דף הבית >> GERT_POSTEL/German_Television_interview26october2001
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The following is a translation of a talk show on the german state TV
The title of the talkshow was: "Unter uns",
it was broadcasted on the 26th of october and repeated on the 27th
German Television interview
He, the trained
postman who worked for 18 months as a senior physician, outwitted them
all: doctors, lawyers, politicians. He has been released from prison
and is now with us, Gert Postel, Germany’s most notorious confidence
Two years ago a joke went round, and not just in medical circles: “Do
you have a vacant position for a senior physician, there’s a postman I
Like most jokes this one also had a grain of truth in it. It is based
on the true story of Gert Postel who is here with us today.
- Herr Postel, in January 1999 you were sentenced to four years
imprisonment and you served part of the sentence. Now you’ve been
released from prison on probation. How does a conman redeem himself?
- By writing a book for instance, and the book is on the
bestseller list of the magazine Der Spiegel.
- Not anymore…
- It is, again.
- Again? Great. Why the book? Was it intended to be a reflection or
- The book is really part of the probation programme. I think
when the time comes, when I won’t be able anymore tosummon
up the energy in order to fight off reports in the Deutsche Aerzteblatt
(German newspaper for the medical profession), it will be the book
which provides the facts and I’ll be better-known.
- Facts? Then I am surprised that you’re here tonight since the book
states that at present you were head of a clinic in Odessa.
- Yes, but this is something I cannot elucidate any further
because it is unsuitable for public discussion. It is also abit
satirical as the whole book is a rather ironic work. My original
intention was to write a book that stood out and was different from the
usual True Crime Lit à la Dagobert or Dr. Schneider. And when you write
about yourself you run the risk of being too close to the
subject-matter. That’s why I decided to use irony as a stylistic device. - And you started to write
- The entire manuscript was written in Leipzig while I was
- You are a trained postman and for one and a half years you worked as
a senior physician in a Saxon psychiatrichospital. This wasn’t your
first coup but the last one we know of. How did you apply for the job?
position was advertised in the Saechsische Amtsblatt and in the
Deutsche Aerzteblatt, among others. Thirty physicians and specialists
applied for the position and eight of them were short-listed. These
eight applicants had to present a paper to the Appointment Board of the
Ministry for Social Affairs.
- And what exactly was your lecture about?
- “Pseudology of the Fantastic” or “Compulsive Deception as
Enhancement of the Self in Thomas Mann’sexemplary
figure of Felix Krull”, from his novel of the same title, The
Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man - I assume you knew the
novel by heart (?)
I thought that the subject was very interesting indeed. What is more, I
was certain that sooner or later everything would come to light and
therefore I thought: "What a nice subject-matter…"
- And your paper convinced the Board, or how did you prepare
yourself for job-specific questions? Weren’t you worriedabout it? - Yes, but my knowledge of
psychiatry was in no way inferior to
that of the so-called experts. At the hospital I was responsible for
further training and qualification and very often I stood there and
thought to myself: "Who actually is the fraud, me or them?". For
example, I introduced new terminology, terms which do not exist. Right
in front of a hundred psychiatrists I talked about the “Bipolar
Depression of the Third Degree”. This is a psychiatric term which does
not exist and no one asked a single question about it.
- Why not?
- Because to ask would be embarrassing. You would admit to
incompetence and in these circles you should rather not.
- Which other responsibilities did you have in Zschadrass?
like to say something else regarding the job interview. I was asked
about my doctorate and about the subject of my thesis. I answered
“Cognitive-induced Distortions in the Stereotypical Formation of
Judgement”, which is nothing else than the stringing together of
meaningless words. The immediate response however was. “That’s
wonderful. In this case we’re sure you’ll feel at home here in Leipzig.”
- And no one requested your thesis or wanted to read it?
you only check on someone when there is the hint of a doubt. If there’s
nothing dubious about it then there is, of course, no need to delve any
- And no one had any doubts? - During the whole period
of working as a senior physician I
wasn’t criticised by anyone, not once. I was assessed and the senior
consultant of the clinic wrote, “Senior physician Dr. Postel exceeds
all expectations.” This he later denied, so we reproduced the
evaluation in the book.
- How did you exceed, what were your achievements?
- I don’t think that you have to be particularly intelligent
in order to become a senior physician in such a psychiatricinstitution.
- Well, that’s your opinion…
- You just have to know how to present yourself, and this is a
“science”in itself, based on appearance and pretences.
