On the morning of November 30, 1989, Alfred Herrhausen was being chauffeured in an armor-plated Mercedes through Bad Homburg on his way to the Deutsche Bank towers in Frankfurt. His vehicle was the second in a three-car convoy, with bodyguards riding ahead and behind. It was then that the Red Army struck with a precision IED, their most spectacular terrorist attack. The RAF planned their attack well, planting their bomb in a satchel on a bicycle parked beside the route. The bomb was linked to an infrared beam, which terrorists posing as workmen had set up across the road. The terrorists allowed the lead car through, and then activated the beam. When Herrhausen’s car broke the beam, the bomb went off. It consisted of ten kilos of explosive and a two-kilo copper plate, aimed so that it would strike the passenger seat.The metal pierced the armored limo and Herrhausen was wounded in the legs; he bled to death shortly afterwards, before medical assistance arrived. His driver was severely wounded.
The RAF assassins of Herrhausen have never been identified; the crime remains unsolved. In a communique relaseased a few days after the event, the RAF terrorists wrote:
Under Herrhausen’s management, the Deutsche Bank has worked its way up to being the largest bank in Europe, where it dominates economic and political development. It has cast its net over all of West Europe and stands at the head of the fascistic capitalist structure, against which everyone has to assert themselves. The bank has been preparing for years; now it stands ready to again subjugate the people to the dictates and logic of capitalist exploitation.
Herrhausen’s plans against the countries of the Three Continents, which are praised even in “left-wing intellectual” groups as being progressive, are simply meant to guarantee that the present relationship of domination and plunder continues into the foreseeable future. These plans extend and increase the suffering of the populations there even more.
I met Alfred Herrhausen when I worked as a young banker in New York and Frankfurt. Those were heady days as German investment in North America was mushrooming and the bank was instrumental in arranging much of the financing. At the time, Herrhausen was responsible for the bank's activities in North America. He was a charming, but rather distant, man, who spoke impeccable English and treated the American employees with respect. To the German managers he seemed arrogant; he certainly did not have the congenial personality of Hilmar Kopper, another executive board member I met. But Herrhausen was something one rarely finds in the executive suite of a bank: he was a strategic thinker. In fact, he was the exact opposite of the current Deutsche Bank CEO - Josef Ackermann - who chases after any buisness - no matter how risky - in order to achieve a 25% return on equity. Herrhausen thought about the bank's role and responsibility in the world. He startled the international banking scene in 1987 when he proposed that global banks forgive their loans to Third World countries. He recognized the risks and opportunities posed by the fall of Berlin Wall, just weeks before his death, and proposed establishing a development
bank in Warsaw to bundle incoming aid and deploy it in accordance with
strict efficiency criteria. Such an "Institute for Economic Renewal,"
as he called it, would help channel western aid and monitor its
efficient use. Such an Institute could play a constructive role
in economic reform. Similar institutions could be
established for other countries. Herrhausen engineered the acquisition of the UK merchant bank Morgan Grenfell to bring Anglo-Saxon banking know-how into Deutsche Bank. His plans to bring one of the British executives onto the DB executive board, however, were thwarted, and after his death Morgan Grenfell was more or less ruined, the top talent jumped ship.
Could Herrhausen have changed the course of banking in Germany and Europe? Possibly, but we'll never know for sure. The RAF silenced a visionary who could have done much good for Germany and the world.
See also Sueddeutsche Zeitung: Der gute Mensch aus dem Bankenturm