Know What Happened to the German State Finance Minister Thomas Schäfer

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According to police reports, the body of a man was found on a high-speed train line in the town of Hochheim between Frankfurt and Mainz on 28th March 2020.

Its presence on the tracks was first reported by witnesses to paramedics, who were unable to initially identify the remains owing to the extent of the injuries.

However, investigators later confirmed his identity as Thomas Schäfer, the finance minister of the German state of Hesse, and that the death was likely a suicide.

The reason for the suicide is known to be a deep concern over how to cope with the economic fallout resulting from the coronavirus crisis and how to fulfill the tremendous expectations of the population, especially in terms of financial aid.

We know that the current pandemic has sent shockwaves in nearly every nation but in Germany, it happened to be too much to handle for the state finance minister.

According to Deutsche Welle, he apparently left a note behind explaining what prompted the 54-year old minister to take such severe, irreversible action. As said by Volker Bouffier, the stress during the times of the Covid-19 plight was a contributing factor in Schäfer's mental health.

The German news agency confirmed that Thomas Schäfer was in despair about the extent of the state response required to tackle the predicaments arising out of the novel coronavirus.

“He clearly couldn’t see any way out. He was desperate, and so he left us. That has shocked us- has shocked me”, said Bouffier.

As reported by the media, he regularly appeared in public days before his death to inform them about financial assistance. Recently, he had also signed a contract with the Anne Frank educational institution to battle against right-wing extremism.

Political Career

Thomas Schäfer, who joined the CDU youth organization Junge Union in 1980 had been popularly touted as a possible successor to Bouffier. He served as a board member to this organization from 1980 to 1985.

He belonged to Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats (CDU).

He led the office of Christean Wagner, the minister of justice in Hesse after the 1999 Hessian state election and from 2002, the office of Minister-President Roland Koch. 

He later became the secretary of state for Jurgen Banzer, minister of labour, family, and health in November 2005. 

Schafer chiefly coordinated the state efforts to rescue Opel during the financial crisis of 2007-08 in conjunction with three other states where Opel had plants. He then became the secretary of state for Karlheinz Weimar, the minister of finance in February 2009. 

Schafer became Hesse’s state minister of finance in August 2010 under the new minister President Volker Bouffier and was in the prime of his 20-year political career. 

He joined Hessischer Landtag, the state parliament from 2014 as a member and was re-elected directly in 2018. 

Laudable Efforts to Combat the Crisis

Germany’s rapid response from the onset of Covid-19 undoubtedly prevented more deaths in the country. The travel of people to China was banned almost immediately and the patient’s company was closed to isolate the virus. 

Most importantly, the state concentrated on effective testing of samples in the early days of the disease which helped lessen its spread.

German federal and state governments provided huge aid packages to cushion the blow of Covid-19 and slower its spread among the people. 

In Schafer’s final weeks, he worked relentlessly, day and night to soften the impact of the pandemic on German businesses and workers. 

Hesse’s largest city- Frankfurt is the home of reputed banks such as Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, and the European Central Bank.

On 27 March 2020, while announcing the state’s financial help for small businesses and freelancers in the coronavirus crisis he said, “The fight against the corona crisis will not fail because of money.”

He worked diligently to keep the economy of his state afloat. However, as a state finance minister, Schäfer felt an overwhelming sense of personal responsibility even though the level of the crisis is beyond the scope of any person, no matter how powerful he is.

Schäfer’s suicide is an indication of the distress hovering around the world and its economy. It shows the importance of showing personal support and empathy toward each other as vigilant citizens of the country. 

Schäfer is survived by his wife and two children.

Written by - Aishwarya Khandekar

Edited by - Daity Talukdar

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