To me it seems to be a study of linguistics. If you have mastered the
language, the psychiatric jargon, then you’re able to formulate
anything, you can even invent new terms.
- Perhaps you can talk like that to a colleague and impress them with
hollow phrases but what happens when youhave to put it into clinical
practice, in front of a patient who needs your help? - Look, I held the position
of a senior physician and
representative at this clinic. On this level you don’t necessarily have
close contact with the patient. Your responsibilities entail more
global matters and general management. Almost all my assistants had
specialised in Psychiatry; one was a qualified university lecturer in
the field. Things ran smoothly and I very often felt just like Team
- OK – so you had to organise, but you never practiced? I would
find that reassuring…
- Yes and no – I did have some kind of concept. I was against
repressive psychiatry as it was exercised inZschadrass
where injections were high on the agenda, Haloperidol was given as
medication and patients were restrained to their beds. And I was
against all the chemistry involved. If you’re holding a position like
mine you are in charge. With this power I could put measures into
effect which I thought right.
- Yes, you felt they were right but how sure were you from a
professional point of view, that everything was in theinterest of the
- I was positive and anyway, I observed everything closely and
I always got the feedback.
- You also wrote assessments…
- Yes, and special assessments…
- Yes, but these were psychiatric assessments and reports which means
you could make decisions which as a result had certain consequences for
- Yes, on a daily basis.
- And you never suffered from a bad conscience, after all, someone
could have ended up in prison(?)
- The assessments were primarily concerned with the question
of guilt and responsibility. I was always against theoveruse
of implementing Section 21 which excluded diminished responsibility. If
someone commits a criminal act then they should take responsibility.
Moreover, they also have a right to an answer and it shouldn’t be
denied to them because of a half-hearted assessment report, although
psychiatrists have a slightly different view on the matter.
- You were also given the prospect of becoming a senior consultant. How
did that come about?
- Yes, in addition I was head of a security prison, a special
institution that accommodates people who kill theirgirlfriends
while under the influence of alcohol. There was a threat of a
large-scale breakout which I prevented, very much to the delight of the
minister. Subsequently, he invited me to Dresden.
- And how did you prevent the breakout?
- I made several phone calls which resulted in the police
removing these people and transferring them to otherinstitutions.
- However, you didn’t accept the new post as senior consultant, why not?
- The reasons are quite trivial, really. I went to the
minister and actually I didn’t want it at all. I was satisfied with thesituation as it was…
- So, you were afraid of insurmountable tasks (?)
- Not at all. The higher you climb in this hierarchy the
easier it gets. As a senior consultant you can undoubtedly leada
much more comfortable life than a senior physician and as the latter
your work is much easier than that of an assistant physician.
- Well, these are your experiences. How was the truth finally
- There was an assistant who was very dissatisfied with the
senior physician she had to work under. So I took her intomy
section. The next time she went home she told her parents how happy she
was now that she was working with the pleasant Dr. Postel. Well, her
parents remembered the name and the bombshell dropped.
- You have to explain to us why they “remembered the name”.
- When I was young, at the tender age of 23, I was Head of the Health
Authority in Flensburg under the name of Dr. Dr. Clemens Bartholdy, but
that wasn’t very professional.
- And how did that come to light?
- I lost an ID-card, one with my real name on it and a
professional pass authorised by the town of Flensburg. Bothshowed
identical photographs, yet had different details.
- And you were found out(?)
- Too bad, not something one should loose…
one shouldn’t. But sooner or later the truth had to be discovered
anyway but until then I was the gifted senior physician of
Zschadrass, and you know, there are good doctors and even very
good psychiatrists. Still, that’s the real thrill, for a postman to
come along, doing the job for 18 months and with his superiors
certifying him “exceptional abilities.”
- In this case, you acted relatively openly, you didn’t use a
pseudonym. Why so daring this time? All the other timesyou had assumed
a different name.
- Yes, but it’s better to use your own name than making one up.
- Just in case you loose your ID again….
- I don’t know. I haven’t really given it too much thought.
- Or perhaps you identified yourself with the role. Did you really live
the part and believe you were a doctor?
- Oh no, never, then I’d be a bit of a nutcase.
- But according to the preface of your book, written by Prof. Dr. von
Berg, you are mentally ill. The name soundsfamiliar. That’s another
pseudonym, isn’t it?
- Yes, though a lot of people were wondering and said that the
book was indeed quite interesting but how did I getthe
famous Prof. von Berg to write the introduction.
