Detlev Rohwedder was a German manager, politician, and the president of ‘Treuhandanstalt,’ who was assassinated at his home by a sniper on 1 April 1991.
Detlev Rohwedder was born as Detlev Karsten Rohwedder on Sunday, 16 October 1932 (age 58 years; at the time of death) at his grandparents’ house in Gotha in Thuringia, Germany. In 1953, he graduated from high school in Meldorf in western Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. Later, he studied law and economics in Hamburg and Mainz.
Detlev Rohwedder resided in 72 Kaiser-Friedrich-Ring, Düsseldorf, North Rhine-Westphalia.
Relationships, Wife & Children
In 1960, Detlev Rohwedder got married to Hergard Toussaint, a judge. Hergard Toussaint met her husband Detlev Karsten Rohwedder while studying. She served as a judge for a long time in the asylum chamber of the administrative court in Düsseldorf.
The couple had two children, Philipp Rohwedder and Cäcilie Rohwedder. Philipp Rohwedder was the former Warner Bros. CEO for German-speaking countries, and Cäcilie Rohwedder was a reporter for an American business newspaper.
Detlev Rohwedder started his career in 1963 as the head of the legal and tax department in the Düsseldorf auditing firm ‘Kontinentale Treuhandgesellschaft,’ and by 1965, he became the co-owner. In 1969, Rohwedder joined the SPD (The Social Democratic Party of Germany) and switched to politics. In the same year, he became the state secretary in the Federal Ministry of Economics. In 1979, Rohwedder switched back from politics to industry. He was appointed head of the Dortmund steel group Hoesch.
On 3 July 1990, Rohwedder was appointed chairman of the ‘Treuhandanstalt,’ and by 1991, he had become the president of ‘Treuhandanstalt.’ ‘Treuhandanstalt,’ often referred to as ‘Treuhand,’ was an agency established by the government of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), prior to the German reunification. In 1991, with the fall of ‘The Berlin Wall,’ Rohwedder was offered the most difficult task in the German economy; to secure, reorganize and, privatize the assets of the GDR’s state-owned enterprises, including 8000 industrial plants. GDR was the eastern portion of Germany, ruled by a communist party, known as the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED). GDR’s communism was protected by the ‘Stasi,’ the secret police and intelligence of GDR that monitored the citizens who were suspected to have any political resistance to the SED.
Three shots were fired, using a Belgian G 1 rifle from a distance of 63 meters, from diagonally opposite allotment garden. Detlev Rohwedder was killed by the first shot as he stood up from his desk. The second shot hit his wife, Hergard, in the arm, and the third one hit a bookshelf.
Just three minutes after the shooting, the Düsseldorf police set off a large manhunt, but the attacker escaped undetected, leaving no trace of the murder weapon. Three cartridge cases, a plastic chair, a towel, binoculars, three cigarette butts, and a letter of confession signed by the Red Army Fraction (RAF) Commando, Ulrich Wessel, were recovered from the crime scene.
RAF was an extremist terrorist organization in the Federal Republic of Germany. Ten years after the crime, the DNA of a RAF member, Wolfgang Grams, who had already died in Bad Kleinen in 1993, was identified from the towel that had been found at the crime scene, but the analysis of the saliva on the three cigarette butts showed that they were smoked by a person with blood group A; and hence, the suspicion on Wolfgang Grams was uplifted. Till date, the investigators have so far followed around 1,000 traces, but the ‘Treuhand’ special commission was dissolved without knowing the murderer.
Hergard Rohwedder accused ‘Stasi,’ the secret police of GDR, of the planning and participation in the murder of her husband, Detlev Rohwedder. The Treuhand and her husband were allegedly about to find the SED party assets that had disappeared having a worth of 800 million Deutschmarks. Rohwedder had to shut down hundreds of plants that were in a worn-out condition due to the communist mismanagement, which resulted in a mass unemployment, and made Rohwedder a capitalist. The communists were furious over their spectacular fall from power and wanted to regain their position. This supports the theory that the Stasi assassinated Rohwedder, and blamed the RAF for the murder. The suspicion rose in Hergard’s mind as in the previous assassinations by RAF, they never shot the family of the victim. In an interview, she said,
RAF, has on previous assassinations, never shot at the victim’s family, never! And with us they shot several times; my husband fell over immediately and I walked into the room seconds later and they fired a well-aimed killing shot at me….It was so perfectly planned – the right second of the day when he got up from his desk to go to bed. It was the case that people who have experience in security policy are convinced that it cannot have been the RAF alone. Handelsblatt
Detectives have also theorized that RAF had been tipped off by a Stasi agent employed by the security firm that had installed bullet-proof glass windows on the ground floor of Rohwedder’s house Stasi: The Untold Story Of The East German Secret Police
- In 1983, Detlev Rohwedder was elected as the ‘Manager of the Year’.
- In 1985, the Ruhr Press Association awarded Rohwedder the “Iron Reinoldus” award.
- In November 1990, he was again voted as the ‘Manager of the Year’.
- In 1992, the House of Ministries building in Berlin was renamed ‘Detlev Rohwedder Building (Detlev Rohwedder Haus)’, in honour of Detlev Karsten Rohwedder.
- In 1999, Detlev Rohwedder Prize was introduced in his honor. The prize was awarded for special achievements in deregulation in the social market economy, from 1999 to 2006.
- Despite the exposed position of the Düsseldorf villa, the murder-site, the windows on the upper floor were not made of bulletproof glass – unlike those on the ground floor.
- Three-to-four days prior to the murder, some suspicious activities like late-night calls, and doorbells that rung in the middle of the night gave Hergard Rohwedder a hint that something was brewing. In an interview, she said,
They called at night, at two or three o’clock…..It was nobody’s turn. Just silence. Then again the doorbell rang at night -I didn’t open the door. But I looked down. Nothing, nobody to see.’
- During the interview, she also revealed about a large car that was parked on the adjoining lot, with a couple sitting in it, on the previous day of the murder. She said,
We spent Sunday in Essen and distributed large bouquets of flowers to everyone….When we got home, I made a mistake that I still regret today. There was a large car on the adjoining lot with a young couple sitting in it. It was Sunday afternoon. There was a law office in the house, there was no reason to be there on Sundays. I wanted to go, but my husband said: “Come on, leave it, what the heck, we’re going in!” It must have been the assassins! At least I could have written down the car number. I really blame myself for that.
- Detlev Rohwedder was a bibliophile. After Treuhand, he wanted to become an antiquarian in the book trade. Hergard Rohweder said,
He dreamed of a good bookshop in Strasbourg. A man like him would have fallen out of time today, also because of his literary and historical education.’
- On 25 September 2020, Netflix premiered a documentary on the unresolved mystery of the murder of Detlev Rohwedder and the strange evidence that was recovered.
- In an interview, while remembring her husband, Hergard Rohwedder said,
He was a caring patriot. An idealist who was happy to help with this great task. This brutally divided country, a young person can hardly imagine today what it was like when the wall was built. Broke all ties between people. And to put that back together carefully to form a Germany, yes, Germany, that was his goal.