It wasn't long ago that there was media hype about the writer Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre and his new work "Still awake?" came up. There were rumors of a roman a clef about scandals at the Axel Springer media company. The book is currently at the top of the "Spiegel" bestseller list. Now the next book is coming out - a non-fiction book with a very obvious connection to Springer.
The long-time "Bild" editor-in-chief Kai Diekmann tells in "I was picture" what it was like back then at Germany's largest tabloid. He was at the helm from 2001 to early 2017.
Anyone expecting the 58-year-old to comment on the current turbulence at Axel Springer and "Bild" will be disappointed. He gives it a wide berth. The affair about the editor-in-chief Julian Reichelt, who was fired after allegations of abuse of power, the constant change at the top of "Bild" and the outrage about leaked controversial messages from CEO Mathias Döpfner - Diekmann spares that.
Contemporary history told through glasses
In an interview with the German Press Agency, he said: "Of course I have an opinion on everything that's happening right now. I haven't been with "Bild" for over six years and therefore, thank God, I'm not part of this drama. That's why allow I have the luxury of keeping my opinions to myself."
What is exciting about the 550-page memoirs: Contemporary history is told through Diekmann's glasses - subjectively. The political journalist interviewed the great powers like Donald Trump or Vladimir Putin and was often there as an observer when history was made.
The 58-year-old, who lives in Potsdam and Usedom, has noted the details and kept lots of photos, documents, letters and e-mails - virtually documenting his own work. And so he garnishes contemporary history with his own observations. The book contains many documents and photos. Diekmann wants to set something straight here and there or give a more complete picture of the course of history. Many a person who appears in the book may find it difficult to swallow - Diekmann also talks about one-to-one conversations.
It's the smallest observations that Diekmann takes up. After reading it, the reader knows, for example, that the long-serving Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is said to have occasionally fallen asleep during the act of mourning the late former Chancellor Helmut Kohl (CDU). Diekmann also tells of a gala in Istanbul, where alcohol and music disappeared for a short time at lightning speed because Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came completely unexpectedly. As soon as he had left the hall, the alcohol was back on the tables - bang.
The case of ex-Federal President Christian Wulff
The non-fiction book will be published on Thursday (May 11), but it was already available in bookstores in advance - as an example from Berlin on Saturday showed. According to the Penguin Random House publishing group, the initial print run is 70,000 copies, and a further print run is in preparation.
The fact that Diekmann himself was powerful as "Bild" boss is most obviously demonstrated by the case of ex-Federal President Christian Wulff, who left the journalist a memorable voice message in the mailbox to influence reporting. The whole thing started a scandal - Wulff (CDU) resigned.
Diekmann dedicated the first chapter of his book to the affair surrounding Wulff. The "Spiegel" published parts of it in advance. When asked if he still had an open account with Wulff, Diekmann said in the dpa interview: "Well, Christian Wulff described his view of things in detail in his book "All the way up, all the way down". I had that at the time read with irritation, because my memories were so completely different." Diekmann added: "And in fact, things played out completely differently. I thought it was time to describe the Wulff case from my point of view - and to back it up with documents and facts that have not yet been published."
Diekmann is the editor-in-chief who has had the job at the top of "Bild" for the longest time. No one before him managed that. That also justifies the title of the book, "I was a picture," says Diekmann. He was there when the federal editorial office moved from Hamburg to Berlin. He was in Silicon Valley in the USA and was looking for new digital ideas for the house for Springer. After his time at "Bild", he co-founded the StoryMachine agency, which offers digital communication for companies and individuals. Since 2017 he has been chairman of the Yad Vashem Circle of Friends, which supports the work of the Holocaust memorial.
From Angela Merkel to Gerhard Schroeder
The book is divided into twelve chapters. Among other things, it is about the love-hate relationship between the newspapers "Bild" and "taz", which are known for their headlines. Diekmann also writes about an arson attack on the family car at night in front of his then home in Hamburg. It's about the refugee crisis and the policies of Angela Merkel (CDU), the agenda policy of Gerhard Schröder (SPD), and of course former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, whom Diekmann describes as a "fatherly friend," comes up.
The book indirectly touches on a current Springer debate. "Zeit" had published a series of leaked internal messages from Springer boss Döpfner, which caused outrage. Döpfner had then asked for an apology. It was about derogatory remarks about East Germans. It also came across that Döpfner should have wished that the FDP was written up in "Bild". A debate then began as to how much a publishing manager may intervene in the editorial business.
Diekmann also publishes numerous messages in his book that Döpfner is said to have sent him - in the context of the Wulff affair. Diekmann said in the dpa interview: "Mathias Döpfner and I had diametrically different opinions on many questions, as you can see from the many text messages that can be read in the book. I never had the feeling that I was getting instructions from him. He would have them not sent to me if only because he knew they would not fall on fertile ground."
- Kai Diekmann: Ich war Bild, DVA, Penguin Random House Verlagsgruppe, ISBN 978-3-421-07013-5.