Over the past 25 years, not a single public whistleblower in Germany has been spared career damage, financial harm or personal ruin. Far beyond being just fired from their jobs, German whistleblowers have been sued, harassed, prosecuted, investigated for treason, and publicly slandered. A former environmental official had his home raided by the police. A staffer at Berlin’s new airport reportedly was poisoned.
Help for citizen corruption-fighters in Germany finally is on the way.
Earlier this month the Berlin-based European Center for Whistleblower Rights opened Whistleblower-Herz, Germany’s first non-profit whistleblower support organization. “Herz” is the German word for “Heart,” and this is the organization’s goal: to be at the center of the whistleblower movement in Germany. The organization is receiving confidential and anonymous reports, investigating cases and retaliation complaints, providing no-cost support to citizens, and collaborating with journalists.
In cooperation with Whistleblowing International and the National Whistleblower Center, Whistleblower-Herz is campaigning for the German Bundestag to pass a strong whistleblower protection law to comply with new EU standards. Except for a very limited provision for public servants, Germany currently provides no whistleblower rights to employees or citizens. Whistleblowing is not officially recognized, and there are no whistleblower offices at the national level.
Due to this lack of rights and official support, Whistleblower-Herz is making casework a top priority. Among its many cases, the organization is:
- campaigning for Brigitte Fuzellier, who suffered a decade’s worth of retaliation after reporting financial irregularities within the Cologne-based Catholic charity Kolping International. Whistleblower-Herz has called for investigations of Kolping by the German Bundestag and EU anti-corruption officials. Retaliatory criminal charges against Fuzellier finally have been dropped, but her struggle for justice continues.
- campaigning for Jóhannes Stefánsson, who exposed the “Fishrot” bribery scandal that implicated Iceland’s largest fishing company and government officials in Namibia, some of whom have been arrested. Stefánsson believes he was poisoned as retaliation. To help with his medical expenses, Whistleblower-Herz has organized a GoFundMe campaign with the National Whistleblower Center, ANA LOGO and Whistleblowing International.
- supporting many people confidentially, including a former employee of a major German media company who has evidence of possible financial misconduct; a former business partner of a German chemical company who has evidence of potential health risks; and a former employee of a German university who has evidence of possible safety and ethical violations. We are protecting the identities of these whistleblowers and working to preserve their careers.
Whistleblower-Herz’s expert advisors include National Whistleblower Center Chair Stephen Kohn and SpeakOut SpeakUp founder Wendy Addison.