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STARBUCK – Holger Meins
A film from Gerd Conradt


Starbuck, that is the helmsman of the Pequod in Melville’s 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 the times.

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.


Director’s Statement

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, Holger’s 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 Holger’s funeral. I wasn’t 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 lawyer’s 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 Holger’s 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 didn’t doubt him for one moment. I would not have made the film without this picture testimony from Holger’s 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.

Gerd Conradt