12152018

Ulrich Klose

Klose in HamburgHopefully to the American sector” people whispered as the overcrowded train left the war-torn city of Breslau in Lower Silesia, now Wrocław in western Poland. This was the first time Hans-Ulrich Klose, 8 years old at the time, heard about America, and it marked the start of a lifetime affection for the United States. His first opportunity to experience the US came during high school, when he spent a year with a host family in Clinton, Iowa. This period left a deep impression, and to this day he still frequently talks about the exchange year with unadulterated joy and passion.

After completing a law degree, Klose became a public prosecutor. His most memorable case was the trial of a former Wehrmacht officer who was responsible for war crimes against Red Army POWs in Germany. Interrogating him was Klose’s first direct encounter with crimes against humanity.

From mayor of Hamburg to Bundestag

In 1974, at the age of 37, Hans-Ulrich Klose was elected as the youngest mayor ever of Hamburg, Germany’s second largest city. Despite his youth he focused on long term sustainable policy. He made education a high priority and initiated the Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg. He also placed Germany’s demographic change on the agenda, long before the challenges of an aging population became a pressing concern. And he was an early campaigner for a new energy policy decades before all German parties reached a consensus to phase out nuclear power and boost renewable energy sources.

After seven years as mayor of Hamburg Klose moved on to federal politics, becoming a member of the Bundestag, the national parliament, in 1983, where he made the transatlantic relationship between the United States and Germany a key focus in his three decades in parliament. During his Bundestag career he served in many important roles. Klose is held in high regard by all political sides for his fairness, integrity and bipartisanship. In 2009, while his party SPD was in opposition he was appointed by the government as Coordinator for German-American affairs, a rare case of a senior political appointment not be
ing given to a member of the governing party.

Hans-Ulrich Klose is known to many on Capitol Hill as “Mr. Transatlantic”. In March 2013 the Congressional Study Group on Germany presented him with the inaugural International Statesmanship Award in appreciation “for his longstanding service to strengthening the US-German relationship”.

Klose still carries on the transatlantic torch to this very day as a senior advisor to the Robert Bosch Foundation. He advises their fellowship program which has brought 500 American young leaders to Germany for 9 months at a time to work in think tanks, companies, media, and the public sector. On his 75th birthday, Klose mentioned he was exactly as old as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. A very appropriate metaphor indeed for Klose, the bridge builder. Also reconciliation with the Jewish community is important for Klose. In his view Germany has endless reasons to mourn the loss of Jewish culture and yearn for those missing contributions in education, innovation and success.

 

Klose eventually retired from the Bundestag in 2013. Former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt encouraged Klose to now write books. One of Klose’s topics is Germany’s future and the question if it’s too small for the world while being too big for Europe. Hans-Ulrich Klose has already published several volumes of poetry. He often jokes that he writes poems because he is too lazy to write a diary. Marcel Reich-Ranicki, arguably the most important literary critic of post-war Germany and until his death in 2013 editor of the Frankfurt Anthology of poetry appreciated Klose poetic skill. Of the 350 poets included in the Frankfurt Anthology in over 40 years, Klose is the only politician.

When his daughter became severely ill, Klose gave up his position as Coordinator for German-American Relations at the Foreign Office in early 2011 after being in office for just one year to care for her at home. Hans-Ulrich Klose is a mentsh.

Simon Vaut is a political advisor at the Brussels office of the SPD party group in the Bundestag 

Photo Credit: Frank Ossenbrink

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