Rohwedder Assassination

She or he who doesn’t fight dies little by little. Freedom is only possible through fighting for liberation.

On the first of April, 1991, we shot the president of the Berlin “Treuhandanstalt” [1], Detlev Korsten Rohwedder, with the Ulrich Wessel Commando [2].

Rohwedder has been in key positions in politics and industry for 20 years. As Secretary of State for Economic Affairs in Bonn in the 70’s he organized the basic conditions that West German capital needed for its profits all over the world. At that time, for example, he was directly involved in deals with the fascist South African regime where knowledge of how to build nuclear weapons was exchanged for uranium for West Germany’s nuclear industry. During the time the nuclear program got pushed through he was a board member of the State’s energy corporation and of various international committees. But he also searched for ways to facilitate the smooth running of countless shipments of weapons to fascist regimes in the Third World regimes. Even then he was one of those master-minds that ruthlessly plans the misery and death of millions of people in the interest of power and profit.

In the 80’s, Rohwedder made a name for himself as a brutal rehabilitator when being in charge of the Hoesch-Group [3] he threw out more than two-thirds of the workers and in a few years led the bankrupt company to new profits. For that he was elected “manager of the year” in 1983. Rohwedder’s function as a governor of Bonn in East Berlin should have been the crown on his career. Since its annexation, East Germany has become a virtual colony of West Germany; the political, economic and military decisions are made in Bonn or by the West German corporations. That colony status is designed to be temporary because West Germany, to fulfill its aspirations of power, needs East Germany to become a functioning part of the global capitalist machine – because after all that is the main source of political power here, economic strength. Before putting capitalistic power into place, however, the reconstruction of the system must be organized according to capitalism’s needs, over the heads of people that have lost their roots, and without any barriers left, the East German economy as well as its social structures (from health care to day nurseries), are to be systematically dismantled.

That’s the plan. And the Treuhandanstalt is to organize this destruction program.

However, the big corporations are not really interested in propping up the economy of the former East Germany. The few selected divisions of certain companies that have been bought until now are mainly meant to secure certain monopolies in particular industrial branches. Apart from the modernization of the country’s infrastructure – ranging from the telephone network to energy production – the multi-nationals are simply splitting up the pieces of the cake and waiting for the Treuhandanstalt to finish its destructive work before they subsequently rebuild anything which they think might be profitable on the world market.

The government chose Rohwedder to accomplish all this, and they seemed to have picked out the right man with the right amount of brutality and arrogance. In his eyes, the former East Germany had nothing to offer from the start that could have satisfied his needs for profits. To him it was nothing but a bankrupt estate. At a conference for businessmen in Vienna, Rohwedder remarked that “40 years of socialism in the former East Germany has caused more damage than the Second World War.” Only a man who judges the world in terms of profits and productivity and for whom human lives don’t count could say something like that.

The task of the Treuhandanstalt means more to people than just the loss of their jobs, the closure of factories, and the scheduling of reconstructing along lines of profitability. Also inherent in this process is the forced rule of international capitalism upon a people and their country. All social values are subsequently adjusted to its principles, resulting in nothing but material distress for millions of unemployed people, as well as impoverished hearts and minds.

It’s important for capitalist strategists, such as Rohwedder used to be, to prepare conditions for an attack on the soul of the people, to arrange a thorough deformation of their personalities which isolates them from one another and which builds up seemingly indestructible walls between them. To Rohwedder, people in the ex.GDR were human beings who had “lost the normal dimensions of thought”. That’s why Kopper, the president of the Deutsche Bank and successor to Herrhausen [4], must push through a “process of adaptation” in the minds of the population.

The free-market system apparently offers people a chance to create a secure place with the welfare state of Great Germany and become happy in the euphoria of consumption. In reality, the system is designed to make people deaf and dumb as it hunts for more victims. If something like this really exists, then it only exists for those who are prepared to unconditionally sell themselves off to a greater degrees than others are in the competition for security and who are at the same time prepared to accept the fact that this prosperity is only possible because millions of people in the Three Continents [5] have suffered for it with their sweat and blood. What matters to the system is raw labor, consumption, etc, not human beings, life, or nature.

The author R. Chemikau expresses the loneliness and emptiness of the lives of millions of people in the rich capitalist countries quite strikingly when he writes, “I don’t know any more fitting definition of impoverishment than a mouse running in a wheel, wearing jeans and a walkman.”

