Hanns Martin Schleyer

Last updated
Hanns Martin Schleyer
Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F041440-0014, Hamburg, CDU-Bundesparteitag, Schleyer.jpg
Schleyer in November 1973
Born(1915-05-01)1 May 1915
Died18 October 1977(1977-10-18) (aged 62)
en route to Mulhouse, France
Cause of deathGunshot
Occupationbusiness executive, employer and industry representative
(m. after 1939)
Relatives Johann Martin Schleyer (great-great uncle)

Hanns Martin Schleyer (German pronunciation: [ˈhaːns ˈmaɐtiːn ˈʃlaɪ̯ɐ̯] ; 1 May 1915 – 18 October 1977) was a German member of the SS, business executive, and employer and industry representative, who served as President of two powerful commercial organizations, the Confederation of German Employers' Associations (Bundesvereinigung der Deutschen Arbeitgeberverbände, BDA) and the Federation of German Industries (Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie, BDI). Schleyer's role in those business organisations, his positions in the labour disputes and aggressive appearance on television, his conservative anti-communist views and position as a prominent member of the Christian Democratic Union, and his past as an enthusiastic member of the Nazi student movement and former SS officer made him a target for radical elements of the German student movement in the 1970s. [1] [2] [3]


He was kidnapped on 5 September 1977 by the far left Red Army Faction (Rote Armee Fraktion, RAF) and subsequently murdered; his driver and police escort of three policemen were also murdered when his car was ambushed. The German government determined that it was in the national interest not to negotiate with terrorists. [4] 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 extensively honoured in Germany; the Hanns Martin Schleyer Prize, the Hanns Martin Schleyer Foundation and the Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle are named in his honour. In 2017 German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and the German government marked the 40th anniversary of the kidnapping. [5] [6]

Early life

Born in Offenburg, Grand Duchy of Baden, Hanns Martin Schleyer came from a national-conservative family. His father was a judge and his great-great uncle was Johann Martin Schleyer, a renowned Roman Catholic priest who invented the Volapük language.[ citation needed ]

Schleyer began 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. 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 1 July 1933, SS number Nr. 221.714, and was an SS Untersturmführer (Second Lieutenant). During his studies he was engaged in the Nazi student movement. One of his mentors at this time was the student leader Gustav Adolf Scheel.[ citation needed ]

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 became a leader in the national socialist student movement and in 1937 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.[ citation needed ]

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 5 May 1945, Schleyer escaped from the city shortly after the start of the Prague uprising.[ citation needed ]

Industrial leader in West Germany

Hanns Martin Schleyer (right) and Chancellor Helmut Schmidt Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F044137-0029, Bundeskanzler Schmidt empfangt H. M. Schleyer retouched.jpg
Hanns Martin Schleyer (right) 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. In his denazification proceeding, Schleyer falsely understated his rank so as to reduce his prospective punishment. [7] 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 help from a 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" [8] ), made Schleyer the ideal enemy for the 1968 student movement. [9]

In 1977 Schleyer debated with Heinz Oskar Vetter, chairman of the Confederation of German Trade Unions in a crosstalk at the 8. St. Gallen Symposium, which later gained a high profile, after Schleyer's kidnapping. [10]

Kidnapping and murder

Hanns Martin Schleyer on 13 October 1977, after being kidnapped by the RAF. Hanns Martin Schleyer in captivity.jpg
Hanns Martin Schleyer on 13 October 1977, after being kidnapped by the RAF.

On 5 September 1977, an RAF "commando unit" attacked the chauffeured car carrying Hanns Martin Schleyer, then president of the German employers' association, in Cologne, just after the car had turned right from Friedrich Schmidt Strasse into Vincenz-Statz Strasse. His driver was forced to brake when a baby carriage suddenly appeared in the street in front of them. The police escort vehicle behind them was unable to stop in time, and crashed into Schleyer's car. Four (or possibly five) masked RAF members then jumped out and sprayed bullets into the two vehicles, killing four members of the convoy. Schleyer was then pulled out of the car and forced into the RAF assailants' own getaway van.

The RAF demanded that the German government release captured members of their organization. After this demand was declined the RAF members were all eventually found dead in their jail cells. After Schleyer's kidnappers received the news of the death of their imprisoned comrades, Schleyer was taken from Brussels on 18 October 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.

See also

Related Research Articles

Red Army Faction Terrorist group in West-Germany

The Red Army Faction, also known as the Baader–Meinhof Group or Baader–Meinhof Gang, was a West German far-left militant organization founded in 1970. Key early figures included Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, Horst Mahler and Ulrike Meinhof, among others. Ulrike Meinhof was involved in Baader's escape from jail in 1970. The West German/German government as well as most Western media and literature considered the Red Army Faction to be a terrorist organization.

Andreas Baader German left-wing terrorist

Berndt Andreas Baader was one of the first leaders of the West German left-wing militant organization Red Army Faction (RAF), also commonly known as the Baader-Meinhof Group.

Walter Scheel

Walter Scheel was a German politician. A member of the Free Democratic Party of Germany (FDP), he first served in government as Federal Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development from 1961–66. He led the FDP from 1968–74.