- Which in this case means that they haven’t read the book properly,
otherwise they’d know about Herr von Berg, hedid help you, didn’t he?
- I called the senior consultant at the hospital as Professor
von Berg and as Director of the University Clinic ofNeurology
in Muenster and recommended my assistant, Dr. Postel, for the position.
- Although in both cases it was you…
- Yes indeed, and two hours later Herr Dr. Kroemker returned
my call and referred to the telephone conversation hehad
with Professor von Berg and how he had been full of praise, which I
dismissed as exaggeration.
- The book tells the story slightly differently. There it says you were
huffing and puffing from a bicycle tour…
- Which is absolutely true apart from a few literary
embellishments. You have to create a bit of atmosphere, you know.
- How did you manage to get away from Zschadrass just in time?
- Because the senior consultant told me that I was suspected
of a serious offence. I was suspended until the nextday.
With incredible logic I concluded that finally the cat was out of the
bag and that I should terminate my stay immediately. In fact, the
senior consultant acted as accomplice.
- Afterwards you travelled freely through Germany for 11 months without
- Well, this was a bit unpleasant. It was the worst time, and
yes, I was never confronted.
- Although there was a situation where it got quite close, right?
- Indeed, there was a situation in Berlin where they have this
perverse propaganda show called Fahndungsakte (Thegerman
version of Crimewatch). It was so malicious I became scared of myself
when I saw it. I called a friend who is a lawyer and she pointed it out
to me and I thought, it might be perfectly possible that the police
were on their way. So I wrote a little note, pinned it to the door
saying, “Dear Simone, I’m with Steffi in Bremen. Will be back in a
week. See you, yours…”
- And it worked?
- Absolutely. The police came, they rang the bell, and I came
up to look through the spyhole. There they wereexamining
this piece of paper whereas in fact we were only like 10 cm apart from
each other. In the end, the piece of paper was the irrefutable
evidence: “He can’t be in this flat.” And this was the West German CID
(Crime Investigation Department).
- Why do you put such a great emphasis on this?
- Because the CID in Berlin like to think of themselves as
being brilliant and what great guys they are. Inthis
case, they managed to look quite stupid.
- Why didn’t you go abroad?
- You see, actually I didn’t really want to run away. I just
had such a mortal fear of prison. I just couldn’t do it. Theweather was too nice to go
to the police.
- And what was the weather like when you were arrested?
- It was slightly colder, in March I think, in Stuttgart. But
that was fine and I am very much reconciled with my time inprison.
It was an experience of a particular kind and I had the opportunity to
do something for myself. I was treated exceptionally well by the prison
management and all the officials. I was very happy.
- In January 1999 you appeared before a court. We have the original
pictures. Here is some footage. It is pure GertPostel. Did you have any
feelings of guilt?
- Yes, a bit. Occasionally I feel a bit remorseful, but not
always and certainly not now. When I saw how the “realdoctors”
worked at the clinic the feeling of guilt faded. I came to see things
in relative terms.
- Nevertheless, you abused the trust of your colleagues.
- Now you are starting to take the moral high ground.
- You see, I gave certain people an opportunity to make a fool ofthemselves. I held up a
mirror to them and in the mirror they were ugly. And stupid as they
were, they hit out at the mirror.
- Did any of the patients institute legal proceedings against you?
- Not that I know of. It was quite interesting. The
prosecution in Leipzig was investigating, because if a postman hadbeen a senior physician for
such a long time he surely must have made mistakes. But they didn’t
find anything at all.
- No mistakes… You didn’t have any qualifications to enter a
university, still you studied Theology and you evenpulled off a coup.
You had an audience with the Pope. We have a picture here.
- That’s right, I wanted to visit Rome and thought if I go I
should meet the Pope. I got my references and letters ofrecommendation
from the Bishop of Muenster, the Cardinal in Berlin and the German
Embassy at the Holy See - not very easy.
- You are a trained postman, but worked as a doctor, you became deputy
head of the Health Authority in Flensburg,or was it director, you had a
position as senior physician in Saxony…
- …what will I do next?
- No, what led you to not being yourself and wanting to reach so much
- Psychiatrically speaking you could say…
- No, put it simply…
is a multi-factual framework of effects where a lot of things
come together. It’s a subject that could take up a whole evening. It
can’t be explained in a few sentences. Of course, on the one hand I
wanted to prove something to myself, on the other, I wanted to
demonstrate that any trained goat, or even a postman, could become a
psychiatrist. And that’s not polemics.
