The discovery of Uwe Barschel dead in the bathtub of Room 317 of Geneva’s swank Hotel Beau-Rivage on October 11, 1987, brought to close the career of one of West Germany’s most promising young politicians. It also began one of the most sensational unsolved mysteries in recent German history, involving corruption, dirty money, international espionage – and murder.
Hardly more than week before two journalists found the 43 year-old Barschel’s lifeless body, fully clothed and half-submerged in the tub, he had resigned his post as governor of the German state of Schleswig-Holstein, which he had held since 1982. His tenure was widely regarded as a success, and he was one of the rising stars of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), then in its salad days under the chancellorship of Helmut Kohl. Yet Barschel’s resignation came amid a burgeoning scandal involving dirty money and spying on political rivals. Two investigations into the matter, known in Germany as “Waterkant-Gate” in emulation of Nixon’s downfall, later determined that no blame could be officially placed on the now-dead Barschel.
The circumstances of his demise were odd, to say the least. As scandal engulfed his career, Barschel made off for Gran Canaria to get away from it all, then headed for Geneva, though exactly why was never clear. His widow – who like the couple’s four children has insisted for a quarter-century that Barschel was murdered – claimed he had compromising material with him: papers, pictures, and the like, which could prove embarrassing to his enemies. Strictly speaking, the cause of death was never in doubt, as Barschel’s body, found oddly clothed in the bathtub, was a walking pharmacy, including a half-dozen drugs, among them heavy barbituates, antihistamines, sleep aids, and the like.
But from the beginning there were reasons to suspect that Barschel was not a suicide, besides the protestations of his family. There were indications that one or more persons other than Barschel had been in the room around the time of death, things were tossed about, and the position of the body seemed odd for a suicide. In November 2010, the family’s doubts – and over two decades of rumors – got scientific backing when the respected Swiss toxicologist Hans Brandenberger, an expert witness in many criminal cases, concluded after long examination that Barschel indeed had been murdered, citing the fact that some of the drugs found in the room and/or the body were virtually impossible for a normal person to obtain, and the likely force-fed cocktail was an almost ideal death combination to kill quietly. This, he concluded, was a professional hit.
Yet who wanted Barschel dead? Certainly he had political enemies back home, but the complexity of the crime scene, coupled with Barschel’s odd movements in the days before his demise, pointed to international, not domestic, intrigue. Not to mention that German politicans had not been in the habit of knocking each other off since 1945. Barschel’s large number of trips to East Germany was of interest to West German intelligence, and in later years evidence emerged that Barschel had some sort of relationship with the Stasi, the DDR’s infamous State Security, but no evidence has ever come to light pointing to Stasi involvement in his death, neither has any motive for the DDR to kill Barschel been apparent.
Rumors swirled for years, particularly around hush-hush international arms smuggling through Schleswig-Holstein in the mid-1980s which even Barschel’s family seemed aware of, but there were few solid leads until the mid-1990s, when Victor Ostrovsky, the onetime MOSSAD operative, claimed based on personal knowledge that Israel had taken out the West German politician. Ostrovsky’s 1995 book The Other Side of Deception, actually his second memoir account, expounded at length about the secret struggle between Iran and Israel back in the 1980s, including secret weapons deals involving West German spies and politicos.
Ostrovsky’s credibility has always been an open question, since his written works contain a jumble of information, some true, some exaggerated – much of it seems to be MOSSAD hall-gossip – some possibly made up altogether. Yet two things have never been in doubt. Ostrovsky has been treated as a major state enemy by Israel, his former employer.
And Ostrovsky’s account of Barschel’s assassination was very detailed and seemed to jibe with what investigators had found at the crime scene, as well as the family’s recollection of events. The former spook now runs an art gallery in Arizona and sticks by his story.
