East 53

Joschka Fischer thinks about the world ahead


East speaks with Germany’s former ‘superstar’ Foreign Minister, ‘Europe is not without fault in Ukraine’.

Joseph “Joschka” Fischer was Germany’s Foreign Minister from 1998 to 2005. His famous reply to the US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on being shown American ‘proof’ of the presence of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq – “Excuse me, I am not convinced” – put German/American relations under tension, but saved his country’s honor.

In an age when expedient policies are often more appreciated than principled ones, that was no small accomplishment. Fischer had an advantage: he had not come out of the schools that teach elegant hypocrisy. He had in fact very little formal schooling at all, and none of the polishing at ‘good’ universities that normally constitutes the background of foreign affairs experts.

The third son of an immigrant Hungarian butcher, he dropped out of high school in 1965 and never completed his education, working for a time as an apprentice photographer and later, between 1976 and 1981, as a taxi driver. Attracted to radical politics, Fischer was associated in the ‘70s with the militant Putzgruppe (literally “cleaning squad”, where “Putz” was a German acronym for “Proletarian Union for Terror and Destruction”), known for conducting attacks on police officers.

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