Cliff's Edge

Baader-Meinhof And the Providences Of God

I didn’t like him and, from what I could sense, he didn’t like me.

Clifford Goldstein

In the late 1970s I had lived at Kibbutz Gadot, in Israel. A young German, a Gentile, lived there as well. His anomalous presence created an unspoken tension. I remember one kibbutznik woman asking, “What is he doing here?” Surely some form of atonement for his nation’s Nazi crimes or, perhaps, even his own family’s? I never asked. 

Some workers had nicknamed him “Baader-Meinhof,” after a radical Communist group, the Red Army, who, through bombing , bank robbery, and kidnapping , terrorized Germany in the 1960s and 1970s. The two leaders, Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof, had committed suicide in jail, and the movement fell apart. Some theorize that, guilty about the past, and Germany ’s by-then “economic miracle,” these children of the Nazi generation responded in different ways: some committed terrorism; others worked on kibbutzim in Israel. 

The German on the kibbutz also had tattoos all over his arms and hands. Back then tattoos were not like today, as common as COVID-19. They were deemed radical, and for that reason, along with his being a German and of the same age as the terrorists, he got the “Baader-Meinhof” appellation. 

I didn’t like Baader-Meinhof. It had nothing to do with his being German (if anything, I could respect him for what he was doing). It was just a personality clash. I didn’t like him, and, from what I could sense, he didn’t like me. For the most part, we had nothing to do with each other. 

Flash ahead a year. I had left Israel, hitchhiked through Europe, and then returned. Wanting another kibbutz to live on, I first had to get to a main office, in Tel Aviv, and get assigned. 

On a bus in the city, and lost, whom do I see but, yes, Baader-Meinhof. He knew where I had to go, and he stayed with me, past his stop, in order to make sure I got off at the right place. Not only did he get off with me—he all but walked me to the office itself. We shook hands, and I never saw him again. 

What blazes in my memory is just how unabashedly glad he was to have seen, and then to have helped, me. He oozed gladness at being able to have assisted. Even now, more than 40 years later, I remember it very endearingly. 

But there’s more. Only because of his help did I end up meeting someone right away—and under bizarre circumstances that most people find hard to believe—who played a crucial role in my coming to Christ. Had Baader-Meinhof not stopped to help, you might not be reading these words, because I might not have written them. 

I gave up long ago trying to figure out how God does what He does, or at times why. But how astonishing that, in His providence, He would use someone, perhaps the child of a Nazi, to help get me just where I needed to be in order to have an experience that helped lead me to Jesus. 

Go figure.

Clifford Goldstein