Gladbeck hostage crisis

The Gladbeck hostage crisis (known in Germany as the Gladbeck hostage drama[1]) was a hostage-taking crisis that happened in August 1988 after an armed bank raid in Gladbeck, North Rhine-Westphalia, West Germany. Two men with prior criminal records, Dieter Degowski and Hans-Jürgen Rösner, went on the run for two days through Germany and the Netherlands.[1]

Gladbeck hostage crisis
Date16–18 August 1988
Attack type
bank robbery, hostage taking
Injuredprobably 5
PerpetratorsDieter Degowski, Hans-Jürgen Rösner
Gladbeck hostage crisis is located in FRG and West Berlin
1) 16.08. Gladbeck
1) 16.08. Gladbeck
2) 17.08. Bremen
2) 17.08. Bremen
3) 18.08. Netherlands
3) 18.08. Netherlands
4) 18.08. Cologne
4) 18.08. Cologne
5) 18.08. A3 near Bad Honnef
5) 18.08. A3 near Bad Honnef
Important locations on the hostage takers' flight

On 18 August 1988 the hostage situation was put to an end in a police operation on the A3 motorway. Three people were killed during this crisis - two teenage hostages and a policeman involved in a vehicle crash. The whole episode became a media circus in Germany and the Netherlands.[1][2]


16 AugustEdit

In the early morning two armed and hooded offenders broke into a branch of the Deutsche Bank in the district of Rentford-Nord in Gladbeck before opening hours.[1]

At 8:04 am an emergency call was made by a witness to the police. A parked police car was seen by the offenders as they left the branch. They went back into the bank and took two clerks hostage, demanding a car and ransom money, firing their guns into the air several times.[1]

A radio station was the first to conduct an interview with them as the hostage crisis was happening. After several hours of negotiations, the abductors were given 300,000 DM and a white Audi 100 as a getaway car. At 9:45pm the getaway started. The robbers took two bank employees with them as hostages. Marion Löblich, the girlfriend of Hans-Jürgen Rösner (who was one of the robbers), boarded the car in Gladbeck.

17 AugustEdit

After driving on the autobahn to Bremen, the abductors stopped in the district of Huckelriede and hijacked a public-transit bus with 32 passengers at 7:00 pm on 17 August. The media interviewed the abductors and the hostages without any interference from the police. Some hostages even had a pistol pressed against their throats.[1]

After the release of five hostages, the bus was driven to the autobahn service area of Grundbergsee. The two bank clerks were released there.

Two police officers arrested Löblich, who was using the toilet. Demanding an exchange, Degowski and Rösner threatened to kill a hostage every five minutes. After the expiration of the ultimatum they shot a 14-year-old Italian boy, Emanuele De Giorgi, in the head; he was said to be protecting his sister.[3][4] Löblich was about to be released by the police on demand of the abductors but arrived too late because of a broken handcuff key and poor police communication. An ambulance arrived 20 minutes later, but the shot teenager died two hours later in hospital.

After this incident the bus was driven to the Netherlands. During the chase a police car collided with a truck, leaving one police officer dead and another injured.

18 AugustEdit

At 2:30am on 18 August 1988, the bus entered the Netherlands. At 5:15am two women and three children were released, after the Dutch police refused to negotiate as long as children were being held hostage. At 6:30am Rösner and Degowski got a BMW 735i. The getaway car had been prepared by the police so that the engine could be stopped by remote control.[5] While attempting to escape, Löblich and the bus driver were injured.

During a stop in Wuppertal the abductors went shopping in a pharmacy.

After stopping in a pedestrian area in Cologne at 10:30am, the car was surrounded by media and shoppers. Some reporters offered to guide the abductors on their way or to hand them pictures of police officers to prevent trickery if hostages were exchanged. A reporter - Udo Röbel - guided the abductors to a nearby rest area on the autobahn and accompanied them for several kilometres.[1]

On the A3 close to Bad Honnef, a few kilometres before the state border between North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate, a police car rammed the getaway car at 1:40pm and rendered it immobile, triggering a gunfight. One of the hostages was able to exit the car. However, Silke Bischoff, 18, was fatally shot in the heart and died. After that the abductors were arrested.[1]

The remote control to stop the car engine was not used since the police officers had forgotten to take it with them. Across the state border, a special task force (GSG9) was in position waiting to take action.


On 22 March, 1991 Rösner and Degowski were pronounced guilty by the regional superior court of Essen and received life sentences. Löblich was sentenced to nine years. In 2002 the Higher Court in Hamm ascertained "guilt of a very serious nature" and Degowski's sentence was increased to 24 years. In 2004 the same Higher Court refused an application for parole and a request by Rösner to shorten his sentence. The court also declared a state of "preventive detention" ("Sicherungsverwahrung") and therefore Rösner is unlikely to be freed after the end of his sentence.


On 20 November 1988, the Minister of the Interior of Bremen Bernd Meyer resigned over mistakes by the police. Several years after the incident, there was a public discussion at a local police academy about the incident with the judge who had sentenced Rösner and Degowski to life in prison and journalists including Udo Röbel, a reporter who had got into the vehicle with the hostage-takers and went with them, giving them directions out of Cologne. The judge praised Röbel for having prevented a potential bloodbath in Cologne by getting into the car. This was not a view expressed in the official report into the incident by a parliamentary enquiry in the state of the North Rhine Westphalia, which commented negatively on the journalists' ethics.[1]

Conduct of the mediaEdit

This was the first incident in Germany with direct interference by representatives of the media. The media were severely criticised for their handling of this situation and for conducting interviews with hostages (one of the journalists acting this way was Frank Plasberg).[6]

As a result, the German Press Council (Deutscher Presserat) banned any future interviews with hostage-takers during hostage situations. [2][6] The head of Germany's largest journalists' union (DJV), Michael Konken, has referred to the incident as "the darkest hour of German journalism since the end of WWII".[2]

Release of Dieter DegowskiEdit

In August 2018 it was announced by the regional court in Arnsberg that Dieter Degowski was to be released on conditional parole after serving 30 years in prison.[7]

References in the mediaEdit

A two-part dramatization of the incident, titled Gladbeck, was broadcast by ARD in March 2018.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Mansel, Tim (20 August 2018). "Gladbeck: The deadly hostage drama where the media crossed a line". BBC. Retrieved 20 August 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Marek, Michael; Todeskino, Marie (16 Aug 2018). "German hostage drama: The day the press became the story". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 20 August 2018.
  3. ^ "Families of Slain Hostages File Criminal Charges against Police". AP News. Aug 22, 1988. Retrieved 2018-08-20.
  4. ^ Image of Emanuele De Giorgi and his sister Tatiana
  5. ^ "Hostage Dies as German Drama Ends". Retrieved 2018-08-21.
  6. ^ a b Marek, Michael; Todeskino, Marie; Grenier, Elizabeth (8 March 2018). "The hostage crisis that shook Germany's rules of reporting: Gladbeck". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 20 August 2018.
  7. ^ "Infamous 'Gladbeck gangster' to be released from jail in Germany". Deutsche Welle. 10 Oct 2017. Retrieved 20 August 2018.
  8. ^ Connolly, Kate (2018-03-09). "German bank raid and hostage-grab of 80s plays out in TV drama". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-08-21.

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