Youth and student Time
She was born at the 15th of august in 1940 in Baden-Wurttemberg, one of the seven children of Pastor Helmut Ensslin. She grew up in a religious family and was well versed in the bible and the family often discussed social problems. At school her grades were always excellent.
In 1958 Gudrun spent a year in an American high school and due to excellent exam results she received a Scholarship and studied English and German studies and philosophy. After study Ensslin became a teacher. In 1965 Gudrun and her right wing boyfriend Bernward moved to West Berlin while she was at the free university, here they were politically active taking part in protests against nuclear weapons and the existence of US military bases in Germany. Their relationship started to break down by 1967 after the birth of her son Felix. Ensslin was becoming involved in the left wing activist movement and took part in the film ‘Das Abonnement’.
On October 18 1977 she was found hanging in her cell while other members of the gang were found shot dead in their cells. During her time in prison she was instrumental in the other gang members ostracizing Ulrike Meinhof who she thought was weak. Suspicion surrounds her death along with the deaths of the other gang members with many claiming the gang was murdered by the German authorities. She is often forgotten by history with many wrongly saying that Ulrike was the female gang leader. Gudrun Ensslin’s life was fictionalized in the 1981 film ‘Marianne and Juliane ‘known as “The German sisters” in the UK.
Germany’s most wanted
Following violent clashes over a visit by the Shah of Iran to Germany Gudrun claimed West Germany was a fascist state during a political meetingTensions were running high after a protester was shot and the responsible police officer was acquitted of his manslaughter. At some point in this period she began a relationship with Andreas Baader, leaving her partner Bernward Vesper and her young son in 1968. Then she decided to go from political activist to terrorist. In April 1968 following a fire-raising attack on two department stores in Frankfurt, four members of the gang including Ensslin and Baader were arrested and sentenced later the same year to three years in prison. They gained parole while awaiting an appeal hearing in June 1969 but fled once the appeal was rejected with Baader being rearrested in April 1970. Gudrun, Ulrike Meinhof and two other women helped to free Baader in 1970, a rescue which resulted in gunfire and the press calling them the Baader-Meinhof gang. For the next two years Gudrun participated in different terrorist activities and became one of Germany’s most wanted until she was arrested in Hamburg in 1972. Her trial and those of the other captured members of the gang was the longest and most expensive in German history. In Stammheim Prison RAF members tried various ways to free her.