Kidnapping of Nina von Gallwitz

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The kidnapping of Nina von Gallwitz is a so far unsolved criminal case. The then eight-year-old girl was kidnapped in Cologne in 1981 and held captive for 149 days. After five months, she was released in 1982 after paying a ransom . The crime could not be resolved to this day and is now statute barred . With a duration of almost five months, this was the longest to date and, after the 15 month kidnapping of Silvia Müller, the second longest kidnapping in German criminal history.


Nina von Gallwitz is the daughter of the Cologne bank authorized signatory Hubertus von Gallwitz and his wife Beatrice, artist.

Today she lives in Berlin. She and her family have completed this kidnapping and do not wish to be approached again.


Eight-year-old Nina von Gallwitz was kidnapped on December 18, 1981 on her way to the Green Belt School in the Hahnwald district of Cologne in the Rodenkirchen district . On the way to school she was missed by friends who informed her mother. A search with hundreds of police in the district and in the surrounding green spaces immediately started.

The kidnappers called in at noon. They apparently played a tape that was discussed by the kidnapped child. The request was made not to involve the police, which at this point were already involved and had started to look for the girl. A letter from the kidnappers arrived the next day, demanding a ransom. What was unusual was that they did not give a specific amount, but asked the parents to make an offer for the amount of the ransom. Modalities for establishing contact were also determined: the girl's father was to make contact with the kidnappers by radio on a predetermined frequency at a certain point on the banks of the Rhine on Mondays or Wednesday afternoons. The kidnappers' replies, on the other hand, would not be sent by radio but in writing by letter. The girl's hair clip came with that ransom note.

On December 21, 1981 Hubertus von Gallwitz offered a ransom of 800,000 DM , which was accepted by the kidnappers. For each unsuccessful ransom transfer, the sum should increase by 50,000 DM. A first attempt to hand over the ransom on December 24, 1981, Christmas Eve , failed. Accompanied by more than 100 plainclothes policemen, the girl's father boarded the 720 express train from Cologne to Dortmund , from which the ransom was to be dropped on a radio signal, but the blackmailers did not answer. It can be assumed that the presence of the police was noticed.

A second ransom delivery on December 30, 1981 also failed. The kidnappers' instructions were that the father's money should be dropped from a small two-person helicopter . However, a four-person helicopter prepared by the police rose and flew the specified route in the form of an "8" from Cologne to the Ruhr area , then to Bonn and back to Cologne. The agreed radio signal for the release was not received. One reason may be that the radio frequency above the Breitscheid motorway junction was disturbed and therefore a possible radio signal could not be received. It is more likely, however, that the kidnappers noticed that the specified type of helicopter had not been used and that the police were involved. During this flight, however, the father managed to record some of the kidnappers' voices from the radio traffic on a cassette . This sentence " he has the fucking cops with him " was later published by the police and could be overheard by the population in a telephone announcement service.

The public was now informed: on January 1, 1982, New Year's Day , her parents addressed the public via the radio. The family offered a reward of 100,000 DM for clues that lead to the trace of their daughter, they asked for a new sign of life from the child and threatened to call in the police - they were actually already involved, but held back with an offensive manhunt. Since two money transfers already had failed, the blackmailers increased the demand to 1.2 million DM and demanded the involvement of a private mediator of the former Cologne cathedral dean Heinz Werner heretics .

On January 19, 1982, Nina received a new sign of life: a tape cassette on which the child had spoken the blackmailer's demands.

On February 5, 1982, the transfer of the money was to be attempted a third time. Again, the father was supposed to fly a certain distance in a two-seat helicopter and drop the money on a signal. This handover did not take place either, because the helicopter had to wait for phantom reconnaissance aircraft with thermal imaging cameras that had been requested by the police and could only take off when police patrols were posted on the highways. The helicopter therefore took off an hour too late. The kidnappers lost confidence and broke off contact.

A week later, on February 11, 1982, the family agreed to a large police manhunt and offered a reward of 250,000 DM themselves. The public prosecutor's office is also offering a reward of 50,000 DM for relevant information to clarify this crime. The existing police special commission was temporarily increased to up to 65 officers. Numerous details of this case have now been released by the police. As a result, there were hundreds of clues from the population, but there was no hot lead.

After four more weeks without a successful search and without further contact with the extortionists, the family stopped working with the police. At this point, relevant police officers were convinced that the girl was already dead. Therefore, the focus of the search was placed on the capture of the perpetrators and the securing of the ransom. The focus of the family, however, was exclusively on the liberation of the daughter.

A group within the special commission of the Cologne police, which, like the family, placed the child's release in the foreground and insisted on more discretion in the investigation, received little attention.

According to the family, the police tactics of intensely tracking down the perpetrators were the reason why previous attempts to hand over the ransom had failed and Nina was still in captivity. As a result, the family's relationship with the police was permanently disrupted. The privately offered reward was withdrawn and the police asked to stop the manhunt. From then on, this was no longer informed about the progress of the events.

