Freedom - and the openness that comes with it - are not given to us for free. The people have to fight for it, over and over again.

Alfred Herrhausen

Who was Alfred Herrhausen?

Alfred Herrhausen was Spokesman of the Management Board of Deutsche Bank from 1985 to 1989. During that time, he comprehensively restructured and modernised the Bank, giving it an international focus. Herrhausen was known across the world as an insightful and fearless thinker. Leading politicians and entrepreneurs sought his advice.

On 30 November 1989, Alfred Herrhausen was assassinated in a terrorist bomb attack in Bad Homburg, Germany. He was 59 years old. The Red Army Faction claimed responsibility for the attack. The perpetrators were never apprehended.

"Die Wahrheit ist dem Menschen zumutbar" (people can handle the truth) – these words from Ingeborg Bachmann are engraved in the two basalt pillars erected in his memory at the place of his death.

Portrait: The thought leader

Alfred Herrhausen thought way beyond national borders and demanded that business enterprises assume social responsibility. He was equally as passionate about developing social causes as he was about developing business interests.


He opposed all restrictions on free thought. Time and again, he thought aloud about issues that appealed to very few of his contemporaries. These ranged from debt forgiveness for developing countries, transparency, working for the community, personal initiative and responsibility, right through to the question of how large organisations could remain open, authentic and dynamic. According to Herrhausen, future uncertainty can only be faced with the greatest possible degree of spiritual freedom and flexibility. He analysed the status quo incisively, with a view to generating ideas about the shape of the world to come. Herrhausen is quoted as saying "Most time is lost because people do not think things through to the very end".


With this mindset, he shaped Deutsche Bank and, in doing so, shaped the entire banking industry. At the end of the 1980s, Herrhausen drove forward the internationalisation of Deutsche Bank. His vision: "We want to be a bank with a European branch network and to be a global player on the international market."

Vita: background and milestones

Alfred Herrhausen was born on 30 January 1930 in Essen, Germany. He studied business at the University of Cologne, graduating in 1952 with a Masters Degree (Diplom-Kaufmann). He earned his doctorate in 1955, submitting his thesis on The Utilisation of Borders as an Element of the Marginal Principle ("Grenznutzen als Bestandteil des Marginalprinzips") to his doctoral advisor Karl Wessels.

By that time, Herrhausen had already been working as an executive assistant to management at the headquarters of Ruhrgas AG in Essen for two years. In 1955, he moved on to Vereinigte Elektrizitätswerke Westfahlen AG (VEW) in Dortmund, where he played a key role in its partial privatisation. In 1966, he assumed the role of CFO at VEW.

He joined Deutsche Bank in 1969. A few months later, on 1 January 1970, he was appointed deputy member of the Management Board, under the chairmanship of Friedrich Wilhelm Christians. One year later, he became a full member of the Management Board, responsible for the Americas, Australia/New Zealand and South Africa. He was also responsible for trade finance and macroeconomic matters.


In May 1985, Herrhausen became Spokesman of the Management Board of Deutsche Bank, a position he shared with Christians. From then on, Herrhausen set the course for the Bank's future, transforming it into Germany's market leader. On 30 November 1989, Alfred Herrhausen was assassinated near his home in Bad Homburg.

Alfred Herrhausen's thoughts are recorded in numerous documents.
Here is a selection:

Andreas Platthaus (2006): "Alfred Herrhausen: eine deutsche Karriere." (Alfred Herrhausen: A German Career), Rowohlt, Berlin

Alfred Herrhausen (2005): „Denken_Ordnen_Gestalten.“ (Think_Order_Shape), speeches and essays, published by Kurt Weidemann. New ed., Siedler, Munich

Dieter Balkhausen (1990): "Alfred Herrhausen. Macht, Politik und Moral". (Alfred Herrhausen. Power, politics and morality), Econ, Munich

Alfred Herrhausen (1987): "Konzepte für die Zukunft: wirtschafts- und ordnungspolitische Alternativen". (Concepts for the future: economic and political alternatives), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen

Alfred Herrhausen (1955): "Der Grenznutzen als Bestandteil des Marginalprinzips", Doctoral thesis, entitled The Utilisation of Borders as an Element of the Marginal Principle, submitted to the faculty of Economic and Social Sciences of the University of Cologne, Germany