Klaus Harpprecht was born in 1927 in Stuttgart. His father was a Lutheran minister and a member of the Anti-Nazi Confessional Church. His uncle, a student minister at the University of Berlin, later Königsberg East-Prussia, died in 1944 in a Gestapo prison, presumably murdered. His two brothers were killed in battle. Harpprecht did his military service from 1943 to 1945. He was wounded and taken as a Prisoner of War by the Americans.
He was released in the summer of 1945. At first, Harpprecht made a living off the black market. He also studied literature, history and art history, but wasn’t able to graduate for financial reasons. In 1947, he became a junior editor for the weekly newspaper Christ und Welt, founded by Eugen Gerstenmaier, a resistance fighter during the Nazi Reich, and later longtime President of the Federal Parliament. In 1953, Harpprecht became a commentator for American Radio RIAS-Berlin. After publishing his first book The East German Rising (London, New York 1955), he became the Chief Correspondent for Radio Free Berlin in Bonn.
In 1958, Harpprecht came to the U.S. to participate in the Young Foreign Leaders Program of the State Department. He then returned to Germany to work as a commentator and roving reporter for Radio and TV WDR in Cologne. He married Renate Lasker (a survivor of Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen), an author and speaker for BBC London. He worked fifteen years as a correspondent in the United States, first as a studio chief in Washington, and later as a special correspondent for ZDF and GEO. From 1966 to 1969, he was the director of the publishing house S. Fischer Verlag in Frankfurt, and also director and co-editor of the political and cultural magazine Der Monat. From 1972 to 1974, he was the chief speech writer and special assistant to Chancellor Willy Brandt (America, Western Europe, Israel). Since 1982, Harpprecht has worked as a cultural correspondent for DIE ZEIT and continues to write books in the south of France. He is also a co-editor and columnist for the monthly Neue Gesellschaft/Frankfurter Hefte, a member of the editorial advisory council and author of the German-Swiss Magazine Cicero.
Harpprecht is the producer of more than fifty documentary films and author of more than twenty books.
He has won several awards for excellence in journalism and linguistics and is a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.
The French-German co-operation
The biographical note on my life and career in Germany, France and the United States is significant because it shows that European citizenship does not have to come at the expense of our national and cultural identities.
The European constitution (in spite of certain shortcomings) is the fulfillment of a century-old dream. It marks the end of a history of murderous wars, genocides, racial extermination, “ethnic cleansing”, dictatorships and totalitarian states.
The French-German reconciliation proved to be a historical ruling which has been respected by the leaders of both nations: Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer, Georges Pompidou and Willy Brandt, Valérie Giscard d’Estaing and Helmut Schmidt, François Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl, Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schröder.
From the beginning, the French-German cooperation has been considered as the major dynamic force of European unification, predicted by Winston Churchill at end of World War II, but also by farsighted American statesmen who contributed considerably to the origins and developments of a united Europe. In fact, some of the fathers of the European unification were American (a fact that both sides, the Americans and the Europeans, tend to forget).
Towards the end of the war, Jean Monnet developed his first plans for Europe while in retirement in Washington. It began with the unification of basic industries (coal, steel and chemicals) under a common authority (the Schumann Plan), assisted and advised by George Ball, later Deputy Secretary of State during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. The first European institution was the administrative council for the Marshall Plan, where Germany already had its place (represented by the three western military governments).
European unification, especially the French-German cooperation, has always been supported by the American presidents and the foreign policy elite, except during the de Gaulle crisis and the domination of Kissinger’s skepticism.
The most important American contributions include the clear decision not to withdraw (unlike in 1919) into a new isolationist period, the Marshall plan, the foundation of NATO which survived de Gaulle’s retreat from military integration and western solidarity being stronger in the long run than the artificial division into “Gaullist” and “Atlanticist” parties.
The most challenging ordeal so far has been George W. Bush’s unilateral strategy. Even though it seems that the situation is improving, a huge cultural gap has already been exposed through controversial topics such as religious fundamentalism, the death penalty, etc.
America’s historical legacy, incarnated by Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Abraham Lincoln, is the productive coexistence of religion and enlightenment. It gives a reason to hope that America will rediscover its fundamental convictions and achievements, and will be open to a new spiritual and moral understanding with Europe. It’s no coincidence that Monsieur Giscard d’Estaing, the father of the European constitution, studied the Federal Papers so thoroughly.
The French-German symbiotic coexistence has been ‘Americanized’ (in the best sense of the word), not only through the adoption of the ‘American way of life’ (which has practically become universal), but above all, through the productive exchange between the culture of reform and the culture of enlightenment, Catholic tradition and liberal philosophy.
The French-German co-operation (the British will eventually join them) is the core of European defense and foreign policy, therefore the main pillar of the European-American partnership. Europe can’t be, by nature, anti-American, just as America can’t be, due to self interest, anti-European. The post-WWII American elite knew this just as well as the founding fathers of the European unification.