner’s inter­pre­ta­tion, I believe that the film does estab­lish sig­nif­i­cant aes­thet­ic evi­dence for dis­tinc­tion in the mon­tage of the con­cept of Aussteigen (get­ting out)—the alive, vis­i­ble bod­ies of the inter­vie­wees in con­trast to the dead bod­ies of Her­rhausen and Grams.

Montage of the contemporaries—alive, visible bodies

How and in which spaces does the film deal with and rep­re­sent the con­tem­po­raries, the alive and vis­i­ble bod­ies? Black Box BRD is a puz­zle of con­trary images that uses the ques­tion of the legit­i­ma­tion of vio­lence to pur­sue a high­er idea—the “blur­ri­ness” (Öhn­er 25) sup­ports the con­cept of the idea of Aussteigen (get­ting out)—through the per­son­al and famil­ial devel­op­ment of both pro­tag­o­nists (Griese 167). While this is a recon­struc­tion and a form of remem­brance by means of a mon­tage of dif­fer­ent voic­es, it simul­ta­ne­ous­ly describes the slow and inevitable defeat of both Herrhausen’s and Grams’s ideals. This is in spite of and in addi­tion to their real and abrupt loss of life (172). In the fol­low­ing, I will trace select­ed sequences show­ing the mon­tage of the con­tem­po­raries to be exem­plary of the mon­tage of the “slow ero­sion” of beliefs (172).

Traudl Her­rhausen describes the night before the day her hus­band was mur­dered (fig. 5).[20] She has tears in her eyes as she recalls that they talked about his sta­tus as CEO of the Deutsche Bank. He was upset that his finan­cial goals were con­tin­u­al­ly at odds with the board. Traudl tried to take a con­cil­ia­to­ry posi­tion, to which Her­rhausen respond­ed: “If even you don't sup­port my deci­sion, if even you have qualms, if even you don't stand by me, then how should I car­ry on?”[21] What Veiel dis­cov­ered and pub­lished in the book was that Her­rhausen announced his res­ig­na­tion as the speak­er of the Deutsche Bank on Novem­ber 28, 1989, two days before his assas­si­na­tion (Veiel, “Black Box BRD” 259). The film uses a pho­to­graph to intro­duce the sto­ry of Traudl and the couple’s first encounter in Texas (fig. 7). It seemed to have been love at first sight; Traudl smirks as she nar­rates how this gen­tle­man she had just met addressed her for­mal­ly with the Ger­man “Sie, say­ing right away “I would like to mar­ry you!after know­ing each oth­er for three days—“You are crazy! You ARE mar­ried!” she replies.[22] Short­ly after, Her­rhausen was the first active board mem­ber in the his­to­ry of the Deutsche Bank to go through a divorce (Veiel, “Black Box BRD” 114). When Traudl gets the tes­ta­ment let­ter out of the draw­er and reads aloud what her hus­band has writ­ten with regard to a pos­si­ble kid­nap­ping, it leaves her speech­less (fig. 7). The direct con­fronta­tion with the past demands much from her, and the let­ter seems to have become Traudl Herrhausen’s own per­son­al sym­bol of her husband’s abil­i­ty to make the right deci­sions.

Fig. 6

Fig. 7

Fig. 8

Moments like the one described above illus­trate the film’s doc­u­men­tary genre and, in par­tic­u­lar, a doc­u­men­tary with­out direct nar­ra­tion. It becomes gras­pable how sub­jec­tive mem­o­ry actu­al­ly is. This rais­es a ques­tion as to the legit­i­ma­cy of active­ly cop­ing with the past through the use of vio­lence since inter­pret­ing the past is sub­jec­tive. Herrhausen’s tes­ta­ment was a pre­ven­tive, ratio­nal, and counter-vio­lent act.

In the fol­low­ing scene, Grams’s father also address­es the issue of vio­lence and ratio­nal act­ing when talk­ing about his own par­tic­i­pa­to­ry guilt in the Nazi Regime, and he com­ments on the sim­i­lar­i­ty in struc­tures between the Nazis and the RAF (Trn­ka 12) (fig. 9). By cop­ing with his own past, Wern­er Grams reen­acts his son’s deci­sion and way under­ground. Trn­ka states about the often-ref­er­enced scene when Grams’s father “speaks about his par­tic­i­pa­tion in the War”: “Pal­pa­ble dis­com­fort, regret, and fear dom­i­nate his expres­sion and body lan­guage […]” (Trn­ka 13). In this spe­cif­ic scene, Wern­er grows silent; the spec­ta­tor expe­ri­ences how hard it is to hate even the ones that per­pe­trat­ed war crimes dur­ing the Sec­ond World War. The death of his son has changed him (Veiel, “Black Box BRD” 26). He starts to ask him­self ques­tions about his guilt in the Sec­ond World War: “Join­ing the Waf­fen-SS was like an inner com­pul­sion.”[23] The father search­es for a fic­tion­al dialog—necessary since his son is dead—through the chan­nel of the film. His search illus­trates the soci­etal impli­ca­tions of the gen­er­a­tional prob­lem, as Griese points out, since Wolf­gang Grams always ques­tioned and crit­i­cized his father’s past (168). Upon reflec­tion, Wern­er Grams almost believes that his son also expe­ri­enced a cer­tain “com­pul­sion” in his deci­sion to fight for the RAF. Wolf­gang Grams was impris­oned before he went under­ground. Wern­er Grams tells about his son’s prison con­di­tions and Wolf­gang get­ting repa­ra­tions for being kept in prison in 1978 for over 152 days with­out being charged with a crime (Veiel, “Black Box BRD” 161). He seems to under­stand why his son was fed up with the state’s polit­i­cal acts: “They accused him, in a man­ner of speak­ing, of being among the sym­pa­thiz­ers [of the RAF] and doing couri­er ser­vices, and even sup­pos­ed­ly trans­port­ing weapons. So I said to him, ‘Wolf­gang, it is your deci­sion, what you do in your life, by all means, your parent’s home remains always open.’”[24]

