Head of Top West German Bank Is Killed in
Bombing by Terrorists
By FERDINAND PROTZMAN, Special to The New York Times
Published: December 1, 1989
BAD HOMBURG, West Germany, Nov. 30— The head of West Germany's largest
commercial bank was killed today when terrorists detonated a
remote-control bomb, demolishing the automobile in which he was being
driven to work.
The banker, Alfred Herrhausen, 59 years old, died instantly and his
driver was seriously wounded in the blast this morning, the police said.
The attack took place next to a popular thermal-bath spa on the
Seedammweg, a busy, tree-lined street about three-quarters of a mile
from Mr. Herrhausen's home in this fashionable suburb 12 miles north of
Officials at the scene said a note was found nearby bearing the symbol
of the Red Army Faction, a West German terrorist group that has taken
responsibility for the killing. It was signed in the name of the
Wolfgang Beer Commando. Earlier Attacks
The Red Army Faction emerged in the 1970's in bombings and bloody
attacks on prominent West German business and political figures, as well
as on United States Army bases. Its announced goal is the destruction of
West Germany's political system.
Mr. Herrhausen, who headed Deutsche Bank A.G., was often described as
the most powerful person in West Germany's economy and a dominant figure
in European banking. A friend and adviser to Chancellor Helmut Kohl, he
was an advocate of European economic integration and played a leading
role in finding ways to reduce the debt burden of third world nations.
The force of the explosion threw Mr. Herrhausen's armored Mercedes-Benz
automobile several yards into the air, obliterating its windows and
blowing open the doors, hood and trunk. Witnesses said the car burst
into flames immediately.
At midafternoon, the charred wreck was still lying across the center of
the street, blocking both lanes. About 100 onlookers were held back by
the police as other officers combed the area for evidence. A spokesman
for the West German Federal Prosecutor's Office in Karlsruhe said the
bomb, apparently hidden under a bicycle nearby, was triggered when the
car in which Mr. Herrhausen was riding broke a light beam. The
light-trigger device was controlled from a position in a park behind the
spa, the police said.
Mr. Herrhausen was traveling in the middle car of a three-car convoy of
Deutsche Bank security personnel. The police said the terrorists allowed
the first car to pass before activating the light-beam trigger.
''The bomb was controlled from the park via a cable,'' an officer at the
scene said. ''We estimate that the control device was about 200 meters
from the point of explosion. A young man in his 20's or 30's ran from
the scene and is being sought for questioning. We believe the bomb was
transported to the scene on a bicycle, which was then used to camouflage
its location.'' Varied His Route
A spokesman for the Federal Prosecutor's Office said Mr. Herrhausen
varied his route to work daily, but the police described the one taken
today as ''his normal route to the office.''
Bad Homburg residents said the banker's home, surrounded by a white
stucco wall, was always under tight security. The house was guarded by
the police, and passers-by were subject to spot checks.
Anti-terrorist precautions have been a way of life for board members of
major West German companies since the Red Army Faction began its
campaign. Most board members travel in cars equipped with armor plating
and bulletproof glass, and drivers are trained in anti-terrorist
But executives are aware that random attacks are difficult to combat.
The killing of Mr. Herrhausen is likely to cause companies to re-examine
their antiterrorist measures and adopt more stringent precautions.
Experts said terrorists may begin attacking people lower on the
corporate ladder who are not as well protected. But such attacks would
not cripple companies, they said, and might not generate the publicity
on which the Red Army Faction seems to thrive. A Failed Attempt by
The killing of Mr. Herrhausen was the first successful attack by the Red
Army Faction since 1986. In September 1988, the group tried
unsuccessfully to shoot Hans Tietmeyer, the state secretary in the West
German Finance Ministry. After that incident, the group issued a
statement saying the attack had failed because the attackers' weapons
had jammed. The police suggested the terrorists' strength had been
weakened by a series of arrests.
The method used in the attack today was similar to that used to kill
Karl-Heinz Beckurts, the director of research and technology at Siemens
A.G., the largest electronics company in West Germany. He and his driver
were killed by a remote-control bomb on July 9, 1986, while driving to
work through Strasslach, south of Munich, where Siemens's headquarters
But the federal prosecutor, Kurt Rebmann, said the use of a light-beam
trigger today showed that the terrorists had perfected a more
sophisticated device. ''I don't believe the Red Army Faction members are
of the opinion that they can gain sympathizers or achieve anything
through such an act,'' he said. ''It was pure terror.'' Responsibility
Wolfgang Beer was a member of the Red Army Faction who died along with
another suspected terrorist in an auto accident near Stuttgart in 1980.
The terrorist group says the security forces pursuing him were
responsible for his death. Henning Beer, his younger brother, is also
suspected of terrorism and is on West Germany's most-wanted list.
Since the mid-1980's the Red Army Faction has focused on what it calls
West Germany's military-industrial complex. That made a target of Mr.
Herrhausen, who was also supervisory board chairman of Daimler Benz
A.G., the nation's largest industrial group. He was one of the principal
architects of the merger of Daimler Benz and Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm,
an aerospace and weapons concern.
The killing today stunned West Germany, which has been in a buoyant mood
since the Berlin wall was opened in early November. The two events did
not appear to be connected.
''You might ask yourself what kind of world this is,'' said Horst Imke,
a deputy chairman of the Social Democratic Party. ''While freedom makes
its way peacefully in the East, some lunatics over here think they have
to put an end to freedom by violence. What kind of people are they?'' A
Grieving Chancellor Mr. Kohl canceled a speech this morning to a group
of industrialists in Dusseldorf. ''The killing of Alfred Herrhausen has
shaken me deeply,'' Mr. Kohl told them. The attack, he added, ''is
directed against our democratic Constitution, and with that, against us
After a minute of silence, he left for Bad Homburg to console Mr.
Herrhausen's widow and two daughters.
Mr. Kohl later called the attack ''a cowardly and brutal murder.'' He
said Mr. Herrhausen was ''one of the most outstanding men of our
country'' and played an important role supporting both West European
unity and Bonn's growing ties with Eastern Europe.
Mr. Herrhausen was an intense and driven man who had a dry sense of
humor. He was known for being open and direct. Under his guidance,
Deutsche Bank, the fifth-largest commercial bank in Europe, embarked on
a course of global expansion. That drive reached a peak on Monday, when
the bank announced it would seek majority control of the Morgan Grenfell
Group, a British merchant bank.
Mr. Herrhausen joined Deutsche Bank in 1969, leaving a board position at
Vereinigte Elektrizitaswerke Westfalen A.G., a West German utility
company. Mr. Herrhausen was appointed to Deutsche Bank's managing board
in 1971 and became joint chief executive with F. Wilhelm Christians in
1985. In May 1988, he became sole chief executive.
photos of Alfred Herrhausen (Agence France-Presse); car destroyed by
terrorist bomb (Reuters) (pg. A1); map of Bad Homburg, W. Germany (pg.