Günter Wallraff
Günter Wallraff is a famous German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 writer and undercover journalist
Undercover journalism
Undercover journalism is a form of journalism in which a reporter tries to infiltrate in a community by posing as somebody friendly to that community. Journalists who are famous for their undercover reports include:*Hunter S...


Research methods

Wallraff came to prominence thanks to his striking journalistic research
Research can be defined as the scientific search for knowledge, or as any systematic investigation, to establish novel facts, solve new or existing problems, prove new ideas, or develop new theories, usually using a scientific method...

 methods and several major books on lower class working conditions and tabloid journalism. This style of research is based on what the reporter experiences personally after covertly becoming part of the subgroup under investigation. Wallraff would construct a fictional identity so that he was not recognisable as a journalist. In this way, he created books which denounce what he considers to be social injustices and which try to provide readers with new insights into the way in which society works.

Undercover work

Wallraff was one of the first people in Germany to invoke his constitutional right not to do armed military service
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

. Despite this refusal, Wallraff was obliged to serve time in the Bundeswehr
The Bundeswehr consists of the unified armed forces of Germany and their civil administration and procurement authorities...


Wallraff first took up this kind of investigative journalism
Investigative journalism
Investigative journalism is a form of journalism in which reporters deeply investigate a single topic of interest, often involving crime, political corruption, or corporate wrongdoing. An investigative journalist may spend months or years researching and preparing a report. Investigative journalism...

 in 1969 when he published 13 unerwünschte Reportagen ("13 undesired reports") in which he described what he experienced when acting the parts of an alcoholic, a homeless person, and a worker in a chemicals factory.

He travelled to Greece in May 1974 at the time of the Ioannides military dictatorship
Greek military junta of 1967-1974
The Greek military junta of 1967–1974, alternatively "The Regime of the Colonels" , or in Greece "The Junta", and "The Seven Years" are terms used to refer to a series of right-wing military governments that ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974...

. While in Syntagma Square
Syntagma Square
Syntagma Square , is located in central Athens, Greece. The Square is named after the Constitution that King Otto was forced to grant the people after a popular and military uprising, on September 3, 1843....

, he protested against human right violations. He was arrested and tortured by the police, as he did not carry, on purpose, any papers on him that could identify him as a foreigner. After his identity was revealed, Wallraff was convicted and sentenced to 14 months in jail. He was released in August, after the end of the dictatorship.

In 1977 Wallraff worked for four months as an editor
Editing is the process of selecting and preparing written, visual, audible, and film media used to convey information through the processes of correction, condensation, organization, and other modifications performed with an intention of producing a correct, consistent, accurate, and complete...

 for the tabloid Bild-Zeitung
The Bild is a German tabloid published by Axel Springer AG. The paper is published from Monday to Saturday, while on Sundays, Bild am Sonntag is published instead, which has a different style and its own editors...

newspaper in Hanover
Hanover or Hannover, on the river Leine, is the capital of the federal state of Lower Saxony , Germany and was once by personal union the family seat of the Hanoverian Kings of Great Britain, under their title as the dukes of Brunswick-Lüneburg...

, calling himself "Hans Esser". In his books Der Aufmacher (pun, meaning both "Lead Story" and "the one who opens") and Zeugen der Anklage ("Witnesses for the Prosecution") he portrays his experiences on the editorial staff of the paper and the journalism which he encountered there, which at times displayed contempt for humanity. In 1987 the journalist Hermann L. Gremliza
Hermann L. Gremliza
Hermann Ludwig Gremliza is a German left wing journalist.In the sixties he studied at Tübingen. He learned the profession working at Der Spiegel and after 1974 has published the magazine konkret....

 claimed that he, rather than Wallraff, had written parts of Der Aufmacher. The book also formed the basis for the English-language film The Man Inside from 1990, starring Jürgen Prochnow
Jürgen Prochnow
Jürgen Prochnow is a German actor. His most well-known roles internationally have been as the sympathetic submarine captain in Das Boot , Duke Leto Atreides I in Dune , the minor, but important role of Neo-Stalinist dictator General Ivan Radek in Air Force One and the villain Maxwell Dent in...

 as Wallraff.

