hidden europe 41

A life less ordinary

by Nicky Gardner


Jacob Maria Mierscheid was born on 1 March 1933, so we hear. Still going strong at 80, Mierscheid is a German enigma with a knack for missing key events. Earlier this year, Mierscheid failed to show up for his own 80th birthday party. hidden europe uncovers the story of Germany's most understated politician.

Several buildings that accommodate the German Parliament and its attendant bureaucracy are on either side of the River Spree in the heart of Berlin. The German Reichstag is of course the most celebrated of these. The more modern buildings, generally opened around the millennium, include very fine pieces of architecture that give some style to Berlin’s riverscape.

Both Paul-Löbe-Haus and Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-Haus are among the new buildings. They are on opposite banks of the River Spree and are connected by two footbridges. The lower bridge may be used by the public, but the higher walkway across the river (at sixth-floor level) has access restricted to members of parliament and their staff.

On 1 April 2004, that upper bridge was named in honour of Jakob Maria Mierscheid, the distinguished long-serving politician whose name has featured on the official list of German members of parliament since 1979. Jakob Mierscheid failed to show up for the ceremony, but another SPD parliamentarian called Dietrich Sperling stood in for the missing Mierscheid at the ceremony. Sperling was born on 1 March 1933, by chance (or was it chance?) the same day recorded in official documents as the date of birth of Jakob Mierscheid.

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