East German hard currency maestro Schalck-Golodkowski dies

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 22, 2015 1:32 PM

By Erik Kirschbaum

BERLIN (Reuters) - The man who persuaded a Cold War conservative leader in West Germany to save Communist East Germany from insolvency has died in Bavaria, where he fled just after the Berlin Wall came down.

In 1983, Alexander Schalck-Golodkowski convinced Bavarian state premier Franz Josef Strauss, an ardent anti-communist and former Defense Minister, to lend his nearly bankrupt country a billion of West Germany's marks, prized as an enviably hard currency.

As the head of East Germany's "Kommerzielle Koordierung" (KoKo) section controlled by the Stasi security police, Schalck-Golodkowski raised some 25 billion marks for the Communist state before its collapse in 1989, including through selling political prisoners. West Germany paid for the release of 34,000 people jailed for crimes such as trying to flee to the West.

"Alexander Schalck-Golodkowski died on June 21, just a few days before his 83rd birthday, in a Munich hospital after a long fight against cancer," his publisher Edition Ost said.

"As a deputy foreign trade minister in East Germany, he was one of the secret negotiators in German-German relations. His successful work as head of 'KoKo' earned him the nickname 'Devisenbeschaffer' (foreign currency procurer)."

Schalck-Golodkowski fled to West Berlin with his wife in December 1989 and reports said he cooperated with the West German BND intelligence agency. He was quoted saying he fled from East Germany because he feared for his life.

A heavyset man who stood 1.90 meters tall, Schalck-Golodkowski later turned himself in to justice authorities and spent several weeks in investigative custody. He was repeatedly investigated but never sent to jail.

He settled near the Alps in the town of Rottach-Egern.

"If things ever get too tight for you, my house will always be open for you," the conservative Strauss told him, according to a 2012 book "Der Mann, der die DDR retten wollte" (The man who wanted to save East Germany). Strauss died in 1988, two years before Germany was united on Oct. 3, 1990.

(Writing by Erik Kirschbaum; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)