In a procession in March 1982 in Cologne, 500 people prayed for Nina's return.

In mid-March 1982, the private mediator and journalist Franz Tartarotti , who had already been successful in the case of the Kronzucker kidnapping, and the former criminal director of the Federal Criminal Police Office, Hans Fernstädt, were called in. Originally, Franz Tartarotti no longer wanted to act as an intermediary in child abduction, but in the end he agreed to support.

The perpetrators had offered Tartarotti to communicate with him through advertisements in large newspapers with the "five-line Caesar" (in fact, it was a slightly modified Vigenère cipher ). Tartarotti negotiated a total of nine weeks with the kidnappers via newspaper advertisements. The agreed ransom was now 1.5 million DM, almost double the original amount. Tape cassettes with the child's voice and a letter that the child wrote to the agent Tartarotti proved that Nina von Gallwitz was alive and in good shape.


The perpetrators finally agreed on May 12, 1982 that Franz Tartarotti would hand over the money again, which was successful. Between Namedy and Andernach at 50 ° 26'48.0 "N 7 ° 22'49.5" E, the agent threw the ransom on a radio signal from a moving night train D 209 from Dortmund to Basel .

Drop point of the ransom for Nina von Gallwitz between Namedy and Andernach at 50 ° 26'48.0 "N 7 ° 22'49.5" E

On 15 May 1982, three days later, Nina was by the kidnappers at the Federal Highway 3 before Solingen near the highway rest stop Ohligser Heide released. She was taken there in the trunk of a car, blindfolded with a gauze bandage . The girl dragged herself weakened but apparently healthy to the nearby rest stop . The kidnappers had ordered her to stand against a wall and wait for a clock set to zero in a pocket to go off. However, she was found and taken care of by an employee at the rest stop a good 30 minutes beforehand.

After the liberation

The girl had survived the kidnapping well. It soon returned to its old school class and made up for the missed school material.

In order to enable her to return to a normal life, Nina von Gallwitz received extensive support from doctors and psychologists. Due to the broken relationship between the family and the police, she was shielded from the public and the police for weeks after her return, but the family made tapes of conversations with the girl in which she provided information about her observations available.

The magazine " Quick " reported exclusively on the return. Details from Nina von Gallwitz's abduction have become known: the girl was guarded by two people who called themselves "Peter" and "Paul"; however, one of the persons was a woman. Nina was not threatened, ill-treated or handcuffed during her long detention. Only on the day of the kidnapping did she have to lie down in a wooden box during the transport.

Rather, both perpetrators have probably tried to establish friendly contact with the girl. Above all, the woman has probably tried to establish a "mother-daughter relationship". Nina had to stay in a darkened room lit only by a flashlight, but she received comics , books and fairy tale tapes for entertainment. She was also allowed to paint and write.

The act was also "a very unusual case" because the kidnappers had initially given the parents the freedom to name the amount of the ransom money themselves - literally: "What is your daughter worth to you?"

Since so many money transfers had failed, mediators Tartarotti and Fernstädt soon suspected that there was an informant in the family who kept the kidnappers informed of the next steps. As Franz Tartarotti reported in an interview , after the limitation period in 2012 he received an anonymous letter confirming this thesis.

The whereabouts of the ransom

The whereabouts of most of the ransom has not yet been clarified.

Towards the end of 1982 there was a final contact with one of the kidnappers: the von Gallwitz family received a letter containing a 500 DM note from the ransom. This was identifiable because Tartarotti and Fernstädt had filmed 15,000 banknotes for 18 hours before handing over the money and developed a film roll. This kidnapper wrote that he had been betrayed by his accomplices. He wanted to earn money by revealing inside information, but only gave irrelevant, already known information. He said he was tired of it and that he didn't want to end up like the RAF people who were gradually caught. This contact fizzled out.

At the same time, in December 1982, children playing in a forest near Meinerzhagen found several thousand D-Mark bills from the ransom. Also towards the end of 1982 four men became suspicious of trying to exchange 400,000 DM from the ransom in Turkey . This attempt was noticed because the BKA had also forwarded the registered banknote numbers to foreign offices via Interpol . The men testified that they dug up the money in a forest area "Am Schnüffel" near Meinerzhagen. In early 1983 several apartments in Meinerzhagen were searched, but without success.

It quickly became clear that these men could not have been the kidnappers of the child. These showed an extraordinary intelligence and cold bloodedness. They could radio, had precise knowledge of the motorway network and the rail network of the Deutsche Bundesbahn; They knew their way around helicopters and knew the diplomatic encryption code "5-line Caesar" for encrypted messages. Those arrested did not have any of these characteristics. They were therefore only because of fund embezzlement sentenced.

It can be assumed that the ransom was circulated abroad and was never discovered. In the 1980s, banknotes were not yet fully automatically checked. Western bank tellers, for example, had a book from the BKA with over 20,000 numbers of registered 500 DM and 1,000 DM banknotes. However , this information was withheld from banks in other Eastern European countries due to concerns about unauthorized use. The checking of banknotes was done manually at the time and depended on the care of the respective cashier.