German Autumn

The German Autumn was a series of events in Germany in late 1977 associated with the kidnapping and murder of industrialist and businessman Hanns Martin Schleyer, president of the Confederation of German Employers' Associations (BDA) and the Federation of German Industries (BDI), by the Red Army Faction (RAF) terrorist group, and the hijacking of Lufthansa Flight 181 by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). They demanded the release of ten RAF members detained at the Stammheim Prison plus two Palestinian compatriots held in Turkey and US$15 million in exchange for the hostages. The assassination of Siegfried Buback, the attorney-general of West Germany on 7 April 1977, and the failed kidnapping and murder of the banker Jürgen Ponto on 30 July 1977, marked the beginning of the German Autumn. It ended on 18 October, with the liberation of the Landshut, the death of the leading figures of the first generation of the RAF in their prison cells, and the death of Schleyer.

Gustav Adolf Scheel German physician and Nazi politician, Gauleiter, SS-Obergruppenführer

Gustav Adolf Scheel was a German physician and Nazi politician. As a SS member and Sicherheitsdienst employee, he became a "multifunctionary" in the time of the Third Reich, including posts as leader of both the National Socialist German Students' League and the German Student Union, as an Einsatzgruppen commander in occupied Alsace, as well as Gauleiter and Reichsstatthalter in Salzburg from November 1941 until May 1945. As Einsatzgruppen commander, he organized in October 1940 the deportation of Karlsruhe's Jews to the extermination camps in the east.

Sieglinde Hofmann was a German militant and member of both the Socialist Patients' Collective and the Red Army Faction.

Members of the Red Army Faction

The Red Army Faction (RAF) existed in West Germany from 1970 to 1998, committing numerous crimes, especially in the autumn of 1977, which led to a national crisis that became known as the "German Autumn". The RAF was founded in 1970 by Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, Ulrike Meinhof, Horst Mahler, and others. The first generation of the organization was commonly referred to by the press and the government as the "Baader-Meinhof Gang", a name the group did not use to refer to itself.

Peter Lorenz

Peter Lorenz was a German politician of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Rolf Clemens Wagner

Rolf Clemens Wagner was a member of the left wing terrorist organisation Red Army Faction (RAF).

Emil Ketterer was a German track and field athlete who competed in the 1912 Summer Olympics. Later in his life, he became an ardent Nazi and SA-Obergruppenführer. As a medical doctor, he was involved in approval and promotion of euthanasia under the Nazi regime. He was father-in-law of Hanns-Martin Schleyer, SS officer and victim of the Red Army Faction.

Stefan Wisniewski is a former member of the Red Army Faction (RAF).

Confederation of German Employers Associations

The Confederation of German Employers' Associations or BDA is the umbrella organization for German employers' associations. It represents interest groups in the areas of industry, the tertiary sector, banking, commerce, transport, trade and agriculture. In 1977, the head of the BDA, Hanns Martin Schleyer, was murdered by the Red Army Faction, a far-left German militant group.

Waltrude Ketterer Schleyer was the widow of Hanns Martin Schleyer, a high-ranking German business executive who was murdered by the Red Army Faction in 1977.

Peter-Jürgen Boock is a former terrorist of the Red Army Faction.

Knut Folkerts German criminal

Knut Detlef Folkerts is a former member of the terrorist group, the Red Army Faction (RAF).

Helmut Eberspächer

Helmut Eberspächer was a German businessman and chairman of Eberspächer. During World War II, he served in the Wehrmacht as a fighter pilot. A flying ace, he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, the highest award in the military and paramilitary forces of Nazi Germany during World War II. He was credited with 7 victories, each resulting in the destruction of an enemy aircraft.

The Hanns Martin Schleyer Foundation is a German foundation that promotes research in economics, law and cultural sciences. It was established in 1977 by the Confederation of German Employers' Associations (BDA) and the Federation of German Industries (BDI).

Events in the year 1977 in Germany.

Kidnapping and murder of Hanns-Martin Schleyer

The kidnapping and murder of Hanns-Martin Schleyer marked the end of the German Autumn in 1977.

The Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie (BDI), Federation of German Industries e. V. is the leading organization of German industry and industry-related service providers. It represents 39 industry associations and more than 100,000 companies with around 8 million employees. Membership is voluntary. A total of 15 state representations represent the interests of the economy at the regional level. Headquarters of the BDI is in the Haus der Deutschen Wirtschaft in Berlin; Between 1950 and 1999 this was in the House of German Industry in Cologne. In addition, the BDI has other offices abroad and is therefore represented internationally. President of the BDI is since January 1, 2017 Dieter Kempf.


  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 (19 October 2007). "Hanns Martin Schleyer, das unbekannte Opfer". Die Welt. Retrieved 2 May 2013.
  4. Terror casualty Hanns Martin Schleyer, Deutsche Welle
  5. Bundespräsident gedenkt RAF-Opfern von Schleyer-Entführung
  6. KölnSo lebte Hanns Martin Schleyer in Köln
  7. Aus dem Tod heraus erklärt sich nichts. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , 24. März 2004, Nr. 71, S. L16.
  8. Gimlette, John (2011). Panther Soup: Travels Through Europe in War and Peace. Random House. p. 628. ISBN   9780307806369 . Retrieved 2 May 2013.
  9. Schleyer reference Archived 2011-07-11 at the Wayback Machine , germanguerilla.com; accessed 14 November 2015.
  10. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , ISC-Symposium: Praktisches Management in der Villa Kunterbunt, received 2 February 2012. (in German)