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The intellectual who became the "star witness" to the terror

Some productions are so bad that everyone involved would actually wish they could undo them.

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The intellectual who became the "star witness" to the terror

Some productions are so bad that everyone involved would actually wish they could undo them. But why, if she arrives anyway? That was exactly the case with one of the most brazen public manipulations in the history of the old Federal Republic.

It happened on December 4, 1974 and lasted little more than three hours. The left-wing French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, best known for turning down the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature that was intended for him, met the leader of the left-wing terrorist group Red Army Faction (RAF), Andreas Baader, in prison in Stuttgart-Stammheim .

The very fact that Sartre had even received permission to visit was a contradiction in terms. Baader's defense attorney, the left-wing extremist Klaus Croissant, actually wanted to use the visit to convince the West German public that his client and his three dozen arrested like-minded people were being held in solitary confinement.

Croissant (later sentenced to two and a half years in prison for supporting the RAF) and his co-defense attorneys such as Kurt Groenewold (sentenced to two years probation) and Christian Ströbele hid the fact that the RAF terrorists were constantly able to receive their lawyers in detention, as well as their relatives (sentenced to 18, then 10 months, both on probation). Gudrun Ensslin's defense attorney Otto Schily even published a guest article in Der Spiegel magazine in which he called his client's conditions of detention "decomposition while alive".

To counteract this impression, judge Theodor Prinzing, who was responsible for the proceedings against Baader, decided to grant Sartre permission to visit Baader. He was neither a relative nor a lawyer, so according to the Code of Criminal Procedure, his visit could not be approved at all. Nevertheless, the accused of multiple murders received preferential treatment, not for the first and not for the last time.

On Wednesday, December 4, 69-year-old Sartre from Paris landed in Stuttgart, Croissant and later terrorist Hans-Joachim Klein drove him to Stammheim. Of course, photographers and camera teams were always present because of the effective press work of the terrorist lawyers.

Sartre then spoke to Andreas Baader for an hour through an interpreter in a visiting cell that was empty except for a table and chairs. This conversation (of which there is no recording) cannot have been particularly intense. Then Klein drove the visitor from Paris and Croissant to an international press conference in a Stuttgart hotel.

Moderated by the Franco-German left-wing radical Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the French made serious allegations: “Baader and the others live in a white cell. In this cell they hear nothing except the footsteps of the guards bringing the food three times a day. The light is on for 24 hours. At eleven o'clock in the evening Baader's lights are turned off, but not at all for other prisoners."

None of this was true, as even Der Spiegel reported: "How do you think Sartre knows that? The cells of Baader and his comrades are painted cream, next to the bed and closet there are desks and bookshelves, radio and typewriter, and maps hang on the walls. Magazines and newspapers are delivered according to choice, hundreds of books are available, Lenin's works as well as scientific elaborations on the tasks and working methods of the BKA."

When asked by one of the hundred or so journalists, Sartre had to admit at the press conference that he himself had seen nothing of the alleged "isolation" in "white cells". How did he come to his verdict? The visitor's answer: from an article in his own magazine "Les Temps Modernes", written by none other than - Klaus Croissant.

WORLD commented on the embarrassing admission: "Oh, Mr. Sartre! Fictitious reality is a hoax, nothing else. Poetry is invented truth.” Somewhat viciously, the reporter added: “His razor-sharp mind has become jagged, his arguments crooked as sickles and precise as a sledgehammer. Old age is mean, especially to those who fall for the bloody dreams of youth.”

Jean Paul Sartre was once a really big name. Born in Paris in 1905, after the early death of his father, he grew up in the home of his maternal grandfather, who was an uncle of Albert Schweitzer. He was interested in literature and philosophy from an early age, and after graduating in 1931 became a high school teacher – albeit in provincial France, not in Paris. For Sartre was already a sympathizer of the French communists without becoming a member.

In the second half of the 1930s, Sartre, who was already living with his partner Simone de Beauvoir (in a “wild marriage”, as it was condescendingly called at the time), developed into an almost typical left-wing intellectual. His first successful novel appeared in 1938, and now he was living in Paris again. During the first two years of the German occupation, Sartre was involved in the resistance, albeit with moderate success, because he was considered an insecure cantonist by both the hard-line party communists and the nationally-minded French.

After 1945 he rose to stardom among French intellectuals. His novels sold brilliantly, his dramas were performed on numerous stages. His founding "Les Temps Modernes" was highly regarded. Politically, Sartre strove for a "third way" between the already social-democratic French socialists and the hard-line communist party ideologues - of course without any significant response from the population. Sartre was widely read in student circles, as well as among journalists; he did not reach a really wide audience.

Sartre had been almost blind since 1973, could no longer write and had to have texts for his magazine read to him. For this reason alone he could not have had any personal impression of the prison conditions in Stammheim - and because the visitor cell did not look like the living cells of the RAF terrorists in prison. Nevertheless, thanks to the “star witness” from Paris, the left-wing public became convinced that the RAF prisoners were being treated inhumanely in Stammheim.

"It became clear in Stuttgart," WELT reported on December 6, 1974 at the press conference: "So this is the end of a once-great man," said someone who until then only knew Sartre in writing."

The visit to Stammheim was not the last mistake of his life. In 1977, for example, he advocated legalizing pedophilia. On April 15, 1980, Jean-Paul Sartre died. His body was first buried in a coffin, exhumed again a few days later, cremated and buried again.

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