Norbert Lammert was trying to suppress his grin when he opened the Bundestag session on March 1, 2013. Because the then President of the Bundestag was able to convey very special congratulations on this day: He congratulated the SPD MP Jakob Maria Mierscheid on his 80th birthday. Mierscheid is "a valued and occasionally desperately sought-after colleague" who, however, would have to miss the meeting "for compelling reasons". Some colleagues would even doubt whether it even existed.
Lammert resolutely rejected such speculations that day with a mischievous smile. To the laughter of many MPs, because everyone in the Reichstag knew: Jakob Maria Mierscheid does not actually exist. He is the phantom of the German parliament.
Norbert Lammert is not the only one who treats the ominous Social Democrat as a real colleague. Jakob Maria Mierscheid has an entry on the website of the SPD parliamentary group and is presented there with a detailed curriculum vitae: One learns, among other things, that Mierscheid was born in 1933, has four children, was awarded the Silver Badge of Honor of the Morbach Men's Choir and since 1979 for the Social Democrats sit in the Bundestag. In 2017, the SPD party newspaper "Vorwärts" published an interview with the allegedly press-shy politician, in which he spoke out in favor of Martin Schulz as chancellor. For a long time he even appeared on the website of the German Bundestag.
But how did it come about that a fictitious member of parliament was able to acquire such a role in what is often so formal politics? The trail leads back to 1979, the year in which Mierscheid allegedly entered the Bundestag for the first time - at that time still in Bonn. Carlo Schmid, longtime member of the SPD and Bundestag Vice President, had died shortly before. Two of his colleagues, the parliamentarians Peter Würtz and Karl Haehser, therefore invented the fictional character Mierscheid. She was to serve as a worthy successor to Schmid, who was known for his sense of humor. At some point, the Mierscheid phenomenon took on a life of its own, and the fictitious politician has long been valued in other parliamentary groups in the House. Over the years, however, Mierscheid has resisted all attempts to poach and collect by other parties.
In the SPD, Mierscheid not only serves as a welcome amusement in everyday politics, the venerable MP is also intended to remind people of the traditional values of the social democrats. "Someone like Mierscheid is needed," said the late parliamentary group leader Peter Struck. "In everyday politics, we are pragmatically oriented, it's about solving problems. It's necessary for someone to question it." From time to time, Mierscheid is still quoted in speeches in the Bundestag, which always causes great amusement in the plenum. In the old capital Bonn there were two cafés that bore his name, in Berlin's Paul-Löbe-Haus, where the members of parliament have their offices, a bridge was named after him in 2009. And despite his advanced age, Mierscheid keeps up with the times and is also present on the internet – with his own accounts on Twitter and Facebook.
Sources: Bundestag / SPD parliamentary group / "Vorwarts" / Jakob Mierscheid on Twitter