Those who want to subordinate themselves to capitalist principles have to accept a life in isolation. Isolation is the main precondition for manipulation and the main root of continued imperialist rule, because when people are isolated from one another, without communication, then they are far from being able to imagine themselves in a different reality and to consequently doubt the merits of the established system.

The process of transforming the entire production system in the former East Germany to conform to the competitive standards of the world market is taking place in a much harsher manner than we in West Germany have ever experienced. Fewer and fewer people are working in increasingly high-tech production plants. One experience has been observed throughout Western Europe over the past decade: in the competition between men/women and machines, men/women have lost millions of jobs, never to be re-hired. This has been true in the FRG, meaning that at least 1/3 of the population has become almost useless to capitalism. These enormous amounts of people, who have either been kicked out of the workforce completely, or who are doing so-called unqualified jobs, have to be made to keep quiet and to accept the misery and injustice, accepting capitalist values as laws of nature.

The systems relies on people who have decided to wholeheartedly accept the system and who have consequently been placed in privileged positions in high-tech production or the service sector. They are the maggots in the meat, those who we call yuppies, whose perception of life does not go much past “born to shop”. City development meets with their desires for luxury shops, yuppie bars, and unaffordable luxury apartments. The corrupt class of yuppies and bosses are the only ones who profit from this glossy shit which is being built up everywhere. For most of the humiliated and offended people this development represents the destruction of their way of life. They are to be deported to the suburbs, which are designed to isolate people from one another.

This destruction of communicative life-styles has been going on here for quite sometime, and this process is now seriously threatening to over-run the East Germans, drowning them in isolation and individualization.

Since the annexation of East Germany, racist attacks against refugees and resident foreigners and sexist behaviour against women have increased and become increasingly open. Fascist groups have gained in strength, resulting in daily brutal attacks against foreigners, leftists, and women organized in feminist groups. Certainly one reason for the latter is that during the rule by the SED [6], power, solidarity, and equal rights were decreed by the State. Of course many people never accepted this and were not reformed internally, since this equality was imposed from above; it was prescribed, never went very deep, and consequently was not supported by lots of people. On the other hand, it’s impossible to conceive of a capitalist system without racism and the oppression of women. The notion of ‘Germany: the one and only Fatherland’ was and still is State policy, supported with a flood of nationalist propaganda. Nationalism is especially socially acceptable in the former East Germany which is riddled with chauvinist slogans like “Now we are somebody, we are real Germans again!” It’s a State policy which enforces racism and subtly aids fascism by holding up an inhumane legal system which oppresses refugees and foreigners. The borders of affluent Western Europe are to be closed off to all those seeking to flee either the Three Continents or the ailing nations of Eastern Europe.

Women are the first to be fired when East German firms close their doors. Day nurseries are being closed down and women are losing their right to choose how many, if any, kids to have as West Germany’s anti-abortion laws, paragraph 218, takes effect [7]. Racism and the oppression of women are necessary to the Great German imperialist State because such hatreds lead to dissatisfaction, not against the system itself, but against those people in lower positions in the social hierarchy.

Fascist organizations likewise provide capitalist states with agents of terror, as illustrated by the bombing at the Oktoberfest in Munich (West Germany) and at the railway station in Bologna (Italy) [8]. The state also allows these groups to carry out deliberate attacks on progressives and left-wingers, attacks which led, for example, to the eviction of squatted houses in Frankfurt.

We see our action as an attack against one of the architects of the new Great Germany, an attack which hit this reactionary development at its roots. It’s obvious, as German history has shown, that poverty, social decline, and massive unemployment do not by themselves lead to a mobilization for human causes against the rulers of the State.

The dissatisfaction and disappointment of progressive people is channeled by the unions away from root causes. It is the main task of unions to prevent industrial actions from becoming political struggles which challenge the system as being the cause of miserable situations. Currently, union big-wigs have placed themselves at the front of the protest movements in the former East Germany with exactly this in mind. The fact that these leaders at one time considered stopping the Monday-night demonstrations (which led to the fall of the SED regime, and which could do the same to those in Bonn) is further evidence of this.

These people have termed our action a “political catastrophe” because they are afraid that the former East Germans might understand our motives. Waigel [9] has threatened to halt corporate investments if strikes and demonstrations continue. And to further brain-wash the public and prevent them from attempting to comprehend our motives, this piece of human trash has also spread the rumor that we (the RAF) are but agents of the Stasi [10].

