Reunification

Stasi may have carried out assassination once blamed on RAF

Rohwedder murder, stasi or RAF?
Rohwedder’s body is removed from his Düsseldorf villa in 1991. Source: DPA

The assassination of a top government official shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, originally blamed on leftist terrorists, was likely carried out by former East German intelligence officials. Detlev Rohwedder was killed by a sniper on April 1, 1991, in his Düsseldorf villa. His wife now says the hit was organized by East Germany’s infamous Stasi, the ministry for state security.

Rohwedder was head of the Treuhandanstalt, an administrator tasked with privatizing the assets of the East German government as part of the country’s reunification. The high-profile position made him a target of anti-government activists and former East German officials decrying the plundering of their home by West German politicians.

It also gave Rohwedder broad access to former East German files, possibly allowing him to trace at least 800 million deutsche marks that were pilfered from the SED, East Germany’s ruling party, as Communism crumbled across Eastern Europe.

“Afterwards I learned from two different sources that he was in fact relatively close [to finding where the money went],” Hergard Rohwedder, Detlev’s widow and a retired judge, told Handelsblatt in a rare interview. “But anyway, regardless of the hidden assets, politicians who had something to do with the former GDR believe it was the Stasi who planned the assassination.”

Rohwedder murder, stasi or RAF?
Rohwedder in February 1991. Source: AP

A sniper fired three shots through a second-story window in the Rohwedder’s home on Easter 1991. Detlev Rohwedder was killed by the first as he stood from his desk. The second hit Hergard in the arm, and the third hit a bookshelf.

“The arm was hanging down, and there was blood everywhere, but it didn’t hurt at all. But then there was a horrific burning feeling,” she said. “The police came very quickly. I opened the door and sat on the floor with the door open.”

A note was found at the crime scene claiming the crime was committed by the Red Army Faction, a left-wing terrorist organization also known as the Baader-Meinhof group. Recent DNA analysis of evidence found at the crime scene indeed led to one deceased RAF operative, but officials have yet to name a suspect, let alone solve the case. The cash stolen from the SED was also never located.

“They claimed the murder for themselves, but in previous attacks, the RAF never shot at the family of the victim — never,” Rohwedder said in the interview. She said she regretted that they had only installed bulletproof glass on the villa’s ground floor. She had noticed odd activity in the days prior to the shooting — calls in the middle of the night where no one spoke and suspicious cars and people in the neighborhood — but her concerns were brushed off by security officials.

Andrew Bulkeley is an editor in Berlin for Handelsblatt Global. Michael Jürgs, a German journalist and author, interviewed Hergard Rohwedder for Handelsblatt. To contact the author: a.bulkeley@handelsblattgroup.com

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