- Though I suppose the experts feel very differently about it.
- Absolutely, and that’s what they have to do in order to
protect themselves. If they had to admit to it …
- But just imagine we’d constantly let loose postmen on the mentally
ill. They are not really prepared for you, are they?
- I find the harping on about the postman aspect a bit… Yes,
once upon a time I was trained as a postman but therewas
also a personal development. I do not approve of postmen who want to
become senior physicians.
- But you’ve tried – what did you aim at, you wanted to prove something…
- But there are a lot of things I am not really aware of. I am
not constantly accounting for my actions. You see, therewas
probably a key event in my life. My mother was wrongly treated. She
suffered from depression. Although she was treated by a
psychiatrist and was given a stimulating drug but nothing to relieve
her depression, which resulted in her suicide. For me this was a very
traumatic experience. Furthermore, I had a girlfriend who underwent
special training to become a neurologist. So I met these people who
have the audacity, in a psychiatric context, to change people, and
partly by force, whereas they couldn’t even cope with their own little
lives. And it came to the point when I thought, OK, whateverthey
were capable of, I could do it better.
- And which methods did you use?
- Why did you succeed in the end? Do fine feathers make fine
birds? Or do the right words at the right time pave theway for
- As far as Psychiatry is concerned it can be said that if
you’re able to perform linguistic acrobatics you can make acareer
for yourself. That is what Psychiatry is based on. It is a shallow
science. I am not being polemic. There is the evidence..
- For the future your lawyer would like to see you in a socially
satisfactory position, either with the BND (FederalIntelligence
Service) or the Bundesverfassungsschutz (Federal Constitutional Defence
- Or with the Foreign Office…
- Indeed, he said this as well. Your former pastor wishes you
would work in a convent garden for ten years, and aformer fellow
journalist said you were already planning the next coup..
- Yes, let them all have their thoughts…
- And you, what are your plans?
- I don’t want to discuss this in public and anyhow, my brain
is like a huge warehouse full of new ideas. We’ll see.I
think you shouldn’t always plan ahead, things will happen. You have to
be alert and courageous.
- But now that everyone knows you and what you look like, what chance
do you stand to honourably…
- It prevents me from committing criminal offences, which is
part of my probation.
- But you have to cope without a senior physician’s salary? Are you in
debt? How will you be able to make endsmeet?
- I am leading a very modest lifestyle. You see, if your
interests are of an intellectual nature you tend to be lessconcerned
with material things, right? Currently, I am studying philosophy,
Arthur Schopenhauer. And that’s wonderful. There’s no need for poppycock.
- You can’t trade in your Schopenhauer at the bakery though, you can’t
pay the baker with Schopenhauer thoughts?
- There is no need, I don’t have to worry about the food on my
table. I don’t have to give you evidence of my financialsituation.
That is almost an obscene expectation.
- No, I am not expecting that at all but you have to think about “what
next?” To be the Pope would be a possibilitiy?
- No, I guess I am not humble enough.
- When does your probation period come to an end?
- In two years, I think. In fact, I don’t really care. It
could as well be 30 years. I am not planning any more criminalacts.
- Thank you.
PHONE-IN QUESTIONS/QUESTIONS FROM THE VIEWERS
What kind of treatment do you get from genuine doctors who recognise
you? The expert in Leipzig
confirmed that I suffered from a narcissistic personality disorder
which is a kind of being in love withoneself. In
West Germany, however, people are born with it.
Do you follow all media reports about you and do you feel like a kind
of celebrity? No, I am not thinking in
these categories and I don’t follow
all the media reports. Although it is fun to play along and very
Why don’t you qualify now for a profession in the medical field? I’d like to educate myself
and as far as I am concerned the study of medicine is hardly beneficial.
That’s your opinion and I have to leave it at that.
What has to happen in order for you to be conned? I’m constantly taken in by
conmen. I fall for journalists.
But you can’t lump them all together. Of course, not. Obviously,
it would be really bad if there wasn’t a glimmer of hope somewhere.
In which situation do you feel ashamed of your actions; when was the
last time you felt embarrassment? O, permanently. As I said
before I often suffer pangs of conscience.
Do they hurt you very often? They touch me occasionally,
The royalties from your book, will they cover some of your debts? Yes.
You have to pay back the salary you received as senior physician. Which strikes me as very
odd indeed. I was assessed as being outstanding in my work, there is
written proof. I was urgedto consider a position as
senior consultant and now they demand the money back. That’s a bit
perverse, but well…