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About Me

I was born in 1955 and grew up in a family of six in Bückeburg, Lower Saxony. Already at an early age, I was drawn away from the neat, little Schaumburg-Lippe residential town, whose provincialism was once made fun of (in my opinion, rather unjustly) by poet and journalist Hermann Löns in his sharp satire ‘Duodez’. 

When I was sixteen, I flew across the Atlantic for the first time and spent a year as an exchange student in Arvada, a suburb of Denver in the U.S. American state of Colorado. As you can see from my curriculum vitae, the (un)United States of America have stayed with me ever since, as has another topic: human rights and their constant peril.

 

As a student, I joined the Bückeburg group of Amnesty International, and also completed my civilian service with the human rights organization after graduating from high school. As a law student, I was particularly interested in constitutional issues and international humanitarian law. As a journalist I was consistently drawn to the conflict hotspots of this world.

 

I ended up in journalism by chance, as it was not a typical career path for a lawyer at the time. As a trainee lawyer, I was able to intern with Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR = Northern German Broadcasting) for a few weeks and was hired as a news editor right after my final bar exam. Looking back, this was a huge stroke of luck. Whether at the NDR, the weekly Deutsche Allgemeine Sonntagsblatt or the national weekly DIE ZEIT, my work always took me to domestic and foreign conflict hotspots and wherever human rights were in danger. I reported from the war in former Yugoslavia, from India and China, the Middle East and the U.S., from refugee camps, asylum seeker shelters and from the Hungarian border in the autumn of 2015 (often considered the height of the 'refugee crisis'). I chronicled some of these experiences in the booklet ‘Menschenrechte’ (‘Human Rights’), which was published by Reclam Verlag in 2016.

 

I was at DIE ZEIT for over two and a half decades. As senior political editor and head of the politics department (1999-2007), as U.S. correspondent in Washington D.C. (2007-2014), and political correspondent in the Berlin office (2014-2020). In the U.S., I covered the presidency of Barack Obama and witnessed the rise of the Tea Party, a far-right ideological movement within the Republican Party that enabled the rise and victory of Donald Trump.

 

When Trump won, I had long since returned to Germany. But his election, which I had thought as unlikely but not impossible, shook me to the core. How could this have happened, what had I missed? These thoughts never left me. Again and again, I returned to the country that was so familiar to me and yet so foreign at times, determined to find out what had moved Trump voters to cast their ballots for this unpredictable, autocratic egomaniac. I traveled to meet them and their families, conducted dozens of interviews, and published my experiences in 2018 under the title ‘Trumps Amerika. Reise in ein weißes Land’ (‘Trump's America. Journey to a White Country’), published by Reclam.

 

In early 2020, I bid farewell to DIE ZEIT, initially to write a biography about Guido Goldman, the widely unknown founder of major transatlantic institutions. It was published in February 2021 by Herder and in its English version in September 2021 by Berghahn Books in New York and London. In August 2020, I took over the Strategic Communication and Speeches Department of German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier for just under a year – to cover parental leave. This, too, was a stroke of luck: after decades in journalism, I had the rare chance not only to observe, report and comment on politics, but also to help shape it a little, albeit within a narrowly defined frame. Looking back, I see: this ‘change of sides’, putting oneself in the shoes of ‘the others’, as quite beneficial and eye-opening, at times humbling.

Since the late summer of 2021, I have been working on various projects for the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the Atlantik Brücke, so I am once again devoting myself to the subject that is close to my heart: relations between Europe and the United States of America. Above all, I am motivated by the question of how, in times of growing authoritarianism and rapidly changing demographics, we can preserve what constitutes the intrinsic value of the transatlantic relationship, the core of the so-called ‘West’: democracy, the rule of law, civil and human rights.

Education

1975
Abitur Neues Gymnasium, Stadthagen


1976  1986
Law studies, Referendar- und Assessorexamen

Freiburg, Göttingen, Geneva and Hamburg

1979  1980
Institut des Hautes Études Internationales (HEI), Geneva

International humanitarian law

Work Experience

Since September 2021
Visiting Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, 
Senior Expert at the Atlantik Brücke e.V.


August 2020  June 2021
Office of the Federal President of Germany, Berlin

Head of the Department of Strategic Communications and Speeches

1992  1995,
1996  2020
DIE ZEIT

Political Correspondent, Berlin (2014 2020)
U.S. Correspondent, Washington D.C. (2007  2014)
Head of the Politics Department (1999  2007)
Deputy Head of the Politics Department (1997  1999)
Editor, Hamburg (1992  1995)

Autumn 2006
Fellow at the Center for European Studies (CES), Harvard University

Lectures and events:
‘Is there anything to learn from Europe? The EU and the Middle East Peace Process’
‘The Chindia Challenge – China, India, the US and Europe’

1987,
1995  1996
Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR), Hamburg

News Editor, Editor for domestic and legal policy, presentations, Info-Radio

1987  1992
Deutsches Allgemeines Sonntagsblatt

Head of the Politics Department (1991 - 1992)
Editor for domestic and foreign policy (1987 - 1991)

1983  1985
Institute for International Affairs, University of Hamburg

Research Assistant to Prof. Dr. Ingo von Münch

Selected Publications

2021
Amerikas Mr. Germany. Guido Goldman

Herder Verlag, Freiburg, Februar 2021

2021
Guido Goldman. Transatlantic Bridge Builder

Berghahn Publications, New York and London, September 2021

2018
Trumps Amerika. Reise in ein weißes Land
(Trump's America. Journey to a White Man’s Land)

Reclam Verlag, 2nd edition

2016
Menschenrechte
(Human Rights)

Reclam Verlag, 3rd edition

2008
Hoffnung und Kalkül besiegen Erfahrung und Eigensinn

Über den Wahlkampf von Barack Obama
In: Brockhaus Encyklopädie, Jahrbuch 2008

2008
Alle Macht dem Präventionsstaat?

In: Terrorismus und Rechtsstaat, Akademie Verlag

2007
Das Folterverbot

In: Brockhaus Encyklopädie, Jahrbuch 2007

1983
Abrüstung, Nachrüstung, Friedenssicherung

Herausgegeben mit Professor Ingo von Münch, dtv Verlag

Awards

2016
Deutscher Reporterpreis

together with other journalists at DIE ZEIT for best investigative data research

2012
George F. Kennan Preis

for best transatlantic commentary