THE murder late on April 1 of Detlev Rohwedder, the chairman of what has become the largest company in the world, shows that the terrorism threat in Germany is far from over - despite numerous arrests of alleged German terrorists in the last year. Mr. Rohwedder, a prominent German businessman, headed the colossal Treuhandanstalt in Berlin. The Treuhand, as it is called here, controls the assets of the 8,000 concerns formerly run by the east German state. It has been charged by the Bonn government with the task of privatizing these concerns.
Rohwedder was killed at his Dusseldorf home shortly before midnight on April 1 by bullets fired through his study window from a garden-area across the street. His wife was injured. Shortly afterward, the French news agency AFP received an anonymous call stating that the assassination was carried out by the Red Army Faction (RAF), a leftist German terrorist organization. A note from the RAF was also found at the site of the murder. German officials describe the note as "authentic."
The fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 was followed by a wave of arrests of suspected RAF terrorists who were living in East Germany, where they had found refuge from West German authorities. Last week, five former members of the East German Ministry for State Security (the secret police, or Stasi) were arrested for having allegedly trained RAF terrorists and sponsored at least two murders in the West.
But the RAF suspects arrested in East Germany last year haven't been active since 1982, says Rolf Hannich, a spokesman for the German federal prosecutor's office. And it looks like the Stasi did not actively cooperate with the RAF after 1984, he adds.
That means "a new generation" of RAF terrorists is taking over, says Hartmut Jaufmann, spokesman for the Federal Crime Office. "We don't know how many people are active, but they are still a threat today, just as much as they were before."
The RAF is a uniquely German terrorist organization whose goal is to fight the "military-industrial complex" of Western capitalism. It is a follow-on of the Bader-Meinhof gang, which along with the RAF and other terrorists in the 1970s murdered 28 people, wounded 93, took 162 hostages, and committed 35 bank robberies. Most RAF leaders were arrested by the early 1980s, after a decade-long, intense police crackdown.
But the RAF has not yet been incapacitated. It claims responsibility for the murder of Deutsche Bank chairman Alfred Herrhausen in November 1989, the near-assassination of a leading government official with the German Interior Ministry last year, and the machine-gun attack on the United States Embassy in Bonn in February.
The Rohwedder murder "robs Germany of a man who, like no other, worked with patriotic conviction to create a basis for the economic rebuilding of the new federal states," said government spokesman Dieter Vogel.
Indeed, it takes a certain energy and commitment to steer the Treuhand, the largest and most criticized institution in Germany today. The Treuhand not only controls the assets of all formerly government-owned industry in the old communist state, but also roughly 60 percent of the region's forests and 35 percent of its farmland. No one seems to be happy with the Treuhand, accusing it of either dragging its feet when it comes to selling enterprises to private investors, not getting enough money on the sal es, or fully ignoring the social impact of closing down noncompetitive factories.
Rohwedder, appointed last August, was the third chief executive to take on the job since its creation early last year. The first western chief executive, Reiner Gohlke, quit after five weeks.
Rohwedder took on the Treuhand post after reviving Hoesch AG, a troubled steel concern in Dortmund, the heart of the west German industrial area. From 1969 to 1978, he was on the political side of German industry, serving in a senior position at the Economics Ministry in Bonn. He was so well respected in the business world that he was hand-picked by Chancellor Helmut Kohl for the job of Treuhand chief, despite the fact that he was a member of the opposition Social Democrats.
A new chief of the Treuhand will be appointed in consultations between the Treuhand and the federal government in Bonn. The Treuhand board held an emergency meeting April 2 to discuss the issue of a successor and Finance Minister Theo Waigel broke off his Easter vacation to begin talks on the subject.