Hanns Martin Schleyer

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Hanns Martin Schleyer
Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F041440-0014, Hamburg, CDU-Bundesparteitag, Schleyer.jpg
Born (1915-05-01)1 May 1915
Offenburg, Baden, Germany
Died 18 October 1977(1977-10-18) (aged 62)
en route to Mulhouse, France
Cause of death
Occupation business executive, employer and industry representative
Spouse(s) Waltrude Schleyer (1939–1977, his death)
Relatives Johann Martin Schleyer (great-great uncle)

Hanns Martin Schleyer (1 May 1915 – 18 October 1977) was a German business executive and employer and industry representative, who served as President of two powerful commercial organizations, Confederation of German Employers' Associations (Bundesvereinigung der Deutschen Arbeitgeberverbände, BDA) and Federation of German Industries (Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie, BDI). He was targeted as an enemy by radical elements of the German student movement due to his role in those business organisations and his past activities as an officer of the Nazi SS.[1][2][3] He was kidnapped on September 5, 1977 by the far left organisation Red Army Faction (Rote Armee Fraktion, RAF) and subsequently murdered. The abduction and murder are commonly seen as the climax of the RAF campaign in 1977, known as the German Autumn. After his death, Schleyer has been honoured in Germany; the Hanns Martin Schleyer Prize, the Hanns Martin Schleyer Foundation and the Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle are named in his honour.

Early life[edit]

Born in Offenburg, Baden, Schleyer came from a national-conservative family. His father was a judge and his great-great uncle was Johann Martin Schleyer, a renowned Catholic priest who invented the Volapük language. Hanns Martin Schleyer started studying law at the University of Heidelberg in 1933, where he joined the Corps Suevia, a student fraternity. In 1939 he obtained a doctorate at the University of Innsbruck.

Very early in his life he became a follower of National Socialism. After a stint in the Hitler Youth, the youth organization of the National Socialist Party, he joined the SS on July 1, 1933, gaining SS number (Nr. 221.714) and was an SS Untersturmführer (Second Lieutenant). During his studies, he was engaged in the Nazi student movement. An early mentor of this time was the student leader Gustav Adolf Scheel. In the summer of 1935, Schleyer accused his fraternity of lacking "national socialist spirit". He left the fraternity when the Kösener SC, an umbrella organization, refused to exclude Jewish members. Schleyer started a career as a leader in the national socialist student movement and, in 1937, he joined the Nazi party. At first he was the president of the student body of the University of Heidelberg. Later, Reichsstudentenführer Scheel sent him to post-Anschluss Austria, where he occupied the same position at the University of Innsbruck. In 1939, Schleyer married Waltrude Ketterer (1916–2008), daughter of the physician, city councillor of Munich and SA-Obergruppenführer Emil Ketterer. They had four sons.

During World War II, Schleyer was drafted and spent time on the Western Front. After an accident, he was discharged and appointed president of the student body in Prague. In this position he met Bernhard Adolf, one of the German economic leaders in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, who brought Schleyer to the industrial association of Bohemia and Moravia in 1943. Schleyer became an important deputy and adviser to Bernhard Adolf. On May 5, 1945, Schleyer escaped from the city shortly after the start of the Prague uprising.

Industrial leader in West Germany[edit]

Hanns Martin Schleyer and Chancellor Helmut Schmidt

After World War II, the Allies held Schleyer as a prisoner of war for three years because of his membership as an Untersturmführer in the SS. He was repatriated in 1948.

In 1949; he became secretary of the chamber of commerce of Baden-Baden. In 1951, Schleyer joined Daimler-Benz, and with the help of his mentor Fritz Könecke eventually became a member of the board of directors. At the end of the 1960s, he was almost appointed chairman of the board, but lost the position to Joachim Zahn. Successively, Schleyer became more involved in employers' associations, and was a leader in employer and industry associations. He was simultaneously president of the Confederation of German Employers' Associations (BDA) and the Federation of German Industries (BDI).

His uncompromising acts during industrial protests in the 1960s such as industrial lockouts, his history with the Nazi party, and his aggressive appearance, especially on TV (The New York Times described him as a "caricature of an ugly capitalist"[4]), made Schleyer the ideal enemy for the 1968 student movement.[5]

In 1977, Schleyer debated with the chairman of the Confederation of German Trade Unions Heinz Oskar Vetter in a crosstalk at the 8. St. Gallen Symposium, which later gained a high profile, partially because of the kidnapping.[6]

Kidnapping and murder[edit]

Hanns Martin Schleyer kidnapped by RAF
Memorial in Cologne

Schleyer was kidnapped on September 5, 1977, by the Red Army Faction (RAF), also known as Baader-Meinhof Gang, in Cologne. His abduction was planned by Siegfried Haag, but he was arrested in 1976, so his replacement, Brigitte Mohnhaupt, carried out the abduction. The RAF then tried to persuade the German government to release imprisoned members of their group.[citation needed]

Schleyer was hidden in a highrise in Erftstadt (Liblar) near Cologne. The German police came very close to finding him, but due to lack of internal communication could not rescue him. Several local police officers were convinced that Schleyer was held in the aforementioned highrise close to the Autobahn. One investigator had even rung the doorbell of the apartment in question, but nobody had conveyed this information to the crisis center of the federal police.[7]

After 43 days, the German government had not given in to the demands of the kidnappers. Hours after the German counterterrorism unit GSG 9 ended the Palestinian hijack of Lufthansa Flight 181, the imprisoned RAF members Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin and Jan-Carl Raspe were found dead in their prison cells. After Schleyer's kidnappers received the news of the death of their imprisoned comrades, Schleyer was taken from Brussels on October 18, 1977, and shot dead en route to Mulhouse, France, where his body was left in the trunk of a green Audi 100 on the rue Charles Péguy.

On September 9, 2007, former RAF member Peter-Jürgen Boock mentioned that the RAF members Rolf Heissler and Stefan Wisniewski were responsible for Schleyer's death.[8]

Schleyer's widow, Waltrude Schleyer, campaigned against clemency for his kidnappers and other members of the RAF.[9] She died on March 21, 2008, in Stuttgart.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Varon, Jamie (2004). Bringing the War Home: The Weather Underground, the Red Army Faction, and Revolutionary Violence in the Sixties and Seventies. University of California Press. pp. 197, 245, 252, 342. 
  2. ^ J Smith, André Moncourt. Bringing the War Home: The Weather Underground, the Red Army Faction, and Revolutionary Violence in the Sixties and Seventies. p. 477. ISBN 1604861797. 
  3. ^ Schmid, Thomas (Oct 19, 2007). "Hanns Martin Schleyer, das unbekannte Opfer". Die Welt. Retrieved 2 May 2013. 
  4. ^ Gimlette, John (2011). Panther Soup: Travels Through Europe in War and Peace. Random House. p. 628. ISBN 9780307806369. Retrieved 2 May 2013. 
  5. ^ http://www.germanguerilla.com/red-army-faction/documents/97_wisniewski.html
  6. ^ Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, ISC-Symposium: Praktisches Management in der Villa Kunterbunt, received 2 February 2012. (German)
  7. ^ Büchel, Helmar; Aust, Stefan (2007-09-17). "Dann gibt es Tote [Then there are dead]" (in German). Der Spiegel. 
  8. ^ WorldwideLexicon.Marx: Ex-Terrorist Reveals Names Of The Schleyer Murderers
  9. ^ a b "Obituaries in the news: Waltrude Schleyer". Associated Press (International Herald Tribune). 2008-03-26. Retrieved 2008-04-05.