Ministerialdirigent ret. Wolfram Ruhenstroth-Bauer

“My motivation was to help people”

For almost forty years, TUM Alumni Wolfram Ruhenstroth-Bauer advocated for refugee and development aid. His commitment far exceeded any official duties and was highly decorated. For him, it was simply humanity at work.

When Dr. Wolfram Ruhenstroth-Bauer was released from English captivity as a prisoner of war in 1945, the war was finally over for the young paratrooper. But also his homeland Sudeten Germany was lost. His mother had died in the Russian invasion, his father, a classical scholar, was interned. A return to his Moravian-Silesian hometown Troppau was no longer possible. So he followed his older brother to Munich.

Already at the age of fifteen, Wolfram Ruhenstroth-Bauer was a student at the Troppau College of Agriculture, which he graduated from in 1942. When the war ended in 1945, he was the youngest student at the agricultural faculty of TUM. In 1948 he obtained his diploma there.

Perseverance That Paid Off

Having experienced first-hand what it felt like to be uprooted and dependent on help, Wolfram Ruhenstroth-Bauer already dealt with the difficulties displaced people and especially refugee farmers  face during his studies. At that