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My internship at the Bundestag: A person with a large heart and an elephantine memory: My memories of Wolfgang Schäuble

When I was an intern under the then CDU Bundestag President Rita Süssmuth – back when the Bundestag was still in Bonn, there was a man who commanded respect and even instilled fear in some: Wolfgang Schäuble was said to have an “elephantine memory”; as the CDU parliamentary group leader, he would never forget anything and was a “file-eater” who meticulously read everything to be extremely well-versed in debates and discussions.

Aside from my internship, I was also working on a thesis for a major course in my law studies at the university. So almost every evening after work, I visited the Bundestag library to continue my work.

“Let’s call it a day,” Wolfgang Schäuble said to me in the Bundestag library

It was an evening in April, my first time at the library. I arranged my comments and books, set up my table, and spotted him from a distance. Wolfgang Schäuble was also at a table in his wheelchair, working.

Hours passed and it kept getting later. The security personnel had long gone, Schäuble told them, we’re still reading. They just waved and moved on.

It was around 10 pm that evening when Schäuble rolled towards the exit. In my direction. He had files on his lap and approached me. “What are you still working on here so late, I’ve never seen you here before,” he said.

I introduced myself as an intern under Rita Süssmuth. “And she’s making you sit here for so long,” he said with a Schäuble smile on his face. I explained to him why I was still there and that I was studying law in Trier. He was familiar with the city and the university because someone from his family was also studying law there.

“Let’s call it a day, the security personnel will get nervous otherwise,” Schäuble suggested. He waited until I had cleared everything away and then bid me, “Good night.”

Schäuble’s Credo: Character is the most important in politics

In the following days and weeks, we met several times. We were almost always the last ones in the room and after a short time he referred to us as the “gentlemen night workers”.

I asked Schäuble about his work and the issues that were currently occupying him. We had an intense discussion about the Euro, which was on the verge of debate in the Bundestag at the time. He told me: Character is the most important in politics. People out there would eventually realize whether one really means it. And one must have a vision and values.

Most people would consider him to be stubborn, Schäuble said. But that didn’t bother him. For him, that was “attitude”. When I told him that he was often called “elephantine memory”, Schäuble replied: “They are just jealous and know how hard I work for it.”

Schäuble opened doors for me to some figures from the parliamentary group and even gave me the contact information for the then campaign manager of the SPD. “You should pay them a visit at the SPD campaign office, they’re doing a good job there.”

Thank you, Mr. Schäuble, for everything you did for me

Shortly before the Euro debate, we met again. Schäuble told me about the questions that would arise, but that the Euro and the EU were important for us and the future. After all, I would know this, being someone who grew up near the border with Luxembourg. Then he bid me farewell with the words: “I have an idea for you. Good night.”

The next day, I was in the office and suddenly received an offer to follow part of the Euro debate from the Bundesrat bench. Mr. Schäuble had suggested it.

As an intern, I felt incredibly important and it was a unique experience to be so close to such an important debate.

I thanked Schäuble later. Receiving thanks wasn’t his thing. His motto: You do things because you enjoy doing them. Shortly after that, my internship ended and we ran into each other a few more times. He always greeted me with “Mr. Night worker.”

Thank you, Mr. Schäuble, for all the insights and the help you gave me back then, and I wish you eternal peaceful sleep in heaven.

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