Rupert Neudeck

“I don’t want to be a coward again. Cap Anamur is the most beautiful way of showing the German desire to never act cowardly again, but always be brave.”

Rupert Neudeck at the 30th anniversary of Cap Anamur

 

EARLY LIFE AND FLIGHT

Rupert Neudeck was born in Danzig in 1939. On 31 January 1945, he had to flee his homeland with his mother and his siblings in the icy cold weather. “Why didn’t you come two hours earlier? I still had tickets for the ship!”,  said a friend to his mother. The ship, with the name Wilhelm Gustloff, was torpedoed shortly after and sunk with over 9,000 people on board. Several years later  this particular incident was another reason for Rupert Neudeck to safe Vietnamese refugees in the South Chinese Sea. Since they did not suceed in fleeing that day the family returned to Danzig, where they spent the last weeks of war. They started another escape attempt in 1945. His mother and her four children set out for the West, mostly on foot and occasionally by bus and train. “Death, starvation, destruction and fear shaped our childhood” reminisced Rupert Neudeck later. The family managed to get to Hagen, where they were reunited with the father. They received a vacant apartment after spending several weeks in collective shelters.

EDUCATION AND JOURNALISTIC CAREER

After graduating school, Rupert Neudeck studied philosophy, German studies, sociology and Catholic theology in Bonn and later Paderborn. In 1961 he interrupted his studies to join the Jesuit order, but after exiting the order he returned to studying and finished his studies in 1970. Neudeck earned his PhD with his thesis “Political ethics from Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus” at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität in Munster. During 1969 and 1971 he worked as the student editor of the Munster student newspaper “Semesterspiegel”. In 1971 he started working as a full-time journalist for the weekly media trade magazine “Funk-Korrespondenz” in Cologne. He decided to work as a freelance journalist in 1976 and became the editor of the German national broadcast program “Deutschlandfunk” in 1977.

RESCUE OF THE “BOAT PEOPLE”

The victory of communist North Vietnam marked the end of the war on April 30, 1945. Harsh methods of the communist regime caused a refugee crisis. The fl across the South Chinese Sea was for thousands the only way out, seeking for a better and secure living. But the sea route posed risks and a lot of people died due to storms, unseaworthy boats and attacks from pirates.Rupert Neudeck decided to not only stand on the sidelines when he became aware of the refugees’ plight. He chartered a ship and founded the committee “Ein Schiff für Vietnam (“A ship for Vietnam”) together with his wife Christel Neudeck and Heinrich Böll, a writer and later Nobel laureate. The organization was renamed “Cap Anamur/Deutsche Not-Ärzte e. V.” in 1982, named after the freighter Cap Anamur. Neudeck and his crew rescued with the Cap Anamur more than 10,375 “boat people” and brought them to Germany.

SOCIAL COMMITMENT ONSHORE

However, rescuing refugees in the South Chinese Sea was only the beginning. The association started to operate worldwide and help especially in areas without media attention. Medical treatment, training of qualified employees and building and maintenance of medical facilities had been priority  right from the start. Rupert Neudeck was part of the associations’ board until 1985 and then became spokesperson of the charity. He resigned from his post in 2003 but was still strongly connected to the association until he passed away.

Rupert Neudeck died from the consequences of a cardiac surgery on May 31, 2016, at the age of 76.