Fig. 8

Fig. 9

Fig. 10

Right after the father’s emo­tion­al engage­ment with the past, the film enlarges upon the ques­tion of how Grams became con­nect­ed with ter­ror­ism and his own legit­imiza­tion of vio­lence (Home­wood “Chal­leng­ing the Taboo” 119). Gerd Böh, a friend of Grams from the RAF sym­pa­thiz­er scene (Veiel, “Black Box BRD” 122), relates that Grams pushed him­self fur­ther to dehu­man­ize his tar­gets / ene­mies. Böh builds on the ques­tion of hate but also the legit­imiza­tion of vio­lence that has been addressed already by Wern­er Grams. This tran­si­tion scene approach­es this issue from a dif­fer­ent, one could say, left wing, insid­er per­spec­tive and opens up, accord­ing to Öhn­er, inter­est­ing “con­verg­ing points” (Öhn­er 24). Grams believed, accord­ing to Böh’s reca­pit­u­la­tion one of their many dis­cus­sions (Veiel, “Blak Box BRD” 164), that “one should be able to project so much hate that one would be able to kill some­body with one’s owns hands” (Veiel “Black Box BRD” 165).[25] Hang­ing up a cloth in his arbor, Böh describes this process of dehu­man­iza­tion (fig. 10). Even though the cloth says “The fall­en con­tin­ue to live in our bat­tle […],”[26] he and his petit bour­geois set­tle­ment seem quite far from any real polit­i­cal rad­i­cal­iza­tion and far from see­ing the human being mere­ly as his “func­tion.” He was not able to take this step of rad­i­cal­iza­tion of killing some­body (Veiel “Black Box BRD” 140). Though Griese claims that the film “breaks apart old stereo­types and does not estab­lish new ones” (Griese 172), the afore­men­tioned scene would seem to under­mine her argu­ment. Böh him­self, a for­mer RAF sym­pa­thiz­er, is por­trayed as a con­formist. The cloth serves as the last expres­sion of his long gone rev­o­lu­tion­ary past. Iron­i­cal­ly, what Traudl Her­rhausen, Wern­er Grams, and Gerd Böh have in com­mon, are doubts on how they might have con­tributed to both Herrhausen’s and Grams’ social “iso­la­tion” (Home­wood, “Chal­leng­ing the Taboo” 123). And this enact­ment stands in con­trast to the out­lined motive of the process of dehu­man­iza­tion. Traudl Her­rhausen, Wern­er Grams and Gerd Böh are far from dehu­man­ized nar­ra­tors of their mem­o­ries.

Lat­er when Hilmar Kop­per, for­mer Deutsche Bank spokesper­son, talks about Alfred Herrhausen’s per­sis­tent wish and mis­sion to erase the Third World’s dept, the ten­den­cy to deper­son­al­ize human beings is reversed in an iron­ic and trag­ic way: Her­rhausen, in Kopper’s eyes, ignored the impact of pos­si­ble debt relief on the Deutsche Bank. Accord­ing to Kop­per, Her­rhausen did not, how­ev­er iron­i­cal­ly, see the bank in its main func­tion of rais­ing cap­i­tal. Veiel, in his accom­pa­ny­ing book, informs his audi­ence that Kop­per was announced as the new Head of the Board one day after Herrhausen’s funer­al (Veiel, “Black Box BRD” 264). In the film, Kop­per sits in front of a sig­nif­i­cant art­work, Cou­ple by the Russ­ian artist Max­im Kan­tor (fig. 11). The paint­ing shows two gaunt male fig­ures cling­ing to each oth­er, seek­ing shel­ter. Hav­ing him­self pre­sent­ed in front of this piece of art rais­es uneasy ques­tions about Kopper’s loy­al­ty towards Her­rhausen. Kop­per not only locat­ed him­self in front of this spe­cif­ic paint­ing in the film, but also had him­self por­trayed in front of the paint­ing in 2002 by the pho­tog­ra­ph­er Wonge Bergmann.[27] The gaunt male fig­ures do not speak for Kopper’s empa­thy. This set­ting rais­es ques­tions about Kopper’s “rep­u­ta­tion and func­tion as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of a bank” and “weak­ens his cred­i­bil­i­ty” (Ull­rich 31).[28] In the con­text of the film, the por­trait is sym­bol­i­cal­ly laden; it puts anoth­er com­plex­ion on Kopper’s and Herrhausen’s male friend­ship, and per­haps sym­bol­izes the pos­si­ble depen­den­cy of the posi­tions in the Deutsche Bank.

Fig. 12

Fig. 13

Fig. 14

The select­ed scenes illus­trate a major ele­ment of the film: the char­ac­ters are filmed in their assumed safe spaces, there­by pre­sent­ing their back­drops as reflec­tions of their per­sona. In addi­tion, the film uses a sharp cut­ting of the scenes by string­ing togeth­er the spe­cif­ic spaces and topogra­phies by which Her­rhausen and Grams were sur­round­ed (figs. 12–14). The dif­fer­ent topogra­phies also are mark­ers for social class (Trn­ka 15). The air-to-air shots above the finan­cial dis­trict in Frank­furt and the glass facades of the Deutsche Bank tow­ers con­trast with the enclosed, bour­geois spaces like the din­ing room of Ruth and Wern­er Grams. This draws atten­tion to Frank­furt am Main and Wies­baden as scenes of pub­lic, there­fore polit­i­cal action (11). The already men­tioned dis­so­nance, direct­ness and miss­ing anno­ta­tion shape the mes­sage of the film – the view­er has to deal with the uneasi­ness of an unre­solved case since the film does not explain the con­text strin­gent­ly.

The pri­vate film record­ings of both main pro­tag­o­nists, on the oth­er hand, often appear arti­fi­cial­ly aged, an aspect that is point­ed out by the research address­ing “Herrhausen’s gen­er­a­tional posi­tion between Grams’s father and Grams” (Trn­ka 15). Pri­vate film record­ings switch with track­ing shots of, amongst oth­ers, the Frank­furt finan­cial dis­trict, Gerd Böh’s arbor, the liv­ing room of Ruth and Wern­er Grams and Traudl Herrhausen’s house (18). The mon­tage posi­tions the dead bod­ies of Her­rhausen and Grams in the year of the film’s mak­ing, in 2001, and claim an assur­ance of their for­mer pres­ence in this world. It is a look into the “inter­nal struc­tures” of both Deutsche Bank and the left wing sym­pa­thiz­er scene, specif­i­cal­ly, how some­body could have decid­ed to go under­ground and fight rad­i­cal­ly while some of the for­mer sym­pa­thiz­ers decid­ed to go a dif­fer­ent path.[29] These shots, in com­bi­na­tion with the his­tor­i­cal mate­r­i­al, also tell the sto­ry of West Ger­many (Ger­hardt 65) and tie the deper­son­al­ized mug shots of the RAF mem­bers into a larg­er frame of the pri­vate and pub­lic polit­i­cal sphere (Trn­ka 16) (fig. 15). The film, instead of view­ing the vic­tim and per­pe­tra­tor “in their func­tions,” uses their bio­graph­i­cal details to por­tray them as indi­vid­u­als.

