Palma de Mallorca, Thursday, 13. October 1977. Birgitt Röhll, 35, and her son, Stephan, 10, must travel to a carefree week with friends back home. The “Landshut”, a Boeing 737, is available. Flight LH 181 to Frankfurt, from there to Berlin. With you other 84 passengers and five crew members aboard. One suspects that the worst of the flight-the Odyssey of the German history.

Stephan: We arrive at the last minute at the Gate. My mother had to pick up a Pair of boots in Palma. Two men and two women rush. What we don’t know yet: It is our subsequent hostage-taker. At the security check, we checked the lax. The four boxes of weapons, hand grenades and explosives seem kind of in your cosmetic suitcases, Biscuit, and a Radio hidden. The explosives would probably have been sufficient to decompose the whole of the Jumbo. The last Bus hunts with us across the tarmac to the plane. Wrong, the Kidnapper would almost come to late for kidnapping.

The “Landshut” lands in Rome

Birgitt: As we start shortly before 14 o’clock, everything runs normal. Stephan and I are sitting in the center, row 11, close to the emergency exit. The three stewardesses have just served lunch. Then it is suddenly very loud. From the rear a man with a gun rushes through the corridor, followed by three people. I think the attempt of a psychopath to catch. They penetrate into the Cockpit. Soon, a voice in bad English from the on-Board speaker answers: “this is Captain Martyr Mahmud speaks. The plane is now under my command! Anyone who follows my instructions will be shot immediately.” I can’t take this for Serious. A German plane hijacked? It has still never! Two obese female passengers have to clear away the dishes, you have to sort people, so the strongest men cooped up in the Windows sit. Then the harassment starts. One of the kidnappers inside, Soraya, is the first class and stretches out two hand-grenades in the air. We need to take the hands behind the head, and say not a Peep. Hours? Oh, I don’t know it. My sense of time fades. Finally, you take the hand Luggage. Only the cigarettes we are allowed to keep.


Birgitt Röhll and son Stephan. Both still live in Berlin.

©Philipp von Ditfurth

To 14.38 at reports that the French air traffic control: flight LH 181 is deviated from the course. In the Federal capital, Bonn, and immediately the crisis management team is convened. The Landshut landed in the afternoon in Rome. Chancellor Helmut Schmidt of the Italian government’s request to not let them start again. She’s doing it. Schmidt tells the anti-terrorist unit GSG 9, your to fly. But: Must the state put in place the lives of its citizens? For the preservation of his Power?

Birgitt: , We no longer know where we are. Always, we must pull down the blinds. The time passes somehow. I just stand, go to Soraya and say: “I have to go to the toilet.” She looks at me angry and unsympathetic: “You bloody daughter of a bitch, go back to your seat!” I insist: “Sorry, I have to go to the toilet!” Because it strikes me your grenades on the upper arms, the bruises are still visible weeks later. Dismayed, I return to my seat. Mahmud by saying, anyone who had to use the toilet, you should report it. It all report. My bladder presses. Nevertheless, let me up.

in the evening, the “Landshut lands” on Cyprus. The kidnappers will be dictating their demands: the release of eleven RAF prisoners and two in Turkey, imprisoned Palestinians, as well as $ 15 million ransom. Ultimatum: Sunday, 16. October. To exchange or not – in Germany is hotly debated. Chancellor Schmidt writes later: “We had to ask: What is right. But also: What comes next?” On the one hand, the right to life and physical integrity applies to each of the 91 hostages. This basic right is inalienable. After the years of state terror and murder in the Nazi Empire, it had been written by the mothers and fathers of the basic law, a German state could never kill for Power and ideology. On the other hand, a government must act confidently and make a decision with a view to the common good of the society as a whole cases. So what is correct? Legally. Morally. Human.


Stephan with his life-saver Ulrich Wegener, the founder and first commander of GSG 9. The policeman died in 2017.

©Philipp von Ditfurth

Birgitt: Why we be kidnapped? What do the Kidnapper? I don’t think. Thank God I’m a through and through optimist. I firmly believe that the nightmare is coming to an end, as soon as we land somewhere. We know at this time nothing about the political background, not able to exchange with each other. The kidnappers always say: “Nobody cares about you!” Everyone in the plane is preoccupied with themselves. Stephan is in focus. He sits next to me and whispers: “Mama, we’re out of here.” My little son to comfort me! My God, I think, he’s ten, what has he done to deserve this, to have this experience? Two of the three stewardesses are in shock. Only the youngest, Gabriele Dillmann, is continuously out in the field, comforting and reassuring.

The “Landshut” to Cyprus

Stephan: again and again, we will be implemented, so that no one can deny. At some point, I am separated from my mother.

Birgitt: , I sit two rows behind him and see how he fumbles with a boy in the blinds. My heart remains the same. Mahmud threatened: Who opens it, will be shot immediately.

