In 1992, Axel Schäfer traveled to Armenia after an earthquake to bring medical supplies to hospitals. “When you look people in the eye, you can feel the human commonality,” says the politician, who has been a member of the SPD since 1969 and a member of the Bundestag since 2002.
In general, the 70-year-old, whom the media also call an SPD veteran, likes to be right in the thick of things. Throughout his long career, he has experienced many moving moments: In 1989, he traveled to Berlin directly after the Wall’s fall to cheer with the masses. In 2004, he postponed Christmas to be an election observer in Ukraine. And in 2015, he traveled to Paris the night after the attack on the editorial offices of “Charlie Hebdo” to offer support to the people on the streets.
Insights into geriatric care
Once a year, Schäfer completes a one-week internship. “When you have appointments 365 days a year as a professional politician, you have to experience the real life of the vast majority of people in between.”
In the past 26 years, he has been able to take on a wide variety of roles – from geriatric nurse to street cleaner to railroad service employee. That’s precisely why he never gave a thought to turning his back on politics. As a politician, he gets an extraordinary amount of input and the chance to shape his own life. Schäfer lives in Bochum, is married, has a son and two grandchildren.
Showing solidarity for Ukraine
In his political assessments, he often refers to historical models and events. At the same time, he emphasizes that history can be interpreted in different political ways. For example, Putin invaded Ukraine because the dissolution of the Soviet Union was, in his view, the biggest historical mistake that needs to be corrected.
“You can see this action as a restoration of Russian legal space or as an imperial fever fantasy,” Schäfer says. But one must not forget that people are dying in this war, he adds. That’s why it’s important to him, above all, to show the world, for example, at solidarity events, “We Germans continue to be a very peace-loving people and we support Ukraine.”
European unification as most important national interest
He associates progress with the history of European unification and those countries that are now pushing to become members. He is concerned with the electoral successes of Euroskeptics and right-wing nationalist post-fascists in countries like Sweden, Poland, Italy and Hungary.
“Where the paternoster goes up on one side, it goes down on the other,” he says, adding – with reference to Joschka Fischer – that the most important national interest is still European unification. Janna Degener-Storr