Montage of Herrhausen and Grams—dead, invisible bodies

Not only are mug shots of Grams shown, but also pic­tures from his youth (fig. 16).[30] As Home­wood sum­ma­rizes, “Super 8mm film footage of a fam­i­ly hol­i­day in Spain shows a play­ful Grams emerge from a half-buried posi­tion in the sand (Home­wood, “Mak­ing Invis­i­ble His­to­ry Vis­i­ble” 239).

Fig. 15

Fig. 16

Fig. 17

How hard it is to grasp the gap between the beloved son and the pub­li­cal­ly hunt­ed ter­ror­ist on the mug shots is shown in the scene in which Ruth Grams presents an art work that her son embroi­dered under­ground (fig. 17). The tapes­try shows a coast-line, sand, and a ship with hoist­ed sails. Home­wood com­pares Ruth Grams’s inter­pre­ta­tion of the tapes­try with “the task of the spec­ta­tor” (124)—the inter­pre­ta­tion of Grams’s char­ac­ter, which is only sug­gest­ed through the film’s mon­tage. The moth­er, Ruth, is emo­tion­al­ly attached to the art­work her son pro­duced while liv­ing under­ground. It is one of the few belong­ings of their son they still pos­sess (Home­wood, “Mak­ing Invis­ble His­to­ry” 240). Dur­ing his time under­ground, the par­ents saw their son only once in 1992 and this should be their last encounter (Veiel, “Black Box BRD” 41). They spent some days with Grams and his girl­friend Bir­git Hogefeld, who appears in the film only twice, in a mug shot and in a black and white pho­to­graph that the direc­tor blend­ed into the back­ground while his film nar­rates the secret encounter between the par­ents and their son. The fam­i­ly spoke about the “new ori­en­ta­tion of the means and goals of the RAF” (Veiel, “Black Box BRD” 270). The par­ents still seem to hope for an Aussteigen (a pulling out of the RAF), even though the view­er implic­it­ly under­stands that the engage­ment in the RAF is a dead end; an Aussteigen in a trag­ic sense seems hard­ly pos­si­ble.

Through the use of the mon­tage of old film and pho­to mate­r­i­al, as point­ed out by Trn­ka and Griese, tra­di­tion­al chrono­log­i­cal sequences become warped. Alfred Her­rhausen and Wern­er Grams are close in terms of their date of birth, 1925 and 1930 respec­tive­ly. As his close friend and for­mer chan­cel­lor of the BRD, Hel­mut Kohl (from 1982 to 1998) says in the film, Her­rhausen fell under the “Gnade der späten Geburt” (mer­cy of the late birth), that pre­vent­ed him from hav­ing to par­tic­i­pate active­ly in the war, although he was a stu­dent at the elite Nazi school in Feldaf­ing (fig. 18). But since Herrhausen’s appear­ance in the film is con­struct­ed (he is a dead, invis­i­ble body and not phys­i­cal­ly present) he seems much younger. The years between his death in 1989 and the film in 2001 leave no trace on him as they have left in real life on Grams’s father, Wern­er.

Both Her­rhausen and Grams are rep­re­sent­ed as deep, com­plex and eclec­tic char­ac­ters, and both are shown in life-and-death sit­u­a­tions (Trn­ka 18), an aspect that Öhn­er cri­tiques through stat­ing that their “uncon­di­tion­al­i­ty” could not be com­pared (Öhn­er 27). In one scene, the for­mer pres­i­dent of Mex­i­co tells about his encounter with Her­rhausen and says that he advised him: “Only an alive cred­i­tor is a good cred­i­tor.”[31] One of Grams friends, Albert Eise­nach, removed him­self from Grams’s social cir­cle because he could not sup­port the belief that it is “legit­i­mate to kill for an idea,” because “nobody has the right to judge what the right idea is.”

Fig. 18

Fig. 19

Fig. 20

Tying these abstrac­tions into Hel­mut Kohl’s state­ment at his inau­gu­ra­tion in 1982 (fig. 19) such as Öhn­er does: “I believe, that what lies ahead of us, also of me per­son­al­ly, is, with all neces­si­ty of the eco­nom­ic prob­lems, first of all, an intel­lec­tu­al-moral chal­lenge”[32] leads the view­er to reflect upon the con­cept of “patri­o­tism” (25). About Herrhausen’s pol­i­tics, Kohl remarks on his “gelebten Patri­o­tismus” (lived patri­o­tism). When in the fol­low­ing scene Gerd Böh hangs up the Ger­man flag in his arbor, it becomes obvi­ous that patri­o­tism is a sub­jec­tive con­cept. Through this mon­tage, an era of West Ger­many and its foun­da­tion is shown in its dis­rup­tions just as the his­to­ry of twen­ti­eth-cen­tu­ry Ger­many is entire­ly marked by dis­rup­tion. Even the sup­pos­ed­ly autonomous RAF absorbed that idea of patri­o­tism, see­ing their actions as a tool to free the peo­ple from the hyp­o­crit­i­cal state.

How­ev­er, in the film, in con­trast to mem­bers of the Baad­er-Mein­hof group, such as Andreas Baad­er, Wolf­gang Grams as ter­ror­ist is rep­re­sent­ed autonomous­ly. As already men­tioned, Grams’s girl­friend Bir­git Hogefeld is almost left out of the film. This auton­o­my is also reflect­ed in the absolute pro­ce­dure of the mur­ders. The third-gen­er­a­tion killed tar­get­ed, not ran­dom­ly. There­fore, as Trn­ka states,

(T)he only dead ter­ror­ists pre­sent­ed in Black Box BRD are Meins and Mein­hof, whose images pro­vide con­text rather than focal con­tent, for exam­ple when we see an image of Grams in a protest march fol­low­ing Meins’ death. Schley­er fig­ures in the film only as a point of ref­er­ence for Herrhausen’s own aware­ness of his sta­tus as a poten­tial object of ter­ror­ist vio­lence, the industrialist’s funer­al as a state event implic­it­ly prompts Herrhausen’s request that only speak­ers approved by his wife and his friend and priest Pater Augusti­nus Hein­rich Graf Henck­el von Don­ners­mar­ck be allowed to speak pub­licly at his bur­ial. (Trn­ka 11)

Through the visu­al reminder of the invis­i­ble, dead bod­ies and the for­mer RAF gen­er­a­tions, the trag­ic cli­max of the deaths gets estab­lished right at the begin­ning. Gerd Böh’s inter­view sequence, which I already men­tioned, is sharply con­trast­ed with the three Mer­cedes dri­ving along the Frank­furt sky­line (fig. 20); in the back­ground Pater Augusti­nus is re-phras­ing what his friend Her­rhausen said about the pos­si­ble threat of an attack by the RAF: “We are, in the end, all in the hand of god.”[33] With this state­ment, the film draws a line back to the begin­ning. The film starts with shots of Herrhausen’s and Grams’s places of death.

