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A Foe of Privilege, Moving Van Millionaire Passes On

Zapf 38785108
Klaus Zapf's removal trucks became a landmark in Berlin and across Germany.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    From an alternative collective, Klaus Zapf built a German moving van empire.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Zapf has 14 offices and a staff of 600 and annual revenue of €20 million ($26.5 million).
    • Klaus Zapf, the founder, was a multimillionaire but lived a modest life until his death.
    • Mr. Zapf was a harsh critic of wealth and privilege in Germany.
  • Audio

    Audio

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Klaus Zapf loved to complain about the wealthy.

“The rich are a bunch of irresponsible parasites,” he said.

By the end of his life, he was one of them, a multimillionaire but an unusual one. He lived in a modest home on one of his removal company’s grounds, loved fishing, and at night collected bottles he could exchange for the deposits.

He died Wednesday aged 62. By then he had built up a removal firm that spanned Germany with 14 offices and 600 employees. One of his biggest jobs was to move the national rail company’s headquarters to Berlin.

Mr. Zapf was born in southern Germany and moved to Berlin in 1974 to evade military service. There were many others like him in Berlin, youngsters looking for excitement and freedom they couldn’t find in Germany’s provinces.

Instead they set up in the city and explored. And they moved house often, from squats to shared flats.

Mr. Zapf quickly grasped the opportunity and set up a collective that would help the people move.

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