Ganz unten ("Lowest of the Low") (1985) documented Wallraff's posing as a Turkish
Turkish people
Turkish people, also known as the "Turks" , are an ethnic group primarily living in Turkey and in the former lands of the Ottoman Empire where Turkish minorities had been established in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Romania...

 guest worker
Gastarbeiter is German for "guest worker." It refers to migrant workers who had moved to West Germany mainly in the 1960s and 70s, seeking work as part of a formal guest worker programme...

, and the mistreatment he received in that role at the hands of employers, landlords and the German government.

In 1986 he was awarded Laureate of the International Botev Prize
International Botev Prize
The International Botev Prize is a prestigious Bulgarian award, presented to individuals with significant accomplishments in the field of literature.It was established in 1972 and is named after Hristo Botev, an iconic Bulgarian revolutionary and poet....


In January 2003, Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 turned away Wallraff and two other Germans, the former labour minister for the CDU
Christian Democratic Union (Germany)
The Christian Democratic Union of Germany is a Christian democratic and conservative political party in Germany. It is regarded as on the centre-right of the German political spectrum...

 Norbert Blüm
Norbert Blüm
Norbert Blüm is a German federal legislator from North Rhine-Westphalia, Chairman of the CDU there , and former minister for labor and social affairs ....

 and Rupert Neudeck
Rupert Neudeck
Rupert Neudeck is a German journalist and humanitarian.He lived in Danzig until 1945 when Germans either fled from the advancing Soviets, or were expelled in the Expulsion of Germans from Poland after World War II...

, head of the relief organisation Cap Anamur
Cap Anamur
Cap Anamur is an organisation which is helping refugees worldwide.In 1979 Christel and Rupert Neudeck, together with a group of friends, formed the committee "A ship for Vietnam" and chartered for the rescue mission the freighter "Cap Anamur" named after a cape off the Turkish coast...

, as they tried to enter the country to work on a human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 article about Chechnya
The Chechen Republic , commonly referred to as Chechnya , also spelled Chechnia or Chechenia, sometimes referred to as Ichkeria , is a federal subject of Russia . It is located in the southeastern part of Europe in the Northern Caucasus mountains. The capital of the republic is the city of Grozny...


In May 2007, Wallraff announced that he had started yet another undercover journalist work, this time at a German call centre
Call centre
A call centre or call center is a centralised office used for the purpose of receiving and transmitting a large volume of requests by telephone. A call centre is operated by a company to administer incoming product support or information inquiries from consumers. Outgoing calls for telemarketing,...


Autumn 2009, he stunted with a controversial undercover story as a black
Black people
The term black people is used in systems of racial classification for humans of a dark skinned phenotype, relative to other racial groups.Different societies apply different criteria regarding who is classified as "black", and often social variables such as class, socio-economic status also plays a...

 man to expose latent or explicit racism
Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination. In the modern English language, the term "racism" is used predominantly as a pejorative epithet. It is applied especially to the practice or advocacy of racial discrimination of a pernicious nature...

. The black author Noah Sow criticized this action: "He imitates oppressed minorities and harvests money, attention and even respect by doing so". As a "painted white" he could not have created real black experiences. According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung
Süddeutsche Zeitung
The Süddeutsche Zeitung , published in Munich, is the largest German national subscription daily newspaper.-Profile:The title literally translates as "South German Newspaper". It is read throughout Germany by 1.1 million readers daily and boasts a relatively high circulation abroad...

, the method itself would be racist.

His investigative methods have led to the creation of the Swedish
Swedish language
Swedish is a North Germanic language, spoken by approximately 10 million people, predominantly in Sweden and parts of Finland, especially along its coast and on the Åland islands. It is largely mutually intelligible with Norwegian and Danish...

A verb, from the Latin verbum meaning word, is a word that in syntax conveys an action , or a state of being . In the usual description of English, the basic form, with or without the particle to, is the infinitive...

