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GDR's 'foreign currency chief' Schalck-Golodkowski dies

The ex-head of the German Democratic Republic's foreign trade department, Alexander Schalck-Golodkowski, has died at aged 82. He is best known for talks with West Germany that led to considerable loans for the GDR.

Alexander Schalck-Golodkowski was the head of the former German Democratic Republics foreign trade department "Kommerzielle Koordinierung" ("Commercial Coordination") from 1966 to 1986.

The institution coordinated the socialist GDR's inofficial trade with capitalist countries, including West Germany. It has been accused of striking many murky deals to obtain foreign currency. To this day, the details of the department's activities remain shrouded in mystery.

Schalck-Golodkowski was born in Berlin in 1932 and completed his apprenticeship as a precision mechanic. In 1955, he joined the East German Communist party (SED).

Schalck-Golodkowski led the negotiations with then-Bavarian premier Franz-Josef Strauß, managing to obtain a billion-deutschmark-loan for the GDR from West Germany. Three years after the spectacular deal he was appointed to the central committee of the SED.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, when the GDR was falling apart, he fled to West Berlin, where he handed himself in to police. He spent a few weeks in investigative custody.

In 1990, Alexander Schalck-Golodkowski moved to Bavaria, where he became an advisor for companies seeking to improve business ties with China and Vietnam. From 1995 to 1996 he was tried in a court in Berlin for illegal arms deals and sentenced to a year on probation.

The former SED politician made headlines again in the year 2000, when he published his memoir "German-German Memories" ("Deutsch-deutsche Erinnerungen"). Some of the Rowohlt publishing house's authors protested against its publication.

According to the publishing house "Edition Ost," Alexander Schalck-Golodkowski died on Sunday after many years of fighting prostate cancer.

das/ng (AFP, epd)

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