A murder in Germany, a former terrorist in Skopje, and an apology

Written by on November 28, 2017 in Europe - Comments Off on A murder in Germany, a former terrorist in Skopje, and an apology

Nobody could have made this up: In the Macedonian capital of Skopje, an elderly lady apologises to the son of a former president of the German Employers Association, who was murdered in 1977 by her former comrades. This is exactly what happened yesterday.

Silke Maier-Witt, a German citizen, lives in Skopje. For 16 years, the 67-year old lady was a social worker for the German NGO ‘forumZFD’, who tried to ease tensions between ethnic Albanians, Serbs and Roma, by mediating and negotiating. When she became a pensioner a year ago, she decided to stay in Skopje.

Jörg Schleyer, a German businessman, who is 63, took a 2-hour flight to Skopje on Monday, in order to meet Silke Maier-Witt. He was accompanied by reporters of the German yellow press publication ‘Bild’.

Forty years earlier, in October of 1977, Schleyer’s father, Hanns Martin Schleyer, was murdered by accomplices of Silke Maier-Witt, who was a former radical left-wing terrorist, back then. Yesterday in Skopje, she apologised to him: “It might sound dull, but I want to apologise for what happened”. According to ‘Bild’, she later said she should have apologised much earlier.

Until today, it is unclear who exactly shot Schleyer Senior to death. The answer to this question was not delivered to Jörg Schleyer in Skopje. But the apology might have given him and his siblings some closure.

In Western Germany, 1977 was a difficult year, to say the least. The Red Army Faction (RAF), a left-wing terror organisation, blew up American barracks, murdered German officials and took one of them hostage: Hanns Martin Schleyer.

By spreading terror and death, they wanted to protest against the US war against Vietnam, the “imperialist world” and capitalism. They funded themselves with bank robberies, they travelled in stolen cars and used violence to free their comrades from jail.

From left to right: Hanns Martin Schleyer, Silke Maier-Witt in 1977, and recently. Photo on the right by ‘forumZFD’.

Then, the RAF’s leaders Andreas Baader, Ulrike Meinhoff and Gudrun Ensslin got caught during the biggest manhunt in German history. The second RAF generation, which Silke Maier-Witt was part of, wanted to obtain their comrade’s releases, no matter how.

The Red Army Faction’s Palestinian partners hijacked a Lufthansa aircraft full of tourists and murdered the pilot, while young RAF terrorists killed people at the German embassy in Stockholm. But Chancellor Helmut Schmidt did not give in. An elite division of the German police freed all hostages aboard the plane.

When the news spread into the high security prison, where Baader, Meinhof and Ensslin were locked, they committed suicide. All three of them.

Shortly after, RAF terrorists who had not been caught by police yet, forced Hanns Martin Schleyer into the trunk of a stolen car and took him to a forest, where they shot him. This murder very much looked like an act of revenge.

Silke Maier-Witt was part of the abduction of Schleyer Senior, as a scout. Later, when a lady lost her life during a bank robbery in Zurich, which Maier-Witt was part of as well, she took a step which even John Le Carré would not have imagined for any suspenseful novel: She moved to the GDR, communist Germany, in order to hide. The notorious State Security in East Berlin made her an agent.

In 1985, a young man from the GDR, who had managed to get to Western Germany, told police he knew where Silke Maier-Witt was. He testified, she lived in Erfurt (GDR) under the false name Angelika Gerlach. As soon as the State Security knew her cover had been blown, she got a new name and a new job at a new location.

But in 1990, she was arrested and sent to Western Germany, where she got a 10-year prison sentence. After 5 years, in 1995, she was released.

The fact that Silke Maier-Witt became a social worker, after her career as a terrorist, is not a big surprise, since this was her profession before she joined the RAF. Until 1977, she had worked with youngsters from difficult families.

Her apology to Jörg Schleyer yesterday in Skopje might (or might not) be the end of this unconventional story. This remains to be seen.

 

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About the Author

Imanuel Marcus is Associate Editor of The Sofia Globe. He is German and lives in Sofia. Contact: imanuelmarcus (at) gmail.com