Illuminating insights in Klaus Zeller’s second book
SUNDRY STROKES (The Philippine Star) - February 8, 2014 - 12:00am

Dr. Klaus Zeller, Germany’s former ambassador to the Philippines, follows “Crossing Many Borders to Reach Home” with a second volume of the same title. It will be launched at the Turf Room, Manila Polo Club, on Feb. 27, 5 p.m., with Prof. Bernardo Villegas and former ambassador to Germany Delia Albert as guests of honor.

Starting as third secretary and ending as ambassador, Dr. Zeller demonstrates a phenomenal memory which retains the minutest details of top-level discussions, conferences, meetings with high-ranking government officials and diplomats in Bonn, Bombay, Uganda, Paris, the Philippines, Vienna, Australia and Iran.

Each time he assumes a new post, he girds for battle, so to speak, not aggressively but rationally and objectively. He thoroughly acquaints himself with the current events and past history of the host country, with the habits and customs of its people for smooth relationships which will avert future altercations.

The author never disguises or evades the truth, evaluating countries as he views them, his total candor thus gaining the reader’s trust and confidence.

Dr. Zeller liked best his tenures in India with its long history and ancient culture, and Paris, his old, familiar, favorite haunt. India is “one of Germany’s choice partners with its bi-centennial bonds with Goethe, Schopenhauer and Hesse, while Indian philosophy, religion and literature, Indology are fully recognized and taught in German universities.”

Among several highlights of Dr. Zeller’s diplomatic career was his close collaboration with Chancellor Helmut Schmidt whose “realistic and rational approach to European affairs” he admired, while enjoying “cooperating in the formulation, execution and public explanation of his country’s foreign policy.”

Further, with Schmidt, Dr. Zeller saw policies in the making, even being a part of them, and being in touch with some of the best bureaucratic and political brains” of his country and of those it dealt with. He saw a government at top level — a level most people in political life, at home or elsewhere never reached. British PM Margaret Thatcher expressed to Dr. Zeller her deep regret at Schmidt's ending his tenure.

Dr. Zeller had the distinct honor and privilege of taking President Khatami of Iran, “a man of faith and culture,” to Germany on an official visit. Dr. Zeller’s stay in Iran was not unpleasant, but later, its religious dictatorship suffocated him. He forwarded German-Iran relations best through cultural channels, thus reflecting his conversance with the visual and performing arts. This conversance explains his frequent visits to museums – he tosses off the names of great German and French painters at the drop of a hat – and attendance at concerts.

Providing deeply touching human interest are the author’s enduring love and concern for his family, his home life with parents and children by his first wife Francoise; warm camaraderie with friends and colleagues; the description of his residences and the breath-taking scenery viewed from them, or seen on extensive travels by car or on foot. On one excursion, he revealed his knowledge of English literature by calling to mind Stevenson’s “Treasure Island.”

Two instances tickle the risibilities. During a lavish state dinner, a “far from exciting” speech sent Dr. Zeller to sleep. He confesses: “After that most embarrassing moment, I never liked my bed better.” In a coffee shop in Vienna, an obvious imitation of Starbucks, coffee was served in paper goblets while the mere sight of the pastries caused him indigestion.

After retirement, Zeller lectured on foreign relations at De La Salle U. and the U. of Asia and the Pacific, finding his students cooperative, friendly and eager to learn.

Finally, Dr. Zeller asks: “Where is home?” Mind you, Dr. Zeller is German and is proud to be German. He will always protect German interests. But he has retired in the Philippines and feels more at home here than anywhere else. More significantly, how he stresses that he and his devoted wife Pinky (daughter of former ambassador to Germany Ramon del Rosario) are meant for each other!

What about Dr. Zeller’s book? His brilliant mind, phenomenal memory and astonishingly wide background covering world history, ancient civilizations, the arts, geography, political science, geo or international politics and, not the least, foreign relations, make him the compleat diplomat.

Thus, the illuminating insights and perceptive counsel his book imparts are of immense value to laymen and, more particularly, to his peers.

Tonight’s concert

Violin virtuoso Chino Gutierrez, 23, will perform tonight at the Insular Life auditorium in Alabang, repeating his highly praised concert last Nov. 30. After the performance, Chino resumes his studies in Munich.


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