Hanns Martin Schleyer
Schleyer came from a national-conservative family. His father was a judge. Hanns Martin Schleyer started studying law at the University of Heidelberg in 1933. He joined the Corps Suevia, a fraternity. In 1939 he obtained a doctorate at the University of Innsbruck.
Very early in his life he became a convinced follower of National Socialism. After a stint in the Hitlerjugend, the youth organization of the National Socialist Party, he joined the SS in 1933. During his studies he was engaged in the Nazi student movement. An early, important mentor of this time was the student leader Gustav Adolf Scheel. In the summer 1935 Schleyer was accusing his fraternity of a lack of national socialist spirit. He left 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 NSDAP. At first he was the president of the student body of the University of Heidelberg. Later, Reichsstudentenführer Scheel sent him to the post-Anschluss Austria where he filled the same position at the University of Innsbruck. During World War II, Schleyer was drafted and spent time on the Western Front. After an accident he was discharged and was sent to be president of the student body in Prague. In this position he met Bernhard Adolf, one of Germany's economic leaders of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, who brought Schleyer to the industrial association of Bohemia und Moravia in 1943. Schleyer became an important deputy and advisor to Bernhard Adolf. On May 5 1945, Schleyer escaped from Prague shortly after the start of the Czech insurgence.
In 1951 Hanns Martin joined the Daimler-Benz AG, where he climbed the ladder, with the help of his mentor Fritz Köneckes, to be a member of the board of directors. At the end of the 1960s, he was almost appointed to be the Chairman of the board, but lost the position to Joachim Zahn. Successively, Schleyer got more involved in employer associations and was a leader in several employer and industry association. Before his death, he was simultaneously president of the Bundesvereinigung der Deutschen Arbeitgeberverbände (BDA) (federal association of employer associations) and the Bundesverbandes der Deutschen Industrie (BDI) (federal association of the German industry).
His uncompromising acts during the industrial actions in the 1960s (i.e the lockouts), his history with Nazi Party, and his aggressive appearance, especially on TV (the New York Times described him as a "Caricature of an ugly Capitalist"), made Schleyer the ideal enemy for the student movement from 1968. A pocket book novel by Bernt Engelmanns "Grosses Bundesverdienstkreuz" from the year 1974 also created an image in public that Schleyer was the key figure of an right-conservative network with the aim to bring the tandem Helmut Kohl and Kurt Biedenkopf into power in the German federal government in Bonn.
Kidnapping and murder
Schleyer was abducted on September 5 1977 by the Red Army Faction (RAF) in Cologne. The purpose of this was to blackmail the German government to release imprisoned members of the RAF. Three police officers and Schleyer's driver Heinz Marcicz were killed in the act of the abduction.
Schleyer was hidden in a highrise in Erftstadt (Liblar) near Cologne. Later he was brought over the border to the Netherlands. The failure to find Schleyer was one of the biggest blunders in the history of the German police. Several local police officers were convinced that Schleyer was held in the mentioned highrise close to the Autobahn. One investigator had even rang the bell of the apartment in question, but nobody had conveyed this information to the crisis center of the federal police.
After 43 days, the kidnapping ended with the execution of Schleyer. The German government had not given in regarding the demands of the kidnappers. The day after the hijacking of the Lufthansa airplane was ended by the German anti-terror unit GSG 9, the imprisoned RAF terrorists Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin and Jan-Carl Raspe were found dead in their prison cells. Irmgard Möller was found seriously injured.
See also: German Autumn