Karl Lauterbach turns 60: Minister of Health with a penchant for self-mockery

Opinions are divided on Karl Lauterbach.

Karl Lauterbach turns 60: Minister of Health with a penchant for self-mockery

Opinions are divided on Karl Lauterbach. Some are annoyed by the SPD man, others admire him. For many, he is also the face of the corona pandemic: The doctor was the king of the corona talk shows, explaining the pandemic to the Germans with his incessant warnings and appeals. He has been Federal Minister of Health since December 2021. Lauterbach celebrates his 60th birthday on February 21 - a look back at his career to date.

Karl Wilhelm Lauterbach was born on February 21, 1962 in Düren, North Rhine-Westphalia, describes himself as a working-class child and worked his way up from secondary school to Harvard. In 1982 he passed his Abitur and then studied human medicine at the RWTH Aachen University, the University of Arizona and the University of Texas. In 1989 he passed the medical examination in Aachen, followed in 1991 in Düsseldorf with a doctorate (Dr. medical

In addition, Lauterbach began studying health economics and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, where he received his second doctorate in 1993. From 1998 Lauterbach was director of the newly founded Institute for Health Economics and Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Cologne. He also taught as a professor at Harvard.

In 2005, Karl Lauterbach was elected to the Bundestag for the SPD for the first time. He has been a party member since 2001 and ran for party chairmanship in 2019 (unsuccessfully). But the doctor was not always attached to his current party: At a young age he was active in the Catholic youth and joined the CDU. The CDU-affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation also supported his studies at Harvard. At the same time, however, it was also the time in the USA that made Lauterbach a social democrat: he dealt more and more with justice issues and came to the conclusion that the CDU was not the right party for it.

In his party and in the parliamentary group, Lauterbach's appointment as federal minister was controversial until the end. He is sometimes considered a lone wolf and eccentric, but also very hardworking.

A trademark of the physician was the bow tie, which he had already worn as a doctor in the USA. It was not until 2019, when he applied for the SPD party chairmanship, that he took off his bow tie on the advice of his daughters. One of its peculiarities is that it has completely dispensed with salt since the late 1980s. He even orders his dishes without salt in restaurants, and the caterers in the Bundestag always have a salt-free dish for Lauterbach in their repertoire. It is also known that he now completely abstains from meat.

In the WDR documentary "Confrontation: Markus Feldenkirchen meets Karl Lauterbach", the Minister of Health made it clear that his life does not consist of optimizing his health. "I do a lot of things that are not healthy." He goes to bed late and sleeps too little. And he couldn't do without wine either. The health minister is known for being a red wine lover and drinking a glass a day. In the YouTube format "DISSLKE" he also explained: "I eat a lot of chocolate. And that's why my teeth are very healthy, but sometimes slightly discolored by the chocolate. The combination of a lot of dark chocolate and coffee." Another habit of the politician: his favorite filler word "also". He explained: "I'm trying to reduce the 'alsos'. Well, I'm trying."

Perhaps it is this certain ability for self-mockery that has contributed to Lauterbach's great popularity. Lauterbach always occupies one of the top spots in surveys of politician popularity. During the lockdown, on New Year's Eve 2021, he shared a web find with the caption "Don't overdo it. I see you. Greetings, your Karl" via Twitter. Some people love him for that, while others hate the ardent vaccine supporter.

When it became known after the 2021 federal election that the SPD would occupy the Ministry of Health in the new federal government, a campaign for Lauterbach was immediately formed on social media under the hashtag

Lauterbach was privately married to the doctor and epidemiologist Angela Spelsberg from 1996 to 2010, with whom he has four children. He has a daughter from another relationship. Lauterbach and Spelsberg separated in 2004. During the corona pandemic, Spelsberg also publicly criticized her ex-husband.

Karl Lauterbach is rather concerned about his 60th birthday, as he explained to "Stern". "It is indeed a difficult birthday for me. I haven't been able to prepare myself properly for it internally." He plans to celebrate "in a small circle, very privately," said Lauterbach. He thinks a small celebration is appropriate in these times.

Lauterbach sees his many years of experience in health policy as an advantage of age. The signs of aging, on the other hand, are noticeable in talk show appearances in the mask, as the Minister of Health explains in a typically self-ironic manner: "There they are now working intensively on me. It used to be a matter of seconds."