Helmut Schmidt remembers 18 October 1977 as the day on which he experienced the most mixed intense emotions. Shortly after midnight, Mogadishu time, German special forces went into action for the first time since 1945. Hours after the body of the murdered pilot of a hijacked Lufthansa Boeing 737 had been tossed onto the runway at the Somali capital, they stormed the plane and rescued all the remaining passengers and crew, killing three of the four hijackers.
Schmidt and his colleagues were elated by the rescue, but soon after breakfast their mood was sharply deflated. News came from the prison at Stammheim that three imprisoned terrorists, whose release the hijackers had demanded, were dead.
The ministers were as stunned as the public to learn that two of the prisoners, Andreas Baader and Jan-Carl Raspe, had shot themselves inside a special wing of the maximum security prison. Another women inmate, Gudrun Ensslin, had hanged herself. A fourth, who stabbed herself in the chest, survived.