Ostrovsky described a complex kill operation, with at least some awareness by the BND, the German Federal Intelligence Service, in which MOSSAD lured Barschel to the Hotel Beau-Rivage where he was sedated, then force-fed a complex drug cocktail, and eventually a heart attack was induced. As for motive, Ostrovsky claimed that Barschel had put his foot down and stopped allowing the Israelis to use ports in Schleswig-Holstein for the secret shipment of arms to Iran as an extended part of the soon-to-be-infamous Iran-Contra debacle. Israel first discredited Barschel, engineering the scandal which undid his career, then killed him off.
The ex-MOSSAD operative’s account got backing from a 1995 investigative report in the Washington Post, which reached complimentary conclusions, and led Israel to offer a relatively weak denial that it had any involvement in Barschel’s death (MOSSAD never comments on its more unpleasant activities, but some denials have been stronger than others). Questions about Israeli involvement in the case have lingered since the mid-1990s, without much more evidence to prove, or disprove, Ostrovsky’s shocking claims. The German detective leading the investigation then concluded it was likely murder, not suicide, but there was insufficient proof to back that up.
In mid-2011 German police announced that the cold case was being reopened, in light of Dr. Brandenberger’s report, with the hope of finding new evidence to finally establish what really happened to Uwe Barschel. Last week it was reported that new evidence has indeed come to light, including DNA data which may establish who, other than the victim, was in Room 317 that fateful night a quarter-century ago. Fingerprints and DNA information have demonstrated that Barschel was not alone in the last hours of his life. German media has increasingly pointed fingers at the MOSSAD, and the case is again front-page news.
Certainly MOSSAD’s assassination in January 2010 of HAMAS higher-up Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai, using a complex drug cocktail to sedate the victim before killing him in a manner made to appear like a natural death, seems to have caused German investigators to wonder how long Israeli hit teams have used such methods.
Additional information cannot be expected soon from the German authorities. It is highly unlikely that by the 30th anniversary of Uwe Barschel’s untimely death, we will know what really happened and the mystery can be solved once and for all.
Interview with Ralph T. Niemeyer, witness of the “Barschel-affair” in 1987, English translation below:
Following an interview with Ralph T. Niemeyer, once youngest German journalist interviewing Chancellors Helmut Schmidt and Helmut Kohl at the tender age of 13, bringing him very close as a witness to the so called “Barschel-Affair” in September 1987. The interview has been published by internetz-zeitung.eu (IZ) in February 2016 and was conducted by IZ – editor Jürgen Meyer.
Q: What do you think now, almost 30 years after Uwe Barschel’s passing about the case?
A: This case can’t be solved by the usual tools, proper police investigation, judicial and political power since it is completely interwoven with secret agendas of intelligence services and arms dealers from several powers, including the US and Israel. Investigators, prosecutors and judges would hardly have any chance to dismantle the building of lies that surround Mr. Barschel’s death. One should simply let him rest in peace and refrain from asking more questions.
Q: We do anyway have a few since our reserach has revealed that you had been one of the last persons to speak with Uwe Barschel.
A: Well, that is true, but you see I also can’t contribute more after such a long time. I told everything to the Swiss authorities back then.
Q: But have you ever been interrogated officially?
A: Yes, by the investigating judge Claude-Nicole Nardin who quickly got replaced by a more experienced elder colleague from Berne. It later transpired that this has been an order directly from the Swiss justice minister, Mrs. Kopp, whose husband a few years later got convicted for money laundering and illegal arms trades on behalf of Adnan Kashoggi. Mr. Kashoggi used the company of Mohammed Shakarchi for clearing his profits. Mr. Kopp held the position of supervisor in that company and had been warned by his wife of looming investigations resulting in her dimise as justice minister. Years later it had been revealed that he had asked her to exchange judges in the murder mystery in Geneva.
Q: Did german authorities ever interrogate you?
A: No, not officially but by high ranking politicians.
Q: Names, please?
A: Not now. Not here!
Q: How did you get at your young age into these circles anyway?
A: Shall I really tell that?
Q: of course, when if not now?!