We stated it before in our communiqué regarding the attack on Neusel [11]: all of us fighting to live our lives with dignity in a world free of rulers should roll up our sleeves and become a common force.

This is especially true today, a time in which imperialism is dealing blow after blow, forcing its New World Order down the throats of people here as well as in the Three Continents: the Gulf War, the development of the Great Germany, the repression against our imprisoned comrades, and the State’s attempt to destroy the liberated spaces built up by people are all examples of this. A revolutionary movement needs to have the ability to strike wherever and whenever needed.

The only way by which we can imagine a development which will eventually tear this system down is by building up a counter-force by pushing through very material demands and goals, a counter-force which can impose the necessary changes on the imperialist system and which is able to liberate humanity in an extensive fight.

The revolutionary movement should become an actual and noticeable political force, actual and noticeable through creating, together, the ability to block essential developments and achieve real changes for the people. For us, that means that, in future, we will answer any of the State’s attacks on the development of our revolutionary counter-force, such as the brutal eviction of the Mainzerstrasse squats in East Berlin (Nov ‘90).

Beyond that, we think that it’s important to be able to intervene in current conflicts with current demands, like, for example, our attack against the US embassy in Bonn (Feb ‘91), as well as with strategic attacks such as this one on Rohwedder.

We want to organize together with others to be able to work out militant campaigns in order to push through common aims. We feel that this can be done with all people who express as a daily reality the exploitative nature of capitalist society, and we encourage them to get organized with their own ideas and act accordingly.

The revolutionary movement must develop a real and concrete human perspective, thus making it attractive for everyone who feels this system is oppressive.

The sprout of a new society must emerge, one in which people start living together without rulers in a self-determined manner. But self-determination, to us, does not mean simply repeating the fact that there are numerous questions as to how to advance revolutionary development; self-determination means beginning to look for the answers as well. Everybody shares a common responsibility, that being to bring radical change forward, and everyone must be willing to deal with that responsibility. People who act for themselves can overcome the feeling of powerlessness that has been pushed upon them and turn themselves towards the real problems and begin finding solutions for them. This means not remaining on the ground whenever we feel defeated, but to rise again and to start exploring new roads. Only in this way can a revolutionary movement achieve a continuity and an identity.

At present, we are acting in the wake of the defeat of the hungerstrike campaign of the political prisoners in ‘89, when, despise a mobilization more massive than any seen before, the State refused to give in and our comrades failed to achieve their demands. The real defeat for the Left wasn’t so much the lack of power in the mobilization, but rather the fact that we gave up the goal we wanted to achieve, leaving our comrades with nothing but a sense of helplessness coming out of this experience.

It’s a question of identity for every revolutionary movement in the world to look for ways to gain freedom for political prisoners. A revolutionary movement which doesn’t care about its prisoners can’t be revolutionary.



Red Army Faction
April 4th 1991


N.B. All footnotes in this document were added by the editor. None are originally from the RAF.

[1] In 1990 the German Democratic Republic, or East Germany, was essentially annexed by the Federal Republic of Germany, or West Germany. The Treuhand was the agency that privatized the East German state owned enterprises – it oversaw the restructuring and selling of about 8.500 firms with over 4 million employees. [return to text]

[2] Ulrich Wessel was a RAF member who was killed during the occupation of the West German embassy in Stockholm in April 1975. [return to text]

[3] A large German multinational. [return to text]

[4] Alfred Herrhausen, the chief executive of the Deutsche Bank, was assassinated by the RAF’s Wolfgang Beer Commando in December 1989. (the communique can be read here) [return to text]

[5] The Three Continents refers to Asia, Africa and South America. [return to text]

[6] SED: the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, more commonly known as the East German Communist Party, which ruled the GDR from 1946 until 1990.  [return to text]

[7]  There were always serious restrictions on abortion in West Germany, while in East Germany abortion was permitted under most circumstances. After reunification the West German abortion law (paragraph 218) was extended to the former East Germany. [return to text]

[8] In 1980 both the Bologna (Italy) train station bombing and the Oktoberfest bombing (FDR were indiscriminate terror attacks aimed at the general population, and carried out by the far right. In both cases there were indications of State complicity and the involvement of right-wing networks linked to NATO, and in both cases there was a strong push to blame the attacks of the revolutionary left. [return to text]

[9] West German Secretary of Finance

[10] Stasi: the greatly hated and feared East German secret police. [return to text]

[11] West German Secretary of State for Internal Affairs, wounded by RAF in June 1990.  [return to text]