In Bonn, German Chancellor Schmidt defines his Position: The government will not give in to blackmail. It will not be replaced. The government shows hardness – just as in the case of employer President Hanns Martin Schleyer, the since the 5. September is in the hands of RAF terrorists. The Registrar is directed by the notion of “reasons of state”. It says that a state may in exceptional condition its interests also in violation of the rights of the Individual prevail. But she justifies it, to put the lives of 91 people, with a power struggle between the government and the terrorists? The “Landshut” is a part of Cyprus, a full tank of fuel and lands at six o’clock in the morning in Dubai. The following night state travel Minister Hans-Jürgen Wischnewski.

Stephan: The hostage-taker have re-bored and yourchwühlen the hand Luggage is collected. I got from my friend in Mallorca a doll as a gift, which bears a sort of Nazi Uniform. Panic! You won’t find fortunately. Later, Mahmud explained over the speaker that they want to press their RAF Comrades in Germany. Then he holds a long monologue about the history of Palestine.


Nearly 42 years after the taking of hostages, the mother and son are still waiting for compensation

©Philipp von Ditfurth

Birgitt: It is hard to endure in the plane. You can convey this mixture of fear of death and the stench to anyone who has not experienced it yourself. The “Small”, it’s called Shanaz, to come out from behind the curtain and tells me to come along. She puts me in the darkened First Class, where Mahmud is with the gun. “Set!”, he tells you to. Because no seat is free, I’ll take a Backrest place. He snapped: “On your knees!” I kneel in front of him. He put the gun to his temple and shows me my Mont Blanc pen that he found in my purse. “What is it?” I answer: “A pen.” What is a question? Splash, he kicks me in the face. He points to the Montblanc Logo, a kind of star. “This is the logo,” I say. “This is a Jewish star!”, he screams. The is really misleading, I think. I notice he is at the end, did not sleep almost. “You’re a Jew!” “No, I’m Lutheran!” Then he gives me another slap in the face and kick me in the knees.

Stephan: Suddenly Mahmud stands in front of me. He roars at me, whether my mother was a Jew. I do not understand Arabic, English. My neighbor translated. I say: “Nah!” Mahmud spits in my direction. Fortunately, his snot flying back to me on the seat.

Birgitt: , Shortly after, back to back, and Mahmoud again to me. He is beside himself and swung my passport. My maiden name is green forest. “This is proof that you’re a dirty Jew!” I can’t prove the opposite, there is no denomination in the passport. He believes he has two more Jews discovered, and makes an announcement: “The three Jewish witches are to report tomorrow morning at eight o’clock with me to the shoot!” Before my eyes a Film. The shoot me? In Front Of Stephan? The whispers: “don’t worry, mommy, the will not shoot you.” As a captain Jürgen Schumann comes over, do I pluck at his Uniform: “you Can’t talk with Mahmoud? Not allowed to shoot me but in front of my son!” He says: “I speak with him, you have no fear.”

The “Landshut” is flying in the direction of Aden

Dubai’s Minister, Sheikh Muhammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum wants to deliver, no kerosene, before the women and children be released. In Bonn, officials continue to prepare for the violent liberation. A note from the Chancellery reveals the cynical strategy of the government: “If a hostage is shot, would it be easier to represent the need for a police action in front of the international Public.” It sounds like the cold calculus of a regime. It sounds like the darkest days of German history. Mahmud threatening to kill every five minutes a Person, if the machine is not filled up immediately. Since the Sheik makes the tank car to roll on in. to

Birgitt: , After endless hours the certainty of dying, speaks to Mahmoud at midnight, grinning into the microphone: “The Jewish witches are not shot.” He’ll leave again justice with mercy. A giant pressure falls off of me. No one knows how Schumann has him convinced. The first Time we are allowed to eat. Meat salad, in 50 degree heat! Now I know where we are. In Dubai, which stands on the napkins. Behind us, the aircraft door is open. The fourth Kidnapper, Riza, “Beautiful”, sitting in front of it, the gun on the lap, and sleeps. Stephan says: “we don’t Want to jump out?” But this is much too high, there are no stairs.


The Röhlls shortly after the hostage-taking. The family invited their rescuers of the GSG 9 made thanks to Berlin.

©Philipp von Ditfurth

relatives of the hostages demanding in Bonn’s government district, according to the exchange. The messages show a child with a banner: “Mr. Chancellor, I want to have my mother back.” Captain Schumann sent a telegram to Chancellor Schmidt: “The lives of 91 men, women and children on Board the aircraft depends on your decision. You are our last and only hope.” Also father Röhll, lives separated from his wife, sends pleading Telexes to the Chancellery. On Saturday, 15. In October, the family Schleyer, the German Federal constitutional court, the application for a temporary injunction to force the government to exchange. There is “no higher object of legal protection than life”. It relies on the basic law, article 2 (2). The court rejected the request. His reasoning: The state should not only protect the Individual but to the “totality of all citizens”. This protective function, he lose, if he had to give in to Blackmailers. Rather, he had to decide in each case “on its own responsibility”. According to a survey, 42 percent of Germans want the state to give in, and just as many plead for it to stay hard. Pope Paul VI offers by telegram as an exchange hostage.

