Revolutionary Cells

FormedJanuary 1, 1972
DisbandedGroup is active.
First AttackJune 1976: The RZ bombed the U.S. Army V Corps Headquarters in Frankfurt. (0 killed, 16 injured)
Last AttackNovember 1987: The RZ conducted an incendiary attack in the parking lot of a vehicle depot owned by a grocery chain, completely destroying 15 trucks. (No casualties)
UpdatedJanuary 5, 2013

Narrative Summary

The Revolutionary Cells were the third and least prominent of the three left-wing terror groups in Germany in the early seventies. Organized into independently functioning cells, the RZ was possibly the most successful of the groups in the sheer number of its terrorist attacks, but was least publicized.

The Revolutionary Cells were formed in Frankfurt am Main around 1972-1973. They specifically rejected the Baader-Meinhof Gang’s approach to group dynamics. Instead of completely going underground they organized into semi-autonomous cells, each aware of the group’s overall mission yet mostly unaware of the identities of other group members. Virtually all of the members of Revolutionary Cells were “legals” — part-time operatives who otherwise maintained legal jobs and had families. They were said to number in the several hundred at one point in the mid-1980s, but precise numbers remain unclear.

Little was known about the secretive RZ until a former member, Hans-Joachim Klein (who was in hiding), gave an interview in 1978 to the left-wing Paris magazine "Liberation." In the interview he discussed the organizational structure of the RZ. He also mailed his gun to Der Spiegel and sent them a letter denouncing terrorism. The following year, while still in hiding, Klein published a book about his time in the RZ: “Return to Humanity.”


  1. Christian Gauger (Unknown to Unknown): Christian Gauger is one of the founders of the RZ, and is responsible for more than a dozen anti-nuclear attacks. Gauger was especially persistent in attacking corporations and structures affiliated with corporate funding. He, along with other RZ members, was kept in France in exile until 2011, when he was extradited to Germany.[1]
  2. Sonja Suder (Unknown to 1990): Suder was a friend of Raabe's, and was also considered one of the ringleaders of the RZ. [2]
  3. Rudolph Raabe (Unknown to 1995): A prominent member of the RZ, Raabe lived in Mainz as a public activist, regularly delivering speeches against government authority. This put Raabe in the spotlight of the criminal investigation against the RZ, and Raabe was soon put on trial as a principal member of the RZ, and the operative behind a bombing in June 1978.[3]
  4. Rudolf Schindler (Unknown to June 9, 2011): Schindler and his wife, Sabine Eckla, joined the RZ as a couple. Schindler was the chief recruiter of the group, but was recently sentenced to 9 years of prison under charges of terrorism. [4]

Ideology & Goals

The RZ is an urban guerrilla organization aimed towards weakening the German government. Self-described as an autonomist group, the RZ aimed to establish a self-ruling society. In order to achieve this goal, the RZ stated: "We will not hesitate from shooting, bombing, extortion and taking hostages. The whole ruling class will be made to feel insecure." [5]

The group stated that its participants should be regular members of society, in contrast to the more elitist Red Army Faction (RAF), who posited that revolutionaries should truly be "underground" (outside the socio-political system). Structured differently from both the better-known RAF and the more anarchist Movement 2 June, the Revolutionary Cells were very loosely organized into cells, making them much harder to capture. Its members were encouraged to remain "legal" – i.e., continue to operate from within society and even take part in the mainstream political process and its organizations, a tactic which led law enforcement agencies to refer to them at times as "weekend terrorists." [6]

The RZ has conducted its terrorist activity in support of such ideologies as "antifascism", "anti-imperialism", "anti-Zionism", and "antimilitarism." The RZ has also put pressure on U.S. forces in West Germany through terrorist attacks on U.S. bases, creating tension between the German community and U.S. foreign aid. 

Size Estimates



The RZ receives much of their funding from ransom. In one notable instance, they netted 5 million dollars and safe passage to Algeria after kidnapping a Libyan representative. 