A: Ok, I give you the short version as otherwise we might also not survive until the end of our conversation! I had been school president in my high school in Bonn, former west-german federal capital, and as many of my fellow students became a peace and antoi-nuke – activist. In my school I organised many debates with politicians about Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) and nuclear proliferation, SDI, Ronald Reagan’s plans for Star Wars, and published many articles in our school newspaper. I also helped mobilise for the Peace demonstrations together with green leaders such as Petra Karin Kelly. In 1983, I managed to interview Chancellor Helmut Schmidt on that topic at the age of 13. Mr. Schmidt, although a Social Democrat like my father, who had served decades in high government offices under Chancellor Willy Brandt, believed in the American deployment of Pershing missiles in Germany. This very controversial interview helped me find other publishing opportunities and when three years later, in 1986, I was travelling as an exchange student to the US I made contact with Senator Edward M. Kennedy through the help of Petra Kelly who once worked for him in Washington and I interviewed him on his critical stance towards the arm’s race with the Soviets. After our interview he suggested that I should take up an apprentenceship and he contacted for me Suzie Gookin, an editor at the Washington Post. She helped me get a job at Independent Broadcast News, a production company, that was delivering tailored news clips from around the world to various newtorks such as NBC and others who did not entertain own correspondence offices. The NBC correspondent for Germany, for instance was based in Frankfurt, not in Bonn, so when I returned to West-Germany I started reporting from Bonn as officially accredited foreign correspondent.
Q: But you were still in school, weren’t you?
A: Yes, I was only 17 in 1986, and was often belittled by big politicians like Chancellor Helmut Kohl who of course didn’t take me serious when I asked him questions. But that happened to other “grown-up” journalists as well, I learnt later. I understood quickly that it was better to be liked by Kohl and so I became the “Benjamin” in the circle of journalists who were invited frequently to obtain off the record briefings directly from the chancellor. There were many funny moments like once when Mr. Kohl told us one monday morning: “Also Montags, da könnte ich mich erschießen!” (Monday’s I could as well shoot myself). Only to announce a moment later that he was to fly to Italy for a brief state visit. Since that was not long in advance scheduled we all looked astonished but the chancellor only said, he would be back in the evening, so when he came late in the evening we were all called into the chancellor’s office again and first thing he did was to put a few bottles of wine from his home state, Rhineland Palatinate, onto the table. Then, he said to us “you won’t believe what has happened to me today!”, using the rather informal “Du” and “Ihr” form when addressing us. So he told us that he had paid a surprise visit to Italian Prime Minister Andreotti because his Christian Democratic Union (CDU) had lend the Italian Democratia Cristiana 2 million Deutsche Mark and Kohl wanted to get his loan back from Andreotti. So, Andreotti who must have smelled something received Kohl at the airport with military honours, then drove him instead of his office to a church, then a museum, then another church, and Kohl said each time he wanted to mention the subject, Andreotti told him “Not here, not now, Dottore Kohl”.
Q: Ah, I see where you got that from!
A: Yes….well, then they had lunch and Kohl said, again it was not appropriate to discuss financial matters. In the afternoon Andreotti took him to the German school where Italian and German children were singing in a choir. Another two or three churches followed and then Kohl was suddenly back at the aiport and Andreotti waved good-bye to him as the military played some marches making it impossible to have any conversation.
Q: If that happens to those big guys, too, it tells us a lot.
A: Yes, of course, I learnt this way a lot about life. And, I learnt that the way this often angry appearing man had quite a sense of humour when laughing about himself. I felt that he probably was not that bad that many of my generation thought, so I started making jokes with him, for instance when he came around the corner somewhere I shouted “Oh Kanzler, Oh mein Kanzler” referring to the famous quote from “Dead Poets Society” Oh Captain, my Captian! and Kohl laughed with us rolling his tie up saying “don’t tell me you mean me?”.
Q. Sounds like you had a special relationship with him…
A: Not only me, also a few other journalists. We were like in a spaceship in the small city of Bonn, everybody knew everybody in the parliament, ministries, not like in Berlin nowadays, where it is rather anonymous and where politicians don’t trust any journalist anymore.
