H.J. Wischnewski, 82; German Politician Was Envoy in Hostage Crisis

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Hans-Juergen Wischnewski, 82, a German politician best known as the negotiator in the 1977 hijacking of a Lufthansa airliner to Somalia by leftist terrorists, died Thursday at a Cologne hospital from an infection, said his spokesman, Arnold Joosten.

Born in East Prussia, now part of Poland, Wischnewski was a metal worker by training. He entered politics after World War II and built up contacts, notably in the Arab world and Latin America, that helped him repeatedly as a crisis mediator.

When hijackers commandeered a Lufthansa airliner in 1977 to Mogadishu, Somalia, to force the release of three jailed Red Army Faction leaders, West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt sent Wischnewski as his envoy.

West German anti-terrorist commandos eventually stormed the jet and rescued the 86 hostages. The next day, the kidnapped head of West Germany’s industry federation was found dead in a car, apparently killed by Red Army Faction members.


Wischnewski remained active under the conservative government of former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who succeeded Schmidt in 1982. Wischnewski mediated the freedom of eight West Germans seized by rebels in Nicaragua in 1986.