Why the richest German is rebuilding Heilbronn

The Lidl and Kaufland owner Dieter Schwarz With assets of more than 40 billion euros, he is considered the richest German ever. But he never appears in public. As one of the heads of his foundation, you must know: does Dieter Schwarz even exist?

I can assure you: it exists. And despite his age, he is in great shape. When we walk up the stairs, I breathe more than he does.

When was the last time you spoke to him?

We see each other every three to four weeks. He is very interested in the foundation. However, the decision-making authority does not lie with the founder, which would not work at all with a non-profit limited company, it lies with a board of trustees. Public figures are represented there.

But Schwarz gives the money, so he certainly has a lot to say about it.

He worked for it all and wants to give something back to society. Mr. Schwarz’s opinion plays a role, even if he cannot determine it.

Why is Herr Schwarz pumping so much money into this town?

He is in Heilbronn Born and grown up. It was here that he established his success, even though the Schwarz Group’s headquarters are in Neckarsulm today. He is an honorary citizen of Heilbronn. One can say: Dieter Schwarz loves Heilbronn. For all investments that are made, he says: I want a large part of the added value to be created here. The Schwarz Group is currently building an IT center, and otherwise the idea of ​​building it in Bad Friedrichshall would not have occurred. Actually, you should go to Garching, Berlin or Saarbrücken.

All that money is changing the city a lot. We’re sitting on your huge educational campus, which looks a bit like a UFO. The city used to have the nickname Heilbronx, that doesn’t fit anymore, does it?

Heilbronx still exists in some neighborhoods, one area is called Hawaii. But education is the raw material of the future, Mr. Schwarz once said. As a high school student, he spent a year in the United States. That shaped him. There are therefore three main areas that we are committed to: education, research and start-ups. We need young people who want to change the world. The goal is simple: We want top international talent to have Heilbronn on their radar screens. When I want to study and think of technical courses in Europe, Zurich, Munich, Aachen and maybe Darmstadt are on the list – and soon Heilbronn. That’s why we invest.

Reinhold Geilsdörfer, head of the Dieter Schwarz Foundation, in the Heilbronn educational campus

Reinhold Geilsdörfer, head of the Dieter Schwarz Foundation, in the Heilbronn educational campus

Image: Michael Schulz

How far are you from that?

Another giant piece. The branch of Technical University of Munich now has 550 students here in Heilbronn. That should be more than 4000. We can judge in 10 years what that will bring. These chairs ensure that research institutions come here. Otherwise Fraunhofer would not be here. We run into open doors at all Topunis. We have endowed professorships in Oxford, Stanford, at the ETH, at the HEC in Paris, at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and now we’re doing something else in Singapore. These are universities that are among the top ten in the world.

How much money have you invested?

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