Q: But did you really put critical questions to the chancellor, then?
A. Oh yes, one time I really upset him when asking for slush funds of his coalition partner , the liberal-democrats and whether his own party would not better distance itself from such criminal behaviour. For the first time I earned a stirn look from him when he told me angrily “Sie sehen doch wie wir friedlich miteinander untergehen!” (You see how we peacefully go under together) which has been a classical Freudian mistake. He meant to say “umgehen” meaning getting along.
Q: hahaha, I think I watched that on TV
A: It became an infamous quote of Kohl and after that it took some time before I was invited again for late night snacks in the chancellor’s office. Just to give you an idea how the “inner circle” functioned I tell you that it was the usual that late at night the chancellor shouted “So what do we eat now?!” being replied by his closest friend and aid from their schoolyard Eduard Ackermann: “Carbonara!” which earned him the nickname ‘Carbonara’. It became a standard phrase that when we journalists wanted to know something more concrete than what the chancellor wanted to tell us we were told to ask “Carbonara”.
Or during the coalition negotiations in January 1987 when it was extremely cold, Kohl came out to tell us that it will take much longer and when we looked at him with our frozen faces the chancellor had the federal armed forces build up a heated tent for us journalists waiting outside for news. Gulasch soup was served, tea and coffee. In the evening when it was still not over he came again and literally said that “of course there will still be a discussion but then it will be done the way I told you”. We should not wait in the cold any longer, but go to the restaurant “The Press Club” across the street, an unaffordable place for us young freelancers. He would come there and tell us everything. I said to him “But Chancellor oh my chancellor, without money?” and so he gave me a 100 DM note and smiled like a granddad.
Q: That shows what kind of close relationship you had.
A: Yes, and I am only telling you this to make your readers understand my disappointment later when I found out what was really going on. Actually, I only could because Kohl completely underestimated me. Last anekdote I will present is the one when I asked Mr. Kohl one evening whether he always thought of our fatherland even at night, referring to a famous poem by Heinrich Heine (“Denk ich an Deutschland in der Nacht bin ich um den Schlaf gebracht…” thinking of Germany at night I can’t sleep) the chancellor grinned and picked it up his own way replying “Auch wenn ich nachts an den Kühlschrank geh’ denk ich an Deutschland” (even when I sneak to the fridge at night, I have Germany on my mind).
Q: Haha, that’s a good one! I remember one slapstick scene when the president of the German Democratic Republic, Erich Honecker, came for a visit and that you shouted something at Kohl just before the limousines arrived. He looked totally confused. What was it about?
A: Haha oh yes, that was funny. I checked the camera perspective and made sure my lenses were clean when it suddenly got dark and when I looked up I saw Kohl so I shouted “don’t walk through my picture!” “‘tschuldigung” he uttered and went back onto his red carpet.
Q: Funny! You seemed to have been kind of a Mr. Bean of German politics! Two weeks later, the state-elections in the federal state of Schleswig Holstein came up and were overshadowed by a scandal.
A: Exactly. That was the time when we all stopped laughing.
Q: Title of your fictional novel that one can not find anywhere anymore. “Als die Politiker nicht mehr lachen konnten” (when the politicians couldn’t laugh anymore).
A: Yes, the publishers quickly took it from the market like they also did with my book of short stories “Wolken zum Frühstück” (clouds for breakfast) in which one of the stories was dealing with the Barschel-Affair.
Q: Well, the official version of truth is still that Mr. Barschel commited suicide.
A: It was never fully investigated what connections he had with industrialists like Schwarzkopf and Howaldt Deutsche Werft AG which was building nuclear submarines and sold these secretly to India and South Africa. Mr. Barschel wanted to make his state as successful as Bavaria and Baden Württemberg which also sell weapons made by BMW and Daimler to any dictator in the world. Instead, the whole world focussed on a nasty dirty campaign initiated by Reiner Pfeiffer, a double agent for Springer publishing house and SPIEGEL magazine while also collaborating with the oppositional candidate Björn Engholm, Social Democrat, who later became ministerpresident and resigned 5 years later because he had lied about his own involvement.
