The codes and ciphers of the RAF terrorists (2)

A television documentary shows encrypted documents from the RAF. Can my readers help to decipher them?

Deutsche Version

According to recent findings, the earth depot discovered a few days ago in Lower Saxony was not made by the Red Army Faction (RAF), but by the somewhat lesser-known terrorist organization “Revolutionary Cells”.

Nevertheless, as announced, I would like to continue my look at the RAF’s encryption methods with this second (and last) article of my mini-series. To the best of my knowledge, these two articles constitute the only overview of RAF encryption procedures that is publicly available. The content of this second article is based on a blogpost I published (in English) in 2018.


The depot in Heusenstamm

In 1982, the police achieved several successes in the fight against the RAF after an earth depot of the terrorists was discovered in a forest near Heusenstamm (Hesse). In addition to weapons, identity papers and money, the deposit also contained a number of encrypted documents. The police codebreakers were able to solve these cipher texts and thus came across the description of further RAF material stashes.

The GSG9 monitored all the now known depots and did not have to wait long: two weeks later, the terrorists Brigitte Mohnhaupt and Adelheid Schulz approached the hideout in Heusenstamm and ran into the forces waiting there.

The arrest of the two top terrorists was the first time the public learned about the Heusenstamm depot. Christian Klar, the most important RAF terrorist at the time, also read about it in the press, but apparently believed that the police were unable to decipher the coded texts. He therefore assumed that the other depots described in them were still safe.


Quelle/Source: Fahndungsplakat

On November 16, 1982, Klar, disguised as a jogger, approached an RAF depot near Hamburg. The police were waiting there and arrested him.


The Heusenstamm ciphers

Of course, it would now be exciting to know how the encryption method worked that Klar mistakenly thought was secure. However, the sources are somewhat confusing. In the first part of this mini-series of articles, I presented a substitution procedure that led to the following ciphertext describing the location of a depot:

Man steigt in den selben Bus wie zum Rotkehlchen, steigt eine H nach Do/2/1, 2/6, Mir1/4, To2/4, Ul 2/1, 2/3, Ru2/4, 2/1, 2/2, Ol1/1 Do2/3, 2/6, Ol1/2, 1/3, Mir2/1 – anlage aus.

The expressions “Do/2/1”, “Mir1/4”, etc. are derived from the names of RAF members and each represents a letter. The said ciphertext was found in a conspiratorial apartment in Heidelberg in 1980.

Blog reader “Steffen (DG0MG)” also drew my attention to a German TV documentary about the RAF, which contains information about the RAF ciphers starting at 28:29. According to this documentary, the forensic codebreaker Peter Fleischmann, already mentioned in the first part, played an important role in cracking the ciphertexts found in Heusenstamm.

The following screenshots show two messages found in Heusenstamm that were obviously encrypted with other methods than the one mentioned above. The following message probably describes the location of the “Daphne” depot:


Quelle/Source: ZDF History

One word (“S-Bahn”) has been decoded. Can a reader say more about it?

The following screenshots show a message that was probably created with a homophonic cipher:


Quelle/Source: ZDF History

RAF-02 RAF-03

In the documentary, Peter Fleischmann explains that he and his colleagues solved an encrypted text (possibly this one) using a guessed word (crib). When they came across a cipher word of the type ABBC, which apparently stood for a gas station, it was clear that it could only be ESSO. After the letters E, S and O were identified, the rest could be solved as well.

Unfortunately, it is not said how exactly the method used worked. What does the following line mean, for example?


Quelle/Source: ZDF History

According to blog readers Peter Bosbach and Marc, this should be called RASCH BEGREIFEN. I will gladly accept further hints.


An RAF code

The TV documentary also presents a code that provides code words for a number of terms:


Quelle/Source: ZDF History

Here we learn that the depot “Rotkehlchen” mentioned in the last article was located in Dietzenbach near (Frankfurt). The “Daphne” depot mentioned above was located in Witzhave near Hamburg. The form on the left probably refers to the encryption method mentioned, which is derived from the names of RAF members.

I think it is about time that the police publish an overview of the RAF’s encryption procedures 25 years after their demise. Until then, unfortunately, we have to rely on the utilization of puzzle pieces from different sources and speculations.

If you want to add a comment, you need to add it to the German version here.
Further reading: The Top 50 unsolved encrypted messages: 24. The Erba murder cryptogram


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