 'wallraffa' meaning "to expose misconduct
A misconduct is a legal term meaning a wrongful, improper, or unlawful conduct motivated by premeditated or intentional purpose or by obstinate indifference to the consequences of one's acts....

 from the inside by assuming a role". The word is currently included in the dictionary Svenska Akademiens Ordlista
Svenska Akademiens Ordlista
Svenska Akademiens ordlista, or SAOL for short, is a dictionary published every few years by the Swedish Academy. It is a single volume that is considered the final arbiter of Swedish spelling...



Wallraff has been heavily criticised by those on the receiving end of his style of investigation, as they consider he breached constitutional rights
Rights are legal, social, or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people, according to some legal system, social convention, or ethical theory...

 to privacy or revealed trade secret
Trade secret
A trade secret is a formula, practice, process, design, instrument, pattern, or compilation of information which is not generally known or reasonably ascertainable, by which a business can obtain an economic advantage over competitors or customers...

s. Attempts were therefore made on a number of occasions to legally prevent Wallraff's investigative methods, but his actions were regularly ruled as constitutional by the courts. The courts opined that freedom of the press
Freedom of the press
Freedom of the press or freedom of the media is the freedom of communication and expression through vehicles including various electronic media and published materials...

 and public interest
Public interest
The public interest refers to the "common well-being" or "general welfare." The public interest is central to policy debates, politics, democracy and the nature of government itself...

 in areas concerned with the formation of public opinion favoured Wallraff's actions. In balancing public interest with the competing interests of those immediately affected by his actions it follows however that private conversations, for example, may not be published.

Wallraff has been publicly accused of using ghostwriters, especially in his books Lead Story and Lowest of the Low. (German TV Das Erste, Report München, 3 December 1985 and Report Baden Baden, 11 March 1986)

In September 2003, investigations were made by the BStU (the federal commission set up to deal with the files of the Stasi
The Ministry for State Security The Ministry for State Security The Ministry for State Security (German: Ministerium für Staatssicherheit (MfS), commonly known as the Stasi (abbreviation , literally State Security), was the official state security service of East Germany. The MfS was headquartered...

) into the Rosenholz files
Rosenholz files
The Rosenholz files are a collection of 381 CD-ROMs containing 280,000 files with information on employees of the Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung , one of the intelligence agencies of the former GDR...

 on Stasi
The Ministry for State Security The Ministry for State Security The Ministry for State Security (German: Ministerium für Staatssicherheit (MfS), commonly known as the Stasi (abbreviation , literally State Security), was the official state security service of East Germany. The MfS was headquartered...

 workers which somehow got into the hands of the CIA
Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

; as a result, it was claimed that Wallraff had had connections to the Stasi in the 1960s. Wallraff disputes that he ever actively worked for them. On December 17, 2004, the Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

 district court ruled on a suit brought by Wallraff that he must not be described as an Inoffizieller Mitarbeiter or Stasi collaborator (he was being called this above all in newspapers belonging to the Axel Springer Verlag
Axel Springer
Axel Springer , was a German journalist and the founder and owner of the Axel Springer AG publishing company.-Early life:...

 - the publishers of Bild-Zeitung) as no proof of collaboration could be furnished in the documents which had been presented.

External links

Articles in German

  • Undercover, Die Zeit
    Die Zeit
    Die Zeit is a German nationwide weekly newspaper that is highly respected for its quality journalism.With a circulation of 488,036 and an estimated readership of slightly above 2 million, it is the most widely read German weekly newspaper...

     Nr. 22, 2007
  • Unser täglich Brötchen, Die Zeit
    Die Zeit
    Die Zeit is a German nationwide weekly newspaper that is highly respected for its quality journalism.With a circulation of 488,036 and an estimated readership of slightly above 2 million, it is the most widely read German weekly newspaper...

     Nr. 19, 2008
  • Unter null, Die Zeit
    Die Zeit
    Die Zeit is a German nationwide weekly newspaper that is highly respected for its quality journalism.With a circulation of 488,036 and an estimated readership of slightly above 2 million, it is the most widely read German weekly newspaper...

     Nr. 11, 2009
  • In fremder Haut, Die Zeit
    Die Zeit
    Die Zeit is a German nationwide weekly newspaper that is highly respected for its quality journalism.With a circulation of 488,036 and an estimated readership of slightly above 2 million, it is the most widely read German weekly newspaper...

     Nr. 43, 2009
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