Q: Mr. Barschel aimed at becoming West-Germany’s youngest ever chancellor….
A: Yes, and for this he needed to aggressively reform his state where there were more sheep and pigs living than voters. He was eager to industrialise his state at any cost. Bavaria’s slogan later became “Laptop and Lederhosen” referring to their rural image as a state of farmers but who attracted high tech industry. This is what Mr. Barschel had dreamed of, too. He didn’t even mind to dfeal with dictatorships, or the other German state, just like Bavarian politicians also did quite successfully.
Q: How could he?
A: By creating an el-dorado for international arms dealers, just like later Chancellor Gerhard Schröder did for the financial mafia that brought him to power. Both politicians had only one goal: sustain their power at whatever cost and still be admired by voters for that. The stupid dirty tricks in the election campaign against Björn Engholm, who came across so clean and morally correct, appearing invincible for Barschel as well as for Schröder later, and that Barschel was made responsible for certainly had not been his biggest crime and that’s why he could even give his word at the press conference days before he died reiterating that he knew nothing about these. It was probably the truth. He let Pfeiffer do whatever he felt was necessary to win the elections but the did not expect that Pfeiffer informed the other side, too. It was a great conspiracy and SPIEGEL played a major role in it, but it did not lead to Uwe Barschel’s death. In 2007 Pfeiffer once told me that he felt as the most powerful person in the state at that time as he had all the evidence against both, Barschel and Engholm, as he could also prove that Engholm knew about the tricks used against him. That is as if the Democrats had bribed Nixon’s agents. And, don’t forget, Gerhard Schröder knew from local SPD-politicians Gert Börnsen and Günther Jansen who secretly paid 20,000 DM to Reiner Pfeiffer before the SPIEGEL-publication, and made sure he can later force Björn Engholm to resign and become candidate for chancellor instead. So there is yet another layer in that “waterkant-gate”.
Q: The whole affair was quickly labelled “waterkant-gate” playing with the term “waterkant” as Schleswig Holstein is surrounded by baltic and north sea.
A: Yes, but as I said before, this has only been the smokescreen that should distract the public from what was really going on. A politician lied, ok, if that was news and a reason to resign, we would have no governments anymore and all parliaments would shut down. In reality it was the loss of power in a state that the international arms-mafia had chosen to deal with all corrupt regimes in the world.
Q: But why did Mr. Barschel have to die, then? According to the Ex-Mossad agent Victor Ostrovsky who named potential assasins and murder-methods in his book, Mr. Barschel had a visitor right before his assasination in room 317 in the Beau Rivage hotel in Geneva. It is believed that this visitor was called Robert Roloff and had important information for Mr. Barschel that would have turned the table completely in the entire affair. Prior to this, Mr. Barschel also met one of the key-persons in the “Iran-Contra-Affair”, Oliver North in the Atlantic Hotel in Hamburg. What do you think was that about? Do you think it has to do with NATO’s ‘Gladio’ that also is said to have assasinated Olof Palme, like also Patrick Baab, a German journalist suggested in his new book?
A: The official version is a very stupid conspiracy theory lacking any logic. I don’t know anything about these assasins of Mossda or anybody else. I also do not know what actually killed Mr. Barschel in the end, but I do not believe that he wanted to die before Robert Rohloff (I insist that his name is spelled with ‘h’ as otherwise one could confuse this person with the famous GDR-spy Markus Wolf who also used this name as cover but spelled without ‘h’) had met with him. I also told this to CDU member of state parliament in Schleswig Holstein Werner Kalinka who was launching the second official investigation as well as our SPRINGER colleague Dirk Banse who over years again and again asked me questions which I could not answer because I only had semi-knowlege. All I can say is that our Robert Rohloff is dead for 30 years by now.
