Germany’s most notorious hostage-taker to be released after 30 years behind bars

Dieter Degowski is to be released from jail almost three decades after he was found guilty of taking part in a hostage situation which was relayed live to the country over three days.

Germany’s most notorious hostage-taker to be released after 30 years behind bars
Dieter Degowski with hostage Silke Bischoff. Photo: DPA

Degowski will be set free in the coming months, a court spokesperson said on Tuesday. He will receive a new identity in order to aid his assimilation back into society.

Along with accomplice Hans-Jürgen Rösner, Degowski took dozens of hostages after a bank robbery went wrong in the city of Gladbeck, near the Dutch border in 1988.

The pair initially took two bank clerks captive before demanding more money and a getaway car. They then went on a three-day tour of western Germany, picking up Rösner’s girlfriend, Marion Löblich, and taking a whole bus full of people hostage.

All the while they were followed by a horde of journalists to whom they gladly gave interviews. In scarcely believable scenes, reporters also interviewed hostages while the duo pointed guns at their heads.

Along the way the criminals shot a 15-year-old Italian after police managed to capture Löblich.

After a detour into the Netherlands and a stop at Cologne Cathedral to do some sightseeing, the pair were stopped on the Autobahn south of the cathedral city by police. An 18-year-old hostage was killed in the resultant shoot-out.

The case has subsequently become infamous for the way in which journalists willingly aided the fugitives.

One journalist, who showed them the way out of Cologne, later admitted :”journalistically, we totally messed up.”

Rösner is still in jail in the city of Aachen.

READ MORE: The real-life crime played out across three days of TV


German police foil teenage school ‘Nazi attack’

German investigators said Thursday they foiled a school bomb attack, as they arrested a 16-year-old who is suspected to have been planning a "Nazi terror attack".

German police foil teenage school 'Nazi attack'

“The police prevented a nightmare,” said Herbert Reul, interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) state.

Police in the city of Essen had stormed the teen’s room overnight, taking him into custody and uncovering 16 “pipe bombs”, as well as anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim material.

Some of the pipe bombs found contained nails, but officers did not find any detonators, Reul said.

There are “indications suggesting the young man has serious psychiatric problems and suicidal thoughts,” said Reul.

Material found so far in the suspect’s room include his own writing which constituted “a call for urgent help by a desperate young man.”

The suspect was allegedly planning to target his current school or another where he studied previously.

“All democrats have a common task to fight against racism, brutalisation and hate,” said NRW’s deputy premier Joachim Stamp, as he thanked police for “preventing a suspected Nazi terror attack”.

The suspect is being questioned while investigators continue to comb his home for evidence.

Investigators believe that he was acting alone.

They had been tipped off by another teen who informed them that the young man “wanted to place bombs in his school”, located about 800 metres from his home.

The school, as well as another institution, were closed on Thursday as investigators undertook fingertip searches as the locations to ensure that no bombs had been placed on site.

‘Neo-Nazi networks’ 

Germany has been rocked by several far-right assaults in recent years, sparking accusations that the government was not doing enough to stamp out neo-Nazi violence.

In February 2020 a far-right extremist shot dead 10 people and wounded five others in the central German city of Hanau.

Large amounts of material championing conspiracy theories and far-right ideology were subsequently found in the gunman’s apartment.

And in 2019, two people were killed after a neo-Nazi tried to storm a synagogue in Halle on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.

Germany’s centre-left-led government under Chancellor Olaf Scholz took office in December pledging a decisive fight against far-right militants and investigators in April carried out country-wide raids against “neo-Nazi networks”, arresting four suspects.

The suspects targeted in the raids were believed to belong to the far-right martial arts group Knockout 51, the banned Combat 18 group named after theorder in the alphabet of Adolf Hitler’s initials, US-based Atomwaffen (Atomic) Division or the online propaganda group Sonderkommando 1418.

German authorities were also battling to clean extremists from within their ranks. Last year, the state of Hesse said it was dissolving Frankfurt’s elite police force after several officers were accused of participating in far-right online chats and swapping neo-Nazi symbols.