Mon­taged his­to­ry of “open wounds”

Tech­ni­cal­ly, Herrhausen’s and Grams’s bod­ies have no point of con­tact. But the mon­tage his­to­ry of the BRD (FRG) con­struct­ed from the nar­ra­tives that emanate from two dead bod­ies, serves as a “metaphor,” an imma­te­r­i­al image, for inter­nal­ized cop­ing with the “trau­ma” caused by the ter­ror­is­tic acts of the RAF (Elsaess­er 21).[34] The film poster has the sub­ti­tle “Der Kampf ist vor­bei. Die Wun­den sind offen” (“The strug­gle is over. The wounds are open”), which, accord­ing to Home­wood is “under­lin­ing that, far from being a closed chap­ter in the his­to­ry of the Fed­er­al Repub­lic, the ter­ror­ist past still needs to be worked on” (Home­wood, “Mak­ing Invis­i­ble His­to­ry” 246). Veiel finds his posi­tion in this re-con­tex­tu­al­iza­tion of his­to­ry, and, by re-telling the sto­ry through a doc­u­men­tary with­out com­men­ta­tor, Veiel makes obvi­ous the con­struct­ed­ness of his­to­ri­og­ra­phy.

The film looks at the “wounds,” a term used by Veiel as well as the research, left in the socio-cul­tur­al col­lec­tive aware­ness and mem­o­ry by RAF ter­ror. Berendse in his essay on the “reci­procity of the rela­tion­ship of polit­i­cal vio­lence and aes­thet­ics” speaks of the “Wunde RAF (“wound RAF”) (Berendse “Wunde RAF” 11). Hard­ly any of the ter­ror­ists of the third-gen­er­a­tion of the RAF were caught. On the film poster, the faces of Her­rhausen and Grams are com­bined (fig. 21). The mon­tage face has a Schnittstelle (cut sur­face), but it also sym­bol­izes a rec­i­p­ro­cal rela­tion­ship between the ter­ror­ist and the vic­tim, a con­sis­tent theme with­in the film. Ter­ror­ists and vic­tims are in a rela­tion­ship of depen­dence and live in a com­mon sphere of threat, vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty and vio­la­bil­i­ty (Elsaess­er 21). This threat involves more than vic­tim and per­pe­tra­tor; it also men­aces the young demo­c­ra­t­ic nation of the BRD. A “dead aes­thet­ic phe­nom­e­non” guides the view­er through the recon­struc­tion of the life sce­nar­ios (Home­wood, “Mak­ing Invis­i­ble His­to­ry” 231).

Fig. 21

Veiel uses, as illus­trat­ed in the film poster, the ‘body’ and ‘the wound’ as polit­i­cal metaphors. He said in an inter­view on the Deutsche Welle Talk­ing Ger­man show on doc­u­men­tary films that “what inter­ests” him “most are open wounds”—and he explains his inter­est in inves­ti­gat­ing them:[35]

If you go into a wound, you find some­thing of the body. You find some­thing which is nor­mal­ly closed. And so the wound is a chance, not only to test the cir­cu­la­tion, to try what is in, in terms of the heart and the intestines, and also how it works. What are the func­tions of the body? So, you have to go into the wounds. Oth­er­wise, you are just on the sur­face.”[36]

Grams’s auton­o­my as a ter­ror­ist trans­forms him into the object that caus­es the “trau­ma”: Thomas Elsaess­er speaks of “das Gespenst” (the ghost) in terms of the “after­life of the RAF” (Elsaess­er 21). Also dead bod­ies can speak. “The dead body of the vic­tim” is a sym­bol of a “speech­less sign,” “while the mori­bund body of the ter­ror­ist becomes a weapon” (Zeller 203). The strict divi­sion between per­pe­tra­tors and vic­tims is dis­solved in this depen­den­cy (Home­wood, “Mak­ing Invis­i­ble His­to­ry Vis­i­ble” 238). Soon it becomes obvi­ous; the life sce­nar­ios of both illus­trate the mot­to of the gen­er­a­tion of 68: “The Per­son­al is Polit­i­cal” (Colvin 50).

The RAF mem­bers them­selves used the body metaphor to con­vey their “belief of the col­lec­tive” (Berendse “Kampf dem Leviathan” 219) in the phrase “The body is the weapon.”[37] Gudrun Ensslin, along with Andreas Baad­er and Ulrike Mein­hof, one of the main RAF ter­ror­ists of the 1st gen­er­a­tion, said: “The body that is the weapon is the col­lec­tive, noth­ing else.”[38][39] The indi­vid­ual in this ide­ol­o­gy is only a part that needs to obey com­mands, since it dis­solves in the col­lec­tive (Colvin 116). The RAF ide­ol­o­gy was very much focused on the body. The state was “per­son­al­ized”; they want­ed “to rip the mask from the leviathan’s face” (Berendse, “Kampf dem Leviathan” 215). They dehu­man­ized police offi­cers by call­ing them Schweine, (pigs) and Bullen, (bulls) (Colvin 125). But the state­ment of Roswitha Blei, Grams’ girl­friend in the 70s, also shows the dis­con­ti­nu­ities with­in the left-wing scene: “It was hard for me to dis­tin­guish so strict­ly between ‘the pigs’ and ‘the good rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies.’ But I con­sid­ered that to be a mis­take on my behalf.”[40]

How does the film sym­bol­ize the past through the ‘body’ metaphor? How do bod­ies become dan­ger­ous or endan­gered?[41] What is behind the individual’s deci­sion to embrace ter­ror as a polit­i­cal tool? How did Her­rhausen come into the sights of the RAF rifle? Trn­ka ana­lyzes pos­si­ble forms of protest and sit­u­ates them in the con­text of the posi­tion­ing of a human body in the pub­lic space:

Forms of vio­lent and non­vi­o­lent polit­i­cal protest that drew increas­ing­ly on the artis­tic forms of the avant-garde tra­di­tion and situationism—especially the happening—relied on phys­i­cal bod­ies marked as dif­fer­ent from or dis­rup­tive of larg­er social con­texts in which they sought to inter­vene. Film as a medi­um may be par­tic­u­lar­ly suit­ed to con­vey both acts of high­ly styl­ized phys­i­cal vio­lence aimed at dis­rupt­ing pub­lic spec­ta­cle and ide­al images of the spec­ta­cle itself. When, for exam­ple, the view­er expe­ri­ences the sequence of commune—street fight—ex-militant / iso­lat­ed gar­den cabin—elite / social golf and coun­try club, then dis­rup­tion, delib­er­ate dis­or­der, and vio­lent con­fronta­tion are visu­al­ly and aural­ly jux­ta­posed to the larg­er social con­text to which they osten­si­bly respond. (25–26)