Q: So you knew him?
A: Yes, but not very well.
Q: Will you tell us what his real name has been? Or has it maybe been you yourself, as some media had speculated referring to pictures that suggested that you look alike? in Mr. Barschel’s notes several phone conversations were mentioned and he believed the person who called him saying he was Robert Rohloff had a young voice.
A: No, I won’t tell you just like that but I can assure you, it has not been me. I was not Robert Rohloff, but I translated for José Alvaro Baldizon when he wanted to transmit messages to Mr. Barschel.
Q: So Baldizon is Rohloff?
A: No comment.
Q: You are making it difficult.
A: I am sorry, but I can’t officially confirm anything.
Q: But indirectly you did!
A: That is merely your interpretation.
Q: Ok, at least this is a hint. So what was “Rohloff’s” interest?
A: Rohloff didn’t want to help Mr. Barschel for any personal reason, but he, like many others, especially in Eastern Germany, had business interests and only this counted.
Q: At some stage one even wanted to blame the East German STASI for killing him.
A: Absurd. No logic in this assumption. STASI had him completely under control since they had a huge amount of compromising material against him. He met prostitutes in the Hotel Neptun and so on. STASI certainly rather wanted to protect him.
Q: What for would STASI need Mr. Barschel?
A: Robert Rohloff has originally been from Nicaragua and used to be a high ranking member of the sandinista government of Daniel Ortega. In the mid 1980ies he defected to join the Washington-supported Contra-rebels. He spread propaganda about interior minister Tomas Borges who he accused of stalinistic torture and by this gave reason for the Reagan administration to send more arms to the Contras, in defiance of a congressional ban. I myself confronted President Reagan in autumn 1986 at a White House Press conference with that fact as I had witnessed earlier in Nicaragua arms deliveries. I knew about it from my mentor Suzie Gookin from the Washington Post.
A: Operation “October Surprise”?
Q: Yes, we knew from Barbara Honegger a Reagan-campaign aid in the 1979-elections that the Reagan – Bush team had conspired with the Iranian government to keep the hostages in the US embassy in Theran over election day in November 1979 in order to make President Carter look incompetent and weak. In exchange for that Iran was promised delivery of M65 tow missile systems. I spoke with Iranian president Barni Sadr many years later who confirmed to me that Iran even paid for these weapons. Reagan and Bush had to launder these funds by sending arms to the Contras in Nicaragua. After I witnessed in August 1988 how a US starfighter was shot down over the Shatt -el – Arab by one of these systems I confronted President Reagan again at a press conference and asked him how he felt about the killing of an US soldier by own weapons that he and Bush had sold secretely to Iran but Reagan of course denied having known about it and blamed William Casey, later the CIA-chief, and of course Lieutenant Oliver North who had admitted already much earlier to have done everything without authority in front of Congress. Admiral Pointdexter when I asked him pointed to a friendly arms-dealer in Sausalito near San Francisco, Houshang Lavi, who supplied to the Contras through the man I knew from Nicaragua, José Alvaro Baldizon. After the scandal about the Iran-Contra connection had made such dealings impossible, Robert Rohloff was eagerly looking for new suppliers and found these in the socialistic German Democratic Republic which just developed the Kalashnikov-kind of Wieger 940 that promised to be even better than the soviet AK74. Of course, the East-German government would not have sold these weapons to a pro-capitalistic dealer attempting to overthrow a socialistic government in Central America, but through Uwe Barschel as mediator this became possible.
Q: And what did you think when participating in such dealings?
A: I did not! I only observed what was going on as I wanted to know how East German arms could end up in the hands of the Contras.
Q: It is not widely known in the public that many of the Iran-Contra-Dealings were actually negotiated in Germany. A witness said in front of the investigators in Lübeck that a photo taken in the Hamburg Hotel Atlantik showed Oliver North and Uwe Barschel. Do you know about this?