External Influences

The RZ is believed to have picked up members from small, defunct antiestablishment radical groups of the early 1970s. In addition, one former terrorist and police informer claimed that the RZ has ties to Palestinian terrorist organizations. Ties to other European Marxist or anarchist groups undoubtedly exist. The RZ is believed to have contacts with the Irish National Liberation Army and the Provisional Irish Republican Army. [8]

Geographical Locations

The RZ is split into a domestic faction and an international faction; the domestic faction addresses issues primarily in West Germany, while the international faction addresses issues in the Middle East, North Africa, and Latin America (in fact, the RZ was created in response to Pinochet's coup d'etat in Chile).  [9]

Targets & Tactics

In its publication, Revolutionaere Zorn ("Revolutionary Wrath"), the RZ declared its intent to "immediately and everywhere begin the armed struggle." This linked to the offshoot "Rote Zora", which is an autonomous women's group that professes a doctrine of struggle against exploitation of the Third World, repression of women, sexism, and racism. The same publication referred to Rote Zora by contending that the situation is a struggle of "workers, youth, and women."

The RZ wants a pool of semi-independent strike teams to be spread across Germany and carefully "covered" by the appearance of normal civilian lifestyles. From this position, they can strike quickly and without warning at a variety of locations and without the need to set up elaborate chains of support. 

The RZ members have given evidence of mastery of a wide variety of terrorist skills. They not only are competent with standard military weapons, but also can make their own explosives and sophisticated timing devices, including the time-delayed bomb. 

The RZ has targeted U.S. military facilities in West Germany to oppose America's "neocolonialist" military presence in the country. 

Political Activities

The RZ routinely supports and creates campaigns proposing restrictions on government. In 1986-1987, the domestic wing of the RZ embarked upon a terror campaign protesting West Germany's "anti-immigration" policy, which was one of the RZ's more successful campaigns. The domestic wing's actions have addressed various issues, including refugee rights, South African apartheid, West German militarism, unpopular transit fare hikes, the rights of the homeless, Latin America, and other left-wing issues. 

The international wing addresses issues mainly in East Europe and Northern Africa. The RZ international wing also established a relationship with the Palestinian resistance until 1987, when that relationship was strained by the wing's use of kidnapping. The international branch's failed investments caused the domestic wing to take over and now the domestic wing addresses both domestic and international issues. [10]

Major Attacks

  1. December 1975: RZ member Hans-Joachim Klein took part in a raid on the Vienna OPEC conference. (0 killed).[11]
  2. July 4, 1976: The RZ and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hijacked an Air France airliner carrying 248 passengers to Entebbe, Uganda. More than 100 Israeli and Jewish passengers, along with the non-Jewish pilot, remained as hostages and were threatened with death. All the hijackers were killed. (3 hostages and 45 Ugandan soldiers killed).[12]
  3. December 1976: The RZ Bombed the U.S. Air Force Officers Club at Rhein Main Air Base. (0 killed, 7 injured).[13]
  4. May 1981: The RZ claimed responsibility for the murder of West German Economics Minister of Hesse, Heinz Karry. In a message, the RZ said: "The death of Karry was not intended, but (rather) an accident." Apparently, the plan was merely to shoot the minister in the legs. (1 killed).[14]
  5. June 1984: Bombed the NATO fuel pipeline near Lorch in Baden Wurttemberg. (3 killed).[15]

Relationships with Other Groups

The RZ had a women's offshoot organization, Rote Zora. Rote Zora's first three actions, all of which were directed at West Germany's then retrograde abortion law, were carried out in March and April 1974 under the rubric of the Women of the Revolutionary Cells. Thus, the Rote Zora mainly operated under the RZ, but was still considered a separate group due to the exclusivity of its members. 

The RZ is structured differently from the Red Army Faction and the anarchist Movement 2 June. The RZ has occasionally has been linked with the RAF, but normally tries to keep its distance. The RZ, unlike the RAF, believes in a more decentralized form of terrorism directed at targets within the immediate vicinity of each cell. 

The RZ was known to collaborate with Movement 2 June, although the two often had conflicting agendas.


  1. ^ NoState 325
  2. ^ West Europe Report, Foreign Broadcast Information Service
  3. ^ West Europe Report, Foreign Broadcast Information Service
  4. ^ USA Today
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Terrorist Group Profiles." Google Books. Diana Publishing, 1989, n.d. Web. 05 Jan. 2013.
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Global Terrorism Database
  12. ^ Terrorist Profiles
  13. ^ Terrorist Profiles
  14. ^ Terrorist profiles
  15. ^ Terrorist Profiles

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