The film depicts a vari­ety of pos­si­ble posi­tion­ing of bod­ies in the pub­lic space and polit­i­cal sphere and probes the inter­de­pen­den­cy of the pri­vate and the polit­i­cal. That people’s indi­vid­ual polit­i­cal deci­sions would lead to larg­er con­se­quences, that i.e. the street riots in Frank­furt would result in three gen­er­a­tions of RAF, could not have been fore­seen (fig. 22). But when for­mer chan­cel­lor Hel­mut Schmidt (from 1974 to 1982) appealed to the Ger­man cit­i­zens after the death of Hol­ger Meins in Stammheim, it became obvi­ous that this strug­gle was not just between the RAF and the state, but involved every indi­vid­ual cit­i­zen with­in the nation and that every cit­i­zen must choose a side, seem­ing­ly for the nation or against it (fig. 23):

Every social demo­c­rat has to mourn every death that is caused by an ide­ol­o­gy of blind hatred. […] And, after all that the mem­bers of this group did to the cit­i­zens of our coun­try, it is not per­mis­si­ble, as long as they are await­ing tri­al, to accom­mo­date them in con­va­les­cent home. They have to take on the incon­ve­niences of a prison.[42]

Fig. 22

Fig. 23

Fig. 24

The film begins with the icon­ic image of the burned Mer­cedes in which Her­rhausen was killed (fig. 24). The cars were sup­posed to pro­tect Her­rhausen from pos­si­ble attacks, but he ends up dying in one of them. Both Grams’ and Herrhausen’s fate appears in the form of three dark Mer­cedes that appear through­out the film repeat­ed­ly. Their ride also reminds the audi­ence of the train at the end of the film—a link to the train sta­tion in Bad Kleinen where Grams died. Syn­chron­i­cal­ly with the nar­ra­tion of Traudl Her­rhausen about how her hus­band died, at the begin­ning of the film, Rain­er Grams, the broth­er of Wolf­gang, retraces the path his broth­er took at the train sta­tion in Bad Kleinen. He shows the spec­ta­tor the train tracks on which his broth­er died (fig. 25).

As Veiel in an inter­view states, “I only make offers with my film, and the pro­jec­tion sur­face is large enough for var­i­ous imag­in­ings. […] BLACK BOX BRD is a film about the present”[43] (Volk 19), the film ends aes­thet­i­cal­ly with the same mes­sage it start­ed with: Aussteigen (get­ting out) is not pos­si­ble, nei­ther for Her­rhausen or Grams nor the con­tem­po­raries relat­ed to them, nor for the cit­i­zens of the BRD, as chan­cel­lor Hel­mut Schmidt stat­ed in his speech, nor for Ger­many today. In the last scene, the direc­tor films from a mov­ing train, show­ing the land­scape. When the train nears the city, a voice in the back­ground gives the announce­ment: “We are short­ly arriv­ing in Bad Kleinen.” Before, how­ev­er, the train arrives at a full stop, before Aussteigen would even be an option, the clos­ing cred­its begin to roll, again merg­ing the two life sce­nar­ios, again remind­ing, that the case is unre­solved.

On May 7, 2001, five days before the film release (Veiel, “Black Box BRD” 279), the third-gen­er­a­tion RAF almost seemed to take shape, when “by virtue of new DNA-test­ing tech­nol­o­gy the ‘Bun­deskrim­i­nalamt’ (BKA) revealed that a hair found at the scene [of the killing of Detlef Rohwed­der] pur­port­ed­ly belonged to Wolf­gang Grams, thus link­ing him to the killing” (Home­wood. “Mak­ing Invis­i­ble His­to­ry” 238). The BKA, though, did not name Grams as a sus­pect, since the find­ing was not con­sid­ered to be suf­fi­cient evi­dence (279).

Fig. 25

Fig. 26

Fig. 27

In the clos­ing scene, the film, through the aes­thet­ic tool of the mon­tage, wraps up the idea of the Leer­stelle, a term Win­fried Pauleit uses to describe the rep­re­sen­ta­tions of “pol­i­tics in Ger­man film today” (Pauleit 14). It is the “gap,” the “blind spots” (Griese 166) that allow pre­sent­ing and con­struct­ing the fig­ures of Her­rhausen and Grams both in con­trast and in par­al­lel (fig. 26). The mon­tage nar­ra­tives are aes­thet­i­cal­ly tied togeth­er in the elab­o­rat­ed motif of the Aussteigen (get­ting out). This becomes obvi­ous in lit­tle details like the gaunt male fig­ures in the paint­ing in front of which Hilmar Kop­per is por­trayed or the ship on the tapes­try that Grams’ moth­er is hold­ing on to, as well as in the men­tioned clos­ing scene when the spec­ta­tor is tak­en on a train ride while the train announce­ment reports the impend­ing arrival in Bad Kleinen. The screen then turns black, and a last state­ment appears: “Herrhausen’s assas­si­na­tion, as well as nine addi­tion­al mur­ders between 1983 and 1994, have nev­er been solved”[44] (fig. 27). The view­er has to face the human demand for answers and clar­i­fi­ca­tion for facts to solve the dis­so­nances, since the film offers no “com­ple­tion, clo­sure and truth” (Home­wood “Mak­ing Invis­i­ble His­to­ry” 244). Under­stand­ing vio­lence is much eas­i­er when the roles of vic­tim and per­pe­tra­tor are clear. This high­lights the pow­er of images to con­vey and to pass on images-imag­i­na­tions. The film is offer­ing a mon­taged set of images that leave the view­er with this uneasi­ness of not hav­ing cathar­tic answers to what may or may not have hap­pened (Pal­frey­man 33), as Veiel refers to this state as a con­tract: “It is about cred­i­bil­i­ty, no more or less. About the con­tract between myself as the film­mak­er and the audi­ence.”[45]

Works Cited

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Home­wood, Chris. “Mak­ing Invis­i­ble Mem­o­ry Vis­i­ble: Com­mu­nica­tive Mem­o­ry and Taboo in Andres Veiel's Black Box Brd.” Baad­er-Mein­hof Returns: His­to­ry and Cul­tur­al Mem­o­ry of Ger­man Left-Wing Ter­ror­ism. Eds. Berendse, Ger­rit-Jan, and Ingo Cornils. Ams­ter­dam: Rodopi 2008, 231–50.

---. “Chal­leng­ing the taboo: the mem­o­ry of West Germany’s ter­ror­ist past in Andres Veiel’s Black Box BRD (2001).” New Cin­e­mas: Jour­nal of Con­tem­po­rary Film Vol­ume 5: 2, 2007, doi: 10.1386/ncin.5.2.115/1, 115–26.

