STARBUCK Holger Meins
A film from Gerd Conradt
Starbuck, that is the helmsman of the Pequod in Melvilles novel Moby Dick.
Starbuck, that was the code name of the German terrorist Holger Meins.
Holger Meins was the first Red Army Faction member to die in custody in prison
on hunger strike in 1974.
He was 33 years old.
25 years after his death, Gerd Conradt, filmmaker and friend, sets off searching
for the trail of the helmsman of the Baader-Meinhof Group.
Who was Holger Meins?
What made him go underground? Which circumstances caused his death, a death
transforming him into the declared symbol of radical resistance?
What remains of him?
A whole range of companions give information about this path through this tragic
chapter of German history with the help from the widest variety of documents of
Meins the boy scout, artist, film maker and guerrilla is remembered by Gretchen
Dutschke, Harun Farocki, Wolfgang Petersen, Peter Lilienthal, Michael Ballhaus,
Margrit Schiller, the family screw Detective Superintendent Alfred
Klaus, and others.
Holger Meins and I studied together at the Berlin Film Academy in the sixties.
We went to film festivals together, to Venice and Pesaro. We were radical. We
threw stones, fought with the police, and even chucked a Molotov Cocktail every
now and then. However, his chosen path, that of the urban guerrilla, frightened
me. I even doubted the slogan "Sieg im Volkskrieg" (Victory in
the Peoples War). For me, every war is a form of terrorism. No war
is just or unjust. Nevertheless, people who carry out terrorist attacks are part
of a whole. Its one even I belong to. Moreover, all terrorists were children once,
have parents or relatives, they all laughed, sang, and danced. Where was the break
at which they lost contact to their lives around them and became warriors?
I asked many friends, fellow students, and people who knew Holger Meins. I
showed them the pictures and paintings Holger had painted or photographed, or
the old film sequences he had shot. One person I wanted to talk with was Otto
Schily. However, Holgers then lawyer, now the German Minister of the Interior,
refused to discuss the documents showing him side by side with left-wing leader
Rudi Dutschke at Holgers funeral. I wasnt so much interested in what
Schily thinks about the Red Army Fraction today, just what he feels when he sees
himself in pictures from back then. Schily explained his refusal by the fact that
a lawyers professional discretion also extends beyond the death of his mandate.
The most important factor for me, though, was Holger Meins father. I
got to know him in 1974 at Holgers funeral. Wilhelm Meins stood by his son
100%. In 1975, I visited him with a video camera. He was definitely a stranger
to the intellectual world in which his son had moved, but he didnt doubt
him for one moment. I would not have made the film without this picture testimony
from Holgers father.
For the last four years, I have been preoccupied with the person Holger Meins
and his time almost daily. I have reached the conclusion that there are some people
who can only live in absolutes. Holger Meins was one of them. That is not meant
to idealize what happened, but you need it to understand. It is Meins the artist
who is the subject of this film, not Meins the terrorist. Holger was an artist
first. He was very talented.
We met up one last time in Berlin when he had already gone underground. We
made a conscious decision to go our separate ways. It was a farewell forever.
Since then I keep asking myself, how do you portray a lost friend? How do you
portray a terrorist? Starbuck - Holger Meins is a search for clues, presenting
the terrorist as a person. Moreover, now is precisely the best moment for the
film to be shown at the cinemas. Now, people are moved by the theme terrorism
as never before. Right now, the idea of having to be either for or against something
is very popular: be it friend or enemy, good or evil.