Bills that were returned to the state central banks were only checked for damage and soiling and exchanged if necessary. The serial numbers, on the other hand, could not be automatically checked and compared with the test devices in 1994.

Since a new series of D-Mark notes came into circulation as early as 1990, in which large quantities of old banknotes were sorted out at the state central banks, it can be assumed that the ransom notes were destroyed in this way.

The hiding place

The criminal police began looking for clues shortly after Nina von Gallwitz was released.

Many features of the hiding place were described in detail by Nina von Gallwitz after her release. A detailed description was given in film case 148 of the broadcast file number XY… unsolved from time stamp 52:30, and a model made according to the descriptions was shown. There is also a photo of the model.

It was evidently an older one or two-family house with an attached garage. The garage had an overhead door and had direct access to the house.

In the upper area of ​​the house, which was reached via two flights of stairs, there was a large bathroom. It was noticeable that this bathroom was laid out with blue carpeting , a floor covering that was atypical for a bathroom. In addition to a toilet, it had a bathtub and a double washbasin that was modern for this period in the late 1970s / early 1980s. The room in which Nina von Gallwitz mainly had to stay was located between two floors of the house and was accessible from a landing.

This room was probably located in an extension to the house, which is also indicated by a sloping roof, which was not observed in the bathroom.

Window of Nina von Gallwitz's prison

It was noticeable that another step led down from this landing of the staircase to an anteroom before the actual room in which the child was held was reached. This indicates errors in the construction of the extension, in which the room height was incorrectly designed and the height difference had to be compensated for by this step. The child's lounge was set up like an office or home office that was no longer in use . It had a desk, built-in office cabinets with louvre doors and a telephone connection. It was also noticeable that the window was divided on one side; a feature that should also be visible from outside the house (see illustration). The description indicates a house on a hillside in a rural setting.

Some traces pointed to Leutesdorf on the right bank of the Rhine, diagonally opposite the dropping point. These traces were only examined in 1987, five years after Nina von Gallwitz was released. Although a number of serious suspicions were gathered in the vicinity of Leutesdorf, none of these traces led to a successful search.

According to another theory, the hijackers' hiding place was in the Bergisches Land , not far from the place where Nina von Gallwitz was released. In the entire kidnapping case, the Bonn-Dortmund axis is significant: the girl's father had to board the express train to Dortmund the first time he tried to hand over the ransom, and the helicopter was supposed to fly a distance from Cologne via Dortmund to Bonn and back in another attempt. When the money was finally handed over, Franz Tartarotti also had to board the train in Dortmund in order to travel through the Rhine Valley to the dropping point near Andernach.

The Bergisches Land is a hilly area with remote villages, meadows and trees, as the girl reported after her release. It is bounded to the west by the A3 motorway , to the east by the A45 motorway and to the south by the A4 motorway . The A1 motorway leads straight through to Dortmund. The place where the money was found near Meinerzhagen can be reached directly from Dortmund on the A45.

Another important indication of this is the place at the "Ohligser Heide" rest stop near Solingen, where the girl was released. It cannot be assumed that the kidnappers transported the child over long distances just for release. The relative proximity to the child's hometown therefore indicates that the hiding place should not be far away either. It can therefore be assumed that the hiding place is located in the Cologne-Dortmund-Olpe triangle, although it is even more probable that it is limited to the Cologne-Solingen-Remscheid-Engelskirchen area.

Although the girl was able to provide precise information about many details and also a model of the premises and the like. a. at file number XY ... was presented unsolved , despite intensive searches, it has not yet been possible to identify the kidnappers. The hiding place has not yet been discovered either. A house that might be considered for the prison burned down shortly after the suspicion became known.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b book "Tatort Federal Republic" by HW Hamacher, ISBN 3-8011-0155-X
  2. a b Quotes from Walter Volmer, formerly the Cologne Criminal Police, in the documentary film Chicago am Rhein
  3. a b c d e f g h i j k Community forum for file number XY… unsolved
  4. a b Kinky atmosphere | Der Spiegel 25/1988
  5. a b Better pastor: | Der Spiegel 21/1982
  6. a b c d e "Abducted Children": ZDFinfo on the Kronzucker and von Gallwitz cases
  7. ↑ The kidnapping case of Nina von Gallwitz: This is how the messages to the kidnappers were encrypted in Klausi's crypto column. Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  8. Drop point at 50 ° 26'48.0 "N 7 ° 22'49.5" E
  9. ^ Article in the Cologne "Express" from December 14, 2011 by Laren Müller
  10. Seven clairvoyants | Der Spiegel 26/1994 , article from June 27, 1994
  11. a b c Film case at file number XY, volume 148, from September 3, 1982
  12. ^ Photo of a model of the house in which Nina von Gallwitz was kept hidden
  13. Chicago on the Rhine - From large and small crooks in Cologne , a film documentary by WDR from 2010, written and directed by Peter F. Müller