Stephan: I have to go to the toilet. There’s a stinking mountain of garbage by the toilet seat piles. Fecal matter and used sanitary napkins. A Stewardess’s birthday, the kidnapper orders a cake and a sparkling wine. We have to sing “Happy Birthday”. The kids get a toy from the airport Shop, I was like a remote-controlled Dachshund, “woof, woof”. Bizarre. Shortly after Mahmud’s freaking out again, as if from nowhere.

The “Landshut” is flying in the direction of Aden, South Yemen. There, the kidnappers hope to be on target. The country maintains close ties to terrorists. But the runway was blocked by military vehicles. Due to fuel in the absence of the pilot for emergency landing in the desert sand you can get. The passengers and the terrorists are relieved in the arms. The South’ili government is urging the kidnappers to immediately keep going. You don’t want any international trouble.

“Guilty or not guilty?”

Stephan: captain Schumann, who exudes an eerie calm, out of allowed to check the machine. It will take time. Mahmud back roars like a Retard into the megaphone: “Jürgen, come on!” As Schumann is back, he leaves him in the hallway exercising. Then he needs to before him kneel. Mahmud yells at him again and again, he had to tell the passengers: “Guilty or not guilty?” Schumann wants to explain the situation. The third Time, Mahmoud shoot him with a shot betweenchen the eyes. The body remains in the aisle in front of us.

Birgitt: I press, Stephan a pillow in the face when it happens. Later, I doze off and am by a jolt awake again. I have a rigid body on Schumann’s, the Soraya, and a passenger is just passing me by grinding. They stuff him in a closet behind us. Mahmoud tells us: “Who is crying, will be shot immediately.” I don’t know why, I think: We will be sure to replaced soon. Men of a Portuguese Crew, who are sitting behind us, talking to other passengers. You are seriously planning to overpower the hijackers. Me panic washes over The valves without weapons!

Boeing-kidnapping 40 years ago

How “Landshut”hostages of the terrorist on Board experienced

the Copilot Jürgen Vietor, the Start-up succeeds. Destination: Mogadishu, Somalia. It is now Sunday, 16. October, the Ultimatum expires. Stewardess Gabriele Dillmann is to reach the Conscience of the Federal government to force a replacement. It is directed from the Cockpit to the Tower: “I want to tell the German government that it is their fault, when we all have to die. And now we are going to die.” The Elite Force GSG 9 is in the approach. State Minister Hans-Jürgen Wischnewski, the is already in place, is planning a List.

Stephan: The ladies have to take off your nylon stockings, so that we can be tied up. For me, the Soraya makes, you tighten my seat belt. The kidnappers go singing through the ranks, and pouring the perfume and alcohol from the on-Board sale about us. So we burn the better, they say. All at once, so we know Wischnewski reports, the RAF terrorists were on the way to Mogadishu. As you take the shackles again. Mahmoud has now a good mood, posing as a winner. Soon after it POPs. The GSG 9 stormed in: “heads down! Where are the pigs?” My mother begins to finds a niche, because you will definitely wear your boots. She has very thick legs after the long. Dieter Fox, a GSG-9-man, grabs me and drags me outside. My mother afterwards. We hide behind a dune and can’t believe it’s over.

Overburdened state

After the use of three of the hijackers are dead. Soraya (real name: Souhaila Andrawes) injured, survived hard, is later sentenced to 20 years in prison. The passengers remain almost intact. Employer President Hanns Martin Schleyer is on 19. October dead in the trunk of an Audi in Mulhouse, on the found.

Birgitt: Since the abduction, I can fly, but not more travel on the metro, in a rifle, or with his back to the door sit. The kidnappers came from behind. The politicians told us unbureaucratic help. Then the power supply sent to us together with questionnaires, in which we should specify why we have stopped at the scene of the crime or whether we are the perpetrators related. The state, which was clear, knew us terror victims to start from nothing. I was appointed with Stephen to a psychiatrist. Knocked me with a Hammer to the knee, and I was balancing on a line. In the end he agreed to me an inability to work by about 0.5 percent.

As exhibit

terrorist plane “Landshut” in a week to Germany


Stephan: We have also two weeks to cure to the Baltic sea resort Damp sent. Since war invalids and thalidomide-children recovered. We should inhale and meditate. A Joke. You have to imagine: We have suffered five days for the state. Were released for launch. You would have to bring the terrorists to the plane, and after the exchange to re-capture, or shoot. My grandfather, the operation of an ordnance bomb disposal and could afford, has been invited, thanks to all of the GSG-9 people to Berlin. However, we have not to date received any penny from the victims compensation act. I find us a pension.

Despite all of this,

Birgitt: in Spite of everything, I have to say that The state has done the right thing, to not give in to blackmail. On Board I saw the course quite differently.

In a newspaper interview, said Chancellor Schmidt once, he would again act in the same way as in the “German autumn” of 1977. Hanns-Eberhard Schleyer, the son of the murdered employer’s President, by contrast, maintains: “I believe that our state would not become weaker, but stronger, if he had given in 1977 to the demands of the terrorists.” And: “The state of the lives of the citizens in the center of his decisions, this is the state that is worth living.”