A: I don’t believe in photos that were only seen but never can be shown again.
Q: What do you think about notes of Mr. Barschel according to which “R.R. had identified Pfeiffer as a Mr. Gelsenberg who he said he knew through a friend. From this friend he knew that Pfeiffer would conspire together with SPIEGEL magazine. R.R. wants to give me a photo that shows Pfeiffer with his ‘friend’.”
A: This sound rather like a made-up story. SPIEGEL is known for such manipulations. Robert Rohloff and I never had anything to do with these people as much as I know. Pfeiffer was not placed near Barschel to discredit him but to secure his re-election. He quickly found a way to make money by double-dipping. So SPD paid him as well, and probably SPIEGEL, too. I think it is very well possible instead that Rohloff got from his CIA-contacts material that could help Mr. Barschel by discrediting Pfeiffer and SPIEGEL magazine. I really don’t know more as I only acted as translator for Rohloff when calling Mr. Barschel. No details were mentioned at these phone conversations.
Q: Before many files disappeared in Switzerland you were interrogated by the judge leading the investigations, Claude-Nicole Nardin, but eactly that file is among those which are missing and also Justice Nardin had been replaced. But, you said you told her about the identity of Robert Rohloff and also admitted to have made contact with Mr. Barschel using this cover-name. When on the day of Mr. Barschel’s death did you speak with him by phone in Gran Canaria and what has been the content of the conversation that made Mr. Barschel fly the same day to Geneva?
A: The judge at that time didn’t seem to pay much attention to my testimony so it didn’t take me wonder that the file that includes a lot of other evidence could disappear. My statements probably disturbed the already pre-set mindset of mainstream media and politicians who were quick to comment at the moment Mr. Barschel’s dimise became public. It all fitted too well into the picture of a desperate politician who lost control and found only one exit: to lay hand onto himself. I rang Mr. Barschel following the orders of Robert Rohloff two or three days after his departure in Gran Canaria at his residence’s reception from where the receptionist had to walk up many stairs as I understood to reach him in person. Then, I called him again only a day before the scheduled meeting with Robert Rohloff. I told him that I (Robert Rohloff) had very distinct proof of his innocence which electrified him. Which exactly these would be one would not mention during a phone conversation even in those days of analog communication.
Q: When and how did you get to Geneva?
A: I arrived by car in the evening of 10th October 1987 around 20 o’clock. Rohloff had ordered me to go to the hotel across the street, the Le Richemond from where I could see the Beau Rivage but I didn’t grasp what was going on there.
Q: Did you manage to meet with ‘Rohloff’ – Baldizon that night at all?
A: No. Had we had mobile phones already, it would not have been difficult to meet up, though.
Q: Do you think he is Mr. Barschel’s murderer?
A: I am not sure.
A: I think he had no motive unless Barschel had threatened him to reveal his dealings but that was rather unlikely. Possibly he had an opportunity but others as well, so I think it can never be solved because too many secret services were involved and covered it up for the past 30 years.
Q: Did you ever meet ‘Rohloff’ again?
A: Almost. I had tried to find him for several months because I wanted to know whether he had spoken with Mr. Barschel that night or whether he even killed him. I returned to San Francisco and went to Houshang Lavi’s storage house near Pier 22 and asked for ‘our friend’. He was a bit suspicious because he had only seen us two times together, but he told me to wait and so I did in the Grant Hotel in Chinatown for one week until a bus driver, an immigrant from Nicaragua, who actually looked a bit like Daniel Ortega, came and wrote down a number in Los Angeles. I rang the number and found it to be a nicaraguan restaurant. I told in Spanish that I was a nephew. One told me that he was eating there every lunch time. Once I arrived there the owner told me that unfortunately he had died right there the day before. Officially, te circumstances of his death were considered ‘mysterious’. I think this is quite adequate, isn’t it?
Q: Indeed. You said before you had been interrogated by high officials in West-Germany but not the investigators.