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Moser, Thomas. “Andreas Veiel. Black Box BRD. Alfred Her­rhausen, die Deutsche Bank, die RAF und Wolf­gang Grams.“ Deutsch­land­funk. Online Review. 23 Dec. 2002. http://​www​.dra​dio​.de/​d​l​f​/​s​e​n​d​u​n​g​e​n​/​p​o​l​i​t​i​s​c​h​e​l​i​t​e​r​a​t​u​r​/​1​3​1​6​70/, 09/03/13

O’Brien, Mary-Eliz­a­beth. Post-Wall Ger­man Cin­e­ma and Nation­al His­to­ry. Utopi­anism and Dis­sent. Rochester: Cam­den House, 2012. Print.

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Pauleit, Win­fried. “Poli­tik im deutschen Kino heute. Dialoge, Leer­stellen und Lek­türen im Kaf­feesatz.“, Ästhetik & Kom­mu­nika­tion, Poli­tik im deutschen Kino. Heft 117, 33. Jahrgang, Berlin: Ästhetik & Kom­mu­nika­tion e. V., 2002: 12–14. Print.

Pal­frey­man, Rachel. “The fourth gen­er­a­tion: lega­cies of vio­lence as quest for iden­ti­ty in post-uni­fi­ca­tion ter­ror­ism films (2001).” Ger­man Cin­e­ma Since Uni­fi­ca­tion.Ed. Clarke, David. Lon­don New York: con­tin­u­um, 2006. Print.

Pass­more, Lei­th. Ulrike Mein­hof and the Red Army Fac­tion. Per­form­ing Ter­ror­ism. New York: pal­grave macmil­lan, 2011. Print.

Peters, Butz. Der let­zte Mythos der RAF. Das Desaster von Bad Kleinen - Wer erschoss Wolf­gang Grams? Berlin: Ull­stein, 2006. Print.

Preece, Julian. Baad­er-Mein­hof and the Nov­el. Nar­ra­tives of the Nation / Fan­tasies of the Rev­o­lu­tion, 1970-2010. New York: pal­grave macmil­lan, 2012. Print.

Schmincke, Imke. Gefährliche Kör­p­er an gefährlichen Orten. Eine Studie zum Ver­hält­nis von Kör­p­er, Raum und Mar­gin­al­isierung. Biele­feld: tran­scipt, 2009. Print.

Son­theimer, Michael: "Der Schlüs­sel zum RAF-Code.“ taz​.de. 10 Apr. 2010. http://​www​.taz​.de/​1​/​a​r​c​h​i​v​/​d​i​g​i​t​a​z​/​a​r​t​i​k​e​l​/​?​r​e​s​s​o​r​t​=​p​b​&​d​i​g​=​2​0​1​0​/​0​4​/​1​0​/​a​0​0​4​0​&​c​H​a​s​h​=​4​f​6​3​3​1​5​b2f, 09/03/13.

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Veiel, Andres. Black Box BRD. Deutsch­land: Zero Film GmbH, 2001.

---. Black Box BRD. Alfred Her­rhausen, die Deutsche Bank, die RAF und Wolf­gang Gram. Stuttgart / München: Deutsche Ver­lags-Anstalt, 2002. Print.

---. Deutsche Welle TV. Andres Veiel | Film Mak­er (in Eng­lish) http://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​S​R​A​J​6​o​N​A​WL8, 09/15/13.

---. Andreas Veiel on doc­u­men­tary film—cine-fils.com (in Ger­man, with Eng­lish sub­ti­tle). http://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​z​i​A​o​c​S​A​N​rFw, 09/15/13.

Volk, Ste­fan. Black Box BRD. Filmheft von Ste­fan Volk, Filmheft der Bun­deszen­trale für poli­tis­che Bil­dung (BpB), Augs­burg 2001. Print.

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Nach 18 Jahren: Ex-Raf-Mit­glied Hogefeld aus Haft ent­lassen.” Spiegel Online. 21 June 2011. http://​www​.spiegel​.de/​p​o​l​i​t​i​k​/​d​e​u​t​s​c​h​l​a​n​d​/​n​a​c​h​-​1​8​-​j​a​h​r​e​n​-​e​x​-​r​a​f​-​m​i​t​g​l​i​e​d​-​h​o​g​e​f​e​l​d​-​a​u​s​-​h​a​f​t​-​e​n​t​l​a​s​s​e​n​-​a​-​7​6​9​7​3​0​.​h​tml, 12/12/13.

Image Notes

(Images 1-20, 22-27 are screen­shots, Image 21: Film Poster http://​en​.wikipedia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​F​i​l​e​:​B​l​a​c​k​_​B​o​x​_​B​R​D​.​jpg)

Veiel, Andres; Black Box BRD. Zero Film GmbH: Deutsch­land 2001.

1: Alfred Her­rhausen

2: Wolf­gang Grams

3: Anne Koch

4: Paul Brandt

5: Gerd Böh

6: Traudl Her­rhausen

7:  Traudl and Alfred Her­rhausen, 1974, Texas, USA

8: Herrhausen’s tes­ta­ment from 1977

9: Wern­er Grams

10: Gerd Böh

11: Hilmar Kop­per

12: Frank­furt Finan­cial Dis­trict

13. Ruth and Wern­er Grams

14. Deutsche Bank meet­ing

15:  Edi­tion of Tagess­chau (News on TV) from Feb­ru­ary 15, 1987

16. Wolf­gang Grams – archive footage

17: Ruth Grams with the tapes­try of her son

18:  Her­rhausen, 1942, in Feldaf­ing

19: Hel­mut Kohl, 1982

20: Frank­furt sky­line – reap­pear­ing Mer­cedes

21:  Film Poster

22: Street Riots in Frank­furt

23: Hel­mut Schmidt, 1974

24: Car Wreck in which Her­rhausen died

25: Grams’s broth­er Rain­er at the train sta­tion in Bad Kleinen

26: Clos­ing scene

27: End of the doc­u­men­tary

End Notes

[1] I would like to thank Luanne Dagley for her thoughts and help in read­ing and edit­ing my paper.

[2] Black Box BRD: Filmheft von Ste­fan Volk, Filmheft der Bun­deszen­trale für poli­tis­che Bil­dung (BpB), (Black Box Ger­many: Film Jour­nal by Ste­fan Volk, Film Jour­nal of the Ger­man Fed­er­al Agency for Civ­il Edu­ca­tion), Augs­burg 2001.

