Virus apparent trigger for regional German finance minister’s suicide

The finance minister of the German state of Hesse, Thomas Schaefer, apparently committed suicide on Saturday in despair about the scale of the state response required to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

The body of Schaefer, 54, who was a member of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), was found on Saturday morning along rail tracks south-west of Frankfurt. Initial investigations suggest he took his own life.

German politics has been deeply shaken by the news of the death of Schaefer, who had long been mooted as a potential successor to Hesse’s long-serving state premier, Volker Bouffier.

Initial indications suggest Schaefer had been deeply troubled by the coronavirus crisis and the response to it, Bouffier, also from the CDU, told the press on Sunday.

“[He had] deep concerns, above all about whether the public’s gigantic expectations could be met, especially in terms of financial aid,” said Bouffier, visibly upset by the news of Schaefer’s death.

“I have to assume that these concerns overwhelmed him,” he added. “He obviously couldn’t find a way out. He was desperate and left us. It has shaken us, it has shaken me.

We are shocked, we are stunned, above all we are incredibly sad.” Bouffier said, adding that Schaefer had been an accomplished expert, respected and trusted far beyond Hesse’s borders.

“We needed him especially in such a difficult time,” said Bouffier, adding that Schaefer had worked to the very last to tackle the crisis. “Our country’s biggest challenge calls for prudence and drive. Dr Thomas Schaefer stood for both.”

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