A: I have to explain it in the wider context that will make it possible to understand it better. I also owe it to the persons involved since it may shed some light on the fact why I left the Federal Republic of Germany and went to the German Democratic Republic which I left a week before unification without returning for more than a quarter century.
Q: Ok, go ahread.
A: I had received NSTC cassettes from my colleague in Damascus in December 1988 with the request to identify certain persons on those tapes. I was able to recognise Mr. Hippenstiel Imhausen as he was speaking with Helmut Kohl and some Arabs, finally even Ghaddafi. So I wrote a TELEX to my editor and said that it probably was about a chemical weapon’s plant in Rabta, Lybia. My colleagues from Damascus wrote back that I should immediately bring these tapes to Washington DC. That was a bit funny as our company’s Hq was in New York at Broadway and not in the White House. I felt strange as it suddenly all sounded like a military order. That all happened on 20th December 1988. I was booked on the Pan Am 103 for 21st December but I at least wanted to go to Helmut Schmidt’s 70th birthday reception on 22nd December so I re-booked the flight. The flight I had originally chosen exploded over Lockerbie.
Q: Are you sure that the attack had not been aimed at you and the cassettes?
A: Terrorists in those days have not been as flexible as they are nowadays. I had bad dreams for many years because of that but today I know it was just a coincidence. The universe may have found that I was too young and innocent to die.
In Washington I went to Pennsylvania Avenue but they told me that I was to be received by Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush at Number One Observatory Circle. He thanked me for the tapes and suggested that I could stay in the US and could pick up studies there. Maybe that had been the moment to ask for a scholarship?!
Q: Right, so what happened after your return to West-Germany?
A: Not that fast, please! I had planned a holiday in the US together with a friend from school who accompanied me and who had no clue what I had been involved with. I could hardly take him with me to the meeting with Bush, so I had to invent excuses. I ‘parked’ him in the Smithsonian. Together we travelled then for four weeks the US by Greyhound bus and managed to visit as many as 40 states. On one of the bus stations I watched TV and saw that President Reagan bombed a chemical weapon’s factory in Libya. I felt very bad, used, like a prostitute. Parallel to this I knew I would have problems in West-Germany as well as TV reports had revealed my life as journalist and student and even interviewed Björn Engholm for this. My parents only learnt from my stories in Nicaragua, Lebanon, Iran, and Iraq through the media as they believed that I had been in light athletic training camps in Iceland, Switzerland together with my physics teacher from school. The tv reports also showed my fellow students but what would they think of me if it was reported that I obviously had collaborated with the US secret services? Me, who had believed in the same principals and had marched with Petra Kelly for Peace?! I was scared. I felt hunted and as I knew instinctively that I could not evade it I decided to fly back to West-Germany when our holiday was over. The same night I had returned from the US to my little appartment in Bonn I received a call from the chancellor’s office. Carbonara sounded very serious over the phone and told me to come to the office immediately. So I mounted my bicycle and went to the chancellor’s office where Kohl and foreign minister Genscher were waiting for me already. No time for opening the fridge and having any bottles of Riesling from Rhineland Palatinate. Carbonara closed all doors and then they washed my head accusing me of espionage against the federal government. Not a moment to make any jokes like shouting “chancellor oh my chancellor”. Kohl looked at me in disappointment and I felt very bad. I thought I also had to say something so I started: “I believed that in a democracy we don’t deal with arms and build chemical weapon factories” but Kohl dismissed this outright: “Wenn es Ihnen hier nicht passt, dann gehen Sie doch rüber!”, he said (if it doesn’t suit you here, then just bugger off and go over there /to the East German state). He suddenly, after years of saying “Du” used the “Sie” form again. I was frustrated and yes, I decided that night to emigrate to the German Democratic Republic as the last ever refugee from West-Germany….
Q: Your emigrated in Spring 1989 when that system started to collapse but your role in this regard is a different topic. Thank you very much.
A: Indeed, we can only be happy that we survived so far!