[3] Accord­ing to recent remem­brance debates, what finds its way into a society’s well of “col­lec­tive mem­o­ry” are not just his­tor­i­cal facts, but rather a “shared and remem­bered mem­o­ry fil­ter”, as Jan Ass­mann states (Jan Ass­mann 2011, 5-11). Chris Home­wood refers in his research on the film on Ass­mann’ “the­o­ry of com­mu­nica­tive and cul­tur­al mem­o­ry” (Home­wood, “Mak­ing Invis­i­ble His­to­ry Vis­i­ble” 233) and inter­prets the films approach as a con­tri­bu­tion to “break an osten­si­ble taboo name­ly a ‘them and us’ ide­o­log­i­cal dead­lock” (213) and there­fore to “depo­lar­ize the victim/perpetrator dichoto­my” (238).

[4] Veiel, under the same title, also pub­lished a book about his film research, which pro­vides addi­tion­al back­ground infor­ma­tion, for exam­ple the RAF let­ters in which they claim respon­si­bil­i­ty. Also the book con­nects chrono­log­i­cal coheren­cies; the book makes much more obvi­ous that Her­rhausen offi­cial­ly was on the list of the RAF and that the Bun­deskrim­i­nalamt (Fed­er­al Crim­i­nal Police Office) might have failed with their pro­vid­ed per­son­al secu­ri­ty ser­vice. Since my paper traces how the images in the film recon­struct “inter­nal struc­tures of both RAF and Deutsche Bank”, equal­ly of the BRD, I draw upon Veiels mate­r­i­al that he gath­ered beyond the film.

[5]Black Box BRD stands out because of how it accom­plish­es the shift away from the first- and sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion RAF mem­bers, Berlin coun­ter­cul­tures 1977, and Stuttgart Stammheim and which pre­vi­ous­ly unheard nar­ra­tives it intro­duces the cin­e­mat­ic his­to­ry and mem­o­ry of the RAF. By focus­ing on Frank­furt as the nar­ra­tive cen­ter of his doc­u­men­tary, Veiel opens up a broad­er set of his­tor­i­cal rela­tions and events than is typ­i­cal of accounts of Ger­man ter­ror­ism” (Trn­ka 10).

[6] Claim of respon­si­bil­i­ty of the RAF: „Am 30.11.1989 haben wir Alfred Her­rhausen … hin­gerichtet. Durch die Geschichte der Deutschen Bank zieht sich eine Blut­spur zweier Weltkriege und mil­lio­nen­fach­er Aus­beu­tung, und in dieser Kon­ti­nu­ität regierte Her­rhausen an der Spitze dieses Machtzen­trums der deutschen Wirtschaft […]. Her­rhausens Pläne gegen die Län­der in der Drit­ten Welt, die selb­st in linksin­tellek­tuellen Kreisen als human­itäre Fortschrittskonzepte gepriesen wer­den, sind nichts anderes als der Ver­such, die beste­hen­den Herrschafts- und Aus­plün­derungsver­hält­nisse länger­fristig zu sich­ern …“ (Veiel 263). (“On the 30th of Novem­ber ,1989, we … assas­si­nat­ed Alfred Her­rhausen. A trail of blood stem­ming from two World Wars and the exploita­tion of mil­lions runs through­out the his­to­ry of the Deutsche Bank. In this con­ti­nu­ity, Her­rhausen reigned as the head of this cen­ter of pow­er in the Ger­man econ­o­my […]. Herrhausen’s plans for the Third World coun­tries, some of which were even praised among the left­ist intel­lec­tu­als as progress, are noth­ing more than the attempt to secure exist­ing con­di­tions of pow­er and exploita­tion on a long-term basis.”) All trans­la­tions into Eng­lish, unless oth­er­wise stat­ed, are my own.

[7] I use the term “mon­tage” accord­ing to Susan Hay­wards def­i­n­i­tion: “Mon­tage cre­ates a third mean­ing through the col­li­sion of two images.” (Hay­ward 112). Jamie H. Trn­ka, Rachel Pal­frey­man also use the term in the con­text of the film, as well as Ste­fan Volk.

[8] Jamie H. Trn­ka points out, “the ten­sion between aes­thet­ics of film form and the pol­i­tics of per­son­al and pub­lic mem­o­ry” (Trn­ka 1).

[9] See exem­plary: Berendse 2011, 19, and Griese, 170.

[10] See exem­plary: Sven Felix Keller­hoff. “Bad Kleinen -  die “Exeku­tion“ war ein Medi­en­skan­dal.“ http://​www​.welt​.de/​g​e​s​c​h​i​c​h​t​e​/​a​r​t​i​c​l​e​1​1​7​4​9​4​1​1​2​/​B​a​d​-​K​l​e​i​n​e​n​-​d​i​e​-​E​x​e​k​u​t​i​o​n​-​w​a​r​-​e​i​n​-​M​e​d​i​e​n​s​k​a​n​d​a​l​.​h​tml, 12/12/2013.

[11] See Volk on the com­ment­ing func­tion of the mon­tage (15).

[12] Griese ana­lyzes the film in terms of famil­ial rela­tion­ships (167).

[13] “Erk­lärung: Ich, der unterze­ich­nende Alfred Her­rhausen, Solin­gen Schloss Kaspers­broich, erk­läre: Für den Fall mein­er Ent­führung bitte ich auf unver­ant­wortliche Erpres­sun­gen, die sich gegen den demokratis­chen Rechtsstaat der Bun­desre­pub­lik richt­en, nicht einzuge­hen. Solin­gen, den 11. Sep­tem­ber 1977.” Alfred Her­rhausen (quot­ed accord­ing to Veiel 2002, 118, in the main text my trans­la­tion into Eng­lish).

[14] The film plot and the set of events are nar­rat­ed accord­ing to Veiel’s accom­pa­ny­ing book.

[15]„Nach 18 Jahren: Ex-Raf-Mit­glied Hogefeld aus Haft ent­lassen“, http://​www​.spiegel​.de/​p​o​l​i​t​i​k​/​d​e​u​t​s​c​h​l​a​n​d​/​n​a​c​h​-​1​8​-​j​a​h​r​e​n​-​e​x​-​r​a​f​-​m​i​t​g​l​i​e​d​-​h​o​g​e​f​e​l​d​-​a​u​s​-​h​a​f​t​-​e​n​t​l​a​s​s​e​n​-​a​-​7​6​9​7​3​0​.​h​tml, 12/12/13.

[16] Haber­lan­der, Michael: Die Guten und die Bösen, http://​www​.arte​chock​.de/​f​i​l​m​/​t​e​x​t​/​k​r​i​t​i​k​/​b​/​b​l​b​o​b​r​.​htm.

