Dr. Max Frenkel, Zurich (CH)

A liberal of the old school with up-to-date ideas

Readers of the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” (NZZ) and of the “NZZ am Sonntag” know Max Frenkel (he signs his columns fre.) as a Swiss political commentator of decidedly liberal leanings on issues foreign and domestic. To Frenkel, being a liberal is to say what needs to be said, regardless of the ever-present Swiss political correctness. This became particularly clear in the course of the debate on Switzerland’s role in the Second World War. While many Swiss journalists and several historians readily fell in line with attacks emanating from the United States, Frenkel put the events of the time in their proper light with intelligence, bringing his considerable influence to bear on one of our country’s most important postwar political debates.

“Pardon me – the abc of the politically incorrect Swiss”, his most recent publication, is an eloquent expression of the kind of political openness this commentator with a law doctorate has demonstrated daily as head of the “ch Foundation for Federal Cooperation” and in other positions of importance. Frenkel’s is an alert and universal spirit. His sense of irony and humor moderates the manifestations of his intelligence and abilities sufficiently to make his intellectual conclusions palatable and effective. He not only comments, he puts things in motion.

Max Frenkel gained his remarkable reputation in little time, having embraced the profession and passion of journalism as late as age 50. He became NZZ correspondent for French-speaking Switzerland in 1987. Back in Zurich he dealt with a wide spectrum of topics, ranging from foreign policy, culture, language and tourism, to debating federalism and even stamp collecting.

Frenkel would not be Frenkel if he did not make use of the platform provided by his seemingly innocent Philatelists Corner column to air his own, more or less camouflaged political commentary. Usually, the former lieutenant colonel purveys his messages with tongue placed firmly in cheek. Not surprisingly, his current column in the Sunday edition of NZZ is entitled “Markenzeichen”, a play on the German words postmark and brandname.