Thomas Schaefer, finance minister of the German state of Hesse, was found dead on a high-speed train line between Frankfurt and Mainz, police confirmed on Saturday, according to German news sources.
An investigation on the scene confirmed the identity of the man as 54-year old Schaefer and that the death was likely a suicide, investigators said.
German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported that Schaefer apparently left a note before taking his own life, explaining the reasons for his decision.
According to a statement, state premier Volker Bouffier made on Sunday, March 29, Schaefer has committed suicide after becoming “deeply worried” over how to cope with the economic fallout from the coronavirus.
Bouffier said that Schaefer had been working “day and night” to help companies and workers deal with the economic impact of the pandemic. He added that it’s precisely during this difficult time that the country would have needed someone like Schaefer.
Overwhelmed by expectations
“His main concern was whether he could manage to fulfill the huge expectations of the population, especially in terms of financial aid. For him, there was clearly no way out. He was desperate, and so he had to leave us,” said Bouffier.
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“We are in shock, we are in disbelief, and above all, we are immensely sad. Our sincere condolences go out to his closest relatives”, he added.
Lawmakers from other parties also paid tribute to Schaefer.
“We often no longer recognize politicians as people or the burdens they carry away from politics,” Fabio de Masi, left party member of the Bundestag, wrote on Twitter.
Schaefer was a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats (CDU). He had been active in Hessian state politics for more than two decades. He was also finance minister for almost ten years and had been widely expected to succeed Bouffier if he decided not to stand for re-election in 2023.
According to German authorities, 455 people have died, and more than 58,000 have tested positive for the coronavirus since the beginning of the outbreak.
Schaefer leaves behind a wife and two children.