RAF-Codes-bar

Only little is publicly known about the encryption systems used by the German terrorist organisation, RAF. A recent TV documentary that shows a number of encrypted RAF messages along with a key provides at least some basic information.

The Red Army Fraction (RAF), a West German terrorist organisation, existed from 1970 to 1999. The RAF engaged in a series of bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, bank robberies, and shoot-outs with police. Their activity peaked in late 1977, which led to a national crisis that became known as the “German Autumn”. The RAF is held responsible for 34 deaths throughout its almost three decades of activity.

RAF-Plakat

It has long been known that the RAF used cryptography and that the police was able to break some of the RAF ciphers. This was especially important when in 1982 an RAF depot containing weapons, identity documents and money was detected in a forest near Heusenstamm in the Frankfurt area.

In the Heusenstamm depot, police found a number of encrypted documents. When police cryptanalysts broke these messages, the location of several other depots became known. All depots were put under 24 hour surveillance. Two weeks later, RAF terrorists Brigitte Mohnhaupt and Adelheid Schulz were arrested when they visited the Heusenstamm depot.

After the arrest of the two top terrorists, the existence of the Heusenstamm depot was mentioned in the press and thus became publicly known. Christian Klar, the most important RAF terrorist of the time, apparently believed that the encryption code was still unbroken and therefore assumed that the police did not know about the other depots.

Christian-Klar

When Klar, disguised as a jogger, approached an RAF depot located in Hamburg, police guards arrested him.

Of course, crypto history enthusiasts would have liked to know how the RAF encryption codes worked, but to my knowledge as good as nothing has ever been published. Blog reader Steffen (DG0MG) has now made me aware of a German TV documentary about the RAF (28:29) that contains some very interesting information.

According to this TV documentary, a German forensic codebreaker named Peter Fleischmann played an important role in breaking the ciphertexts found in Heusenstamm. I have never heard of this man before, and I can’t find anything about him online. He would certainly be a great interview partner for me (he’s apparently still alive). So, if a reader knows how I can get in touch with Peter Fleischmann, please let me know.

Apparently, one of the ciphers used by the RAF was a substitution cipher. The following screenshots show messages encrypted in this system:

RAF-Daphne

RAF-02 RAF-03 RAF-04

In the documentary, Peter Fleischmann explains that he and his colleagues solved this cipher using a crib. When they encountered a ciphertext word of the type ABBC, which apparently stood for a gas station, it was clear that this could only be ESSO (the brand name used by the US company Exxon in Germany and many other countries). Having identified the letters E, S, and O, the cipher could be broken.

The following document is probably a code that provides codewords for a number of words:

RAF-05

Of course, I would like to know more about the codes the RAF used. If you have some information or if you can make sense of the messages depicted in this article, please let me know. For instance, it would be interesting to know what the following passage means:

RAF-frame

Any help is welcome.

Further reading: The Top 50 unsolved encrypted messages: 24. The Erba murder cryptogram

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Kommentare (11)

  1. #1 TWO
    Langley, USA
    28. Mai 2018

    Peter Fleischmann
    pf10@ukc.ak.uk

    University of Kent
    United Kingdom

  2. #2 Thomas
    28. Mai 2018

    The positions 6 to 14 in the last line (starting with 76) yield: “BEGREIFEN”

  3. #4 Thomas
    28. Mai 2018

    Since the codes/ciphers used for encrypting the locations of earth depots were broken by the Bundeskriminalamt (BKA) in Wiesbaden, probably Fleischmann worked for them.

  4. #6 Thomas
    28. Mai 2018

    @Klaus: A certain Peter Fleischmann, Kriminalbeamter aus Wiesbaden,73 of age, is mentioned here: https://www.infranken.de/regional/kulmbach/stadtsteinacher-campingplatz-chef-hofft-auf-goldenen-herbst;art312,2843407. If you don’t want to meet him at the”Campingplatz”, maybe these are the contact data:
    https://kontakt-1.dastelefonbuch.de/Wiesbaden/Peter-Fleischmann-Wiesbaden-Annemarie-Goßmann-Str.html

  5. #7 Klaus Schmeh
    28. Mai 2018

    @Thomas: Many thanks! This is something I can try.

  6. #8 Rich SantaColoma
    http://proto57.wordpress.com/
    29. Mai 2018

    Perhaps you could write to any of the members, if they are in prison or whatever, since now they would have nothing to lose. They may be interested in explaining it to you, for all we know.

  7. #9 Gary
    29. Mai 2018

    Danke Klaus, diese Verbrecher kann ich gut errineren, obwohl, (Oder weil!) ich nun 71 Jahre alt bin.Ich habe 5 Jahre in West (Damals) Deutschland gedient als Berufsoldat und mehre Zeit als Reserve Soldat, während meine Jahriliche Dienstzeit. Ich werde auch, und kann auch, die Baader-Meinhoff nie vergessen, obwohl, wie du nun weisst, die beide sind nun tot.(Andreas Baader und Ulrike Meinhoff) In 1972 habe ich eine Dienstzeit mit der Polizei Stadt Stuttgart verbracht und dort habe ich mehr über diese Terroristen gelernt. Wenn du etwas über diese Verbrecher schreibst, werde ich sehr froh sein das auch zu lessen. Wie ich vorher gesagt habe, über Chiffrier knachen weiss ich nicht viel. Kannst du gut vorstellen wieviel Spass ich und der Ausbilder gehabt haben als ich One Time Pad lernen musste! (Gott sei dank das wir brauchte das nie “Im Ernst!” Dank für einen interessanten Beitrag und ich wünsche dir alles gute aus Britannien, de Gary

  8. #10 The Piper
    30. Mai 2018

    Maybe it is worth to contact Peter-Jürgen Boock (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter-J%C3%BCrgen_Boock).

    Maybe he has a clue, and,since that cypher is obviously broken, he might risk nothing to talk about it.

    Since he was a member of the 2nd generation RAF terrorists, like Christian Klar, mentioned in your article, he should have the knowledge. And in opposite to Klar, Boock gives interviews and writes stuff and appears in documentations and such, so why not give it a try and contact him.

  9. #11 Marc
    30. Mai 2018

    Just a guess for the last line :

    RASCHBEGREIFEN