[17] Andreas Veiel on doc­u­men­tary film – cine​-fils​.com (in Ger­man, with Eng­lish sub­ti­tle): http://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​z​i​A​o​c​S​A​N​rFw, 09/15/13.

[18] No coin­ci­dence: Veiel has s degree in psy­chol­o­gy (ibid.)

[19] Also, Home­wood points out the con­nec­tion to a cer­tain “Ger­man ide­al­ism” (Home­wood “Chal­leng­ing the Taboo” 123).

[20] See also (Home­wood “Mak­ing Invis­i­ble His­to­ry Vis­i­ble” 242-243) for his con­tex­tu­al­iza­tion of the scene.

[21] “»Wenn sog­ar du das nicht mit­trägst, wenn sog­ar du zweifelst, wenn sog­ar du mich ver­lässt, dann weiß ich nicht, wie das weit­erge­hen soll«” (Veiel “Black Box BRD” 114).

[22] “»Ich möchte Sie heirat­en!«” (Veiel “Black Box BRD” 114) And she answered: “Sie spin­nen ja. Sie sind ja ver­heiratet.”

[23]“Dass ich bei der Waf­fen-SS war, das war wie ein inner­er Zwang.“

[24] “Man hat­te ihm prak­tisch Sym­phati­san­ten­szene vorge­wor­fen, und Kuri­er­di­en­ste und sog­ar soll er Waf­fen trans­portiert haben. Da hab ich dann zu ihm gesagt. […] Wolf­gang, es ist deine Entschei­dung, was du in deinem Leben tust, aber auf alle Fälle ste­ht dir dein Eltern­haus immer offen.“

[25] „Du musst jeman­den so has­sen, dass du ihn mit der Hand erwür­gen kön­ntest“ (Veiel “Black Box BRD” 165).

[26] “Die Gefal­l­enen leben in unseren Kämpfen weit­er […].“

[27] Kop­per por­tray­ing him­self in front of this art work was dis­cussed by Wolf­gang Ulr­rich in the exhi­bi­tion “Macht zeigen. Kun­st als Herrschaftsstrate­gie” (Show­ing pow­er. Art work as hege­mo­ny strat­e­gy) in 2010 at the Deutsches His­torisches Muse­um, Berlin (Ger­man His­tor­i­cal Muse­um).

[28] See also: Biehl-Missal, Brigitte. Wirtschaft­säs­thetik. Wie Unternehmen die Kun­st als Inspi­ra­tion und Werkzeug benutzen, Gabler Ver­lag: Wies­baden 2011, 104.

[29] Thomas Moser: http://​www​.dra​dio​.de/​d​l​f​/​s​e​n​d​u​n​g​e​n​/​p​o​l​i​t​i​s​c​h​e​l​i​t​e​r​a​t​u​r​/​1​3​1​6​70/, 09/15/13.

[30] “[…] Veiel prob­lema­tizes the dom­i­nant cul­tur­al per­cep­tion of the orga­ni­za­tion in which Wolf­gang Grams is reduced to the lev­el of his image on the ‚Fah­n­dungsplakat­en‘[…] Through the use of pho­to-fit tech­nol­o­gy, the 15 Feb­ru­ary 1987 edi­tion of Tagess­chau, includ­ed in the film, goes on to detail the ways in which Grams may have changed his appear­ance to evade cap­ture“ (Home­wood “Mak­ing Invis­i­ble His­to­ry Vis­i­ble” 240).

[31] “Nur ein lebendi­ger Gläu­biger ist ein guter Gläu­biger.”

[32] "Ich glaube, dass das was auf uns zukommt, auch auf mich per­sön­lich, bei aller Notwendigkeit der ökonomis­chen Prob­leme, zunächst eine geistig-moralis­che Her­aus­forderung ist."

[33] “Wir sind let­ztlich alle in der Hand Gottes.”

[34] See also: Elsaess­er, Thomas. Ter­ror und Trau­ma. Zur Gewalt des Ver­gan­genen in der BRD, Kul­turver­lag Kad­mos: Berlin 2007.

[35] Deutsche Welle TV. Andres Veiel | Film Mak­er. http://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​S​R​A​J​6​o​N​A​WL8, 09/15/13.

[36] idib.

[37] „Der Kör­p­er ist die Waffe.“

[38] „Der Kör­p­er, der die Waffe ist, ist das Kollek­tiv, eine Ein­heit, son­st nix.“

[39] Hilgers, Micha: Die Radikalisierung des Gewis­sens. Von der Gen­er­al­isierung des Ressen­ti­ments: Die RAF-Pro­tag­o­nis­ten als total­itäre Per­sön­lichkeit­en. http://​www​.fr​-online​.de/​s​p​e​z​i​a​l​s​/​r​a​f​-​p​r​o​t​a​g​o​n​i​s​t​e​n​-​d​i​e​-​r​a​d​i​k​a​l​i​s​i​e​r​u​n​g​-​d​e​s​-​g​e​w​i​s​s​e​n​s​,​1​4​7​2​6​1​0​,​2​7​0​8​7​4​8​.​h​tml, 09/15/13.

[40] “Mir ist es schw­er gefall­en, so klar einzuteilen in >die Schweine< und >die guten Rev­o­lu­tionäre<. Aber das habe ich eher als einen Fehler von mir ange­se­hen“ (Veiel “Black Box BRD” 108).

[41] See Schmincke (2009) and Gugutzer (2011).

[42] “Jed­er Sozialdemokrat muss jedes Todes­opfer bekla­gen, das als Kon­se­quenz blind­wütiger Ide­olo­gie erbracht wird. […] Und nach alle­dem, was die Ange­höri­gen dieser Gruppe Bürg­ern unseres Lan­des ange­tan haben, ist es allerd­ings nicht angängig sie, solange sie ihren Prozess erwarten, im Erhol­ung­sheim unterzubrin­gen. Sie müssen schon die Unbe­quem­lichkeit­en eines Gefäng­niss­es auf sich nehmen“ (Veiel “Black Box BRD” 88).

[43] “Ich mache nur Ange­bote mit meinem Film, und die Pro­jek­tions­fläche ist groß genug für ver­schiedene Vorstel­lun­gen. […] BLACK BOX BRD ist ein Film über die Gegen­wart” (Volk, 19). Quot­ed by Volk accord­ing to www.black-box-brd, (Talk with Annette Schäfer).

[44] “Das Atten­tat auf Alfred Her­rhausen und neun weit­ere Anschläge aus den Jahren 1984 bis 1993 sind bis heute nicht aufgek­lärt.”

[45] Andreas Veiel on doc­u­men­tary film – cine​-fils​.com (in Ger­man, with Eng­lish sub­ti­tle): http://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​z​i​A​o​c​S​A​N​rFw, 09/15/13.


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