Uwe Barschel

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Uwe Barschel (left) 1983 with Lothar Späth

Uwe Barschel (13 May 1944 in Glienicke, Province of Brandenburg - 11 October 1987 in Geneva) was a West German politician (CDU) and from 1982 to 1987 Minister-President in the State of Schleswig-Holstein. The circumstances of his death are still not entirely clear, and inquiries have not been able to prove or disprove theories of suicide or murder.

Brief Background[edit]

Barschel grew up in Börnsen near Hamburg. He was raised by his grandparents. In 1971 Barschel was licensed to work as a lawyer. In addition to his political activity, Barschel published about public law and political science.

Political career[edit]

Barschel joined the Junge Union in 1960. Two years later he became a member of the CDU. In Schleswig-Holstein Barschel was chairman of the Junge Union from 1967 to 1971 and deputy chairman of the CDU as of 1969.

Barschel was a member of the Landtag in Schleswig-Holstein from 1971 until his death. In 1979 he was appointed finance minister by then minister-president Gerhard Stoltenberg. In the same year he took over the Ministry of the Interior and he became one of the delegates from Schleswig-Holstein in the Bundesrat.

After Stoltenberg had been appointed Federal Finance Minister by new chancellor Helmut Kohl Barschel was elected the new minister-president in October 1982. Aged only 38, he was the youngest minister-president in history of the FRG.

Under his leadership the CDU defended their absolute majority at the State elections in 1983. In 1985 Barschel was one of the founding members of the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival. In May 1987 shortly before the beginning of the election campaign he narrowly survived a plane crash at Lübeck Airport.


The so-called Waterkant-Gate (an allusion to the Watergate affair, with Waterkant from Low German: "coast") became one of the biggest political scandals in German post-war history. Barschel's media adviser Reiner Pfeiffer told German news magazine Der Spiegel that he was ordered by Barschel to spy on the SPD's top candidate for the upcoming state elections Björn Engholm with the aim of bringing an anonymous charge against Engholm because of suspicions of tax evasion. Pfeiffer also claimed that he was given orders to install a bugging device in Barschel's phone and accuse the SPD of being the perpetrators.

Following these events the CDU lost votes at the election and the SPD became the strongest party in Schleswig-Holstein. However, the CDU managed to start negotiations for a coalition with the FDP.

On September 18, five days after the elections, Barschel denied all accusations and made the following statement to the press: "Ich gebe Ihnen mein Ehrenwort, ich wiederhole: mein Ehrenwort, dass die gegen mich erhobenen Vorwürfe haltlos sind" ("I give you my word of honour, I repeat: my word of honour, that the charges brought against me are unfounded.").

Even so Barschel resigned as minister-president on 2 October. In 1987, a first investigation committee yielded no significant results; a second, in 1995, came to the conclusion that Barschel's guilt could not be proven.


On 11 October 1987, Barschel was found dead by two journalists working for the German magazine Stern. His body was fully dressed and lying in a bathtub filled with water in his room, no. 317 at the Hotel Beau-Rivage in Geneva, Switzerland. As of 2010, the cause of his death remains unproven and highly controversial. Among others, the drug Lorazepam was found in his system.

Barschel left behind a wife and four children who are convinced that Barschel was killed.[1]

Conspiracy theories around Barschel's death[edit]

In his book Geheimakte Mossad, former Mossad agent Victor Ostrovsky nourishes suspicions that Barschel was killed by Israeli assassins, claiming Barschel had too much inside knowledge about an Israeli-Iranian arms deal. In the 1994 book, The Other Side of Deception: A Rogue Agent Exposes the Mossad's Secret Agenda, Ostrovsky claimed that a team of Israeli assassins had murdered Barschel through poisoning.The BND provided the telephone number for the Mossad agent to lure Barschel to the hotel.

Ostrovsky described how Barschel was lured to Geneva's Beau Rivage Hotel by a telephone call received in October 1987 in the Canary Islands from a person called Robert Oleff who was a Mossad agent. He met a man who was a Mossad agent in the Hotel restaurant. He was provided a glass of wine which contained a sedative. Uwe Barschel left for his room and fell unconscious. According to Ostrovsky, the Mossad assassins broke into the room and inserted a feeding tube down Barschel's throat. They forced barbiturates and poisons down his throat through a tube. They also inserted a fever-inducing toxin suppository (believed to be bacterial endotoxins) into the victims rectum and waited for a fever to develop. Once the fever developed, Barschel was placed in the ice cold water which shocked his body making his heart stop. Ostrosky states that the BND was cooperating with the Mossad in the transfer of weapons to Iran and also in the secret training of Iranian pilots that was occurring on Germany airbases during the 1980s. The goal was to make Iran and Iraq bleed each other to death which made Iran and Iraq weak and forced these countries to slash oil prices which boosted Western economic growth in the 1980s.

Various mysteries around Barschel's death are discussed in a January 1995 Washington Post article[2] based on German, Spanish and Swiss police investigations of the murder, and the possible motives for it. The Post article reported that the Barschel case had been reopened as a murder investigation because of evidence of third-party involvement.[3]

"Just who the third party who went to such lengths to make a murder look like a suicide might be, is unclear," Andrew I. Killgore, publisher of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, wrote in 1995. Although the Israeli government issued a "formal denial" that it was involved, such a denial, according to Killgore, especially if it is "formal," is widely accepted in the region as confirmation that the opposite is true.[citation needed]

According to Ostrovsky, Barschel was murdered because he refused to allow Israeli arms for Iran to be shipped from Schleswig-Holstein ports. During the Iran-Iraq war, Israel and the United States secretly armed Iran; the US had an interest in doing so both to create an "autonomous" source of unmonitored revenue with which to finance the Contras and other right-wing death squad-type organizations in Central America without hindrances from Congress and to obtain bargaining chips with Hezbollah (whom Iran had influence over) which at the time had several US hostages in Lebanon. Israel had an interest in arming Iran to keep Saddam Hussein busy; Iran inherited a vast arsenal of US weapons from its Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Israel with its large collection of US weapons was in a prime position to sell HAWK SAMs, M-60 Tank spare parts, F-4 Phantom parts and air-to-air missiles to Tehran.

In addition, the police investigation found indications that another person had been in Barschel's room at the time of his death. The official autopsy found some traces of force having been applied.[citation needed]

2011 Barschel Case Review[edit]

On June 12, 2011, the Public Prosecution Department of Lübeck announced that the Barschel case will be re-opened and re-examined, with more sophisticated techniques such as DNA profiling being employed to find out the actual circumstances of the politician's demise.[4][5]


  1. ^ TSR - Télévision Suisse Romande : TV issue (spoken in French language), by the French Swiss TV, "Zone d'ombre", devoted to the unsolved mysteries relating to Uwe Barshel's death. French title : L'affaire Barschel.
  2. ^ Rick Atkinson, "87 Death of Politician Still Intrigues Germans; Court Reopens Probe of Bathtub Suicide", The Washington Post, 6 January 1995
  3. ^ Rick Atkinson, "87 Death of Politician Still Intrigues Germans; Court Reopens Probe of Bathtub Suicide", The Washington Post, 6 January 1995
  4. ^ Augsburger Allgemeine: "Tod von Uwe Barschel in Badewanne wird neu aufgerollt" ("Death of Uwe Barschel in Bathtub Being Reviewed") [1]
  5. ^ SPIEGEL ONLINE: "DNA-Spuren: Barschel-Kleidung soll in Labor untersucht werden" ("DNA Traces: Barschel's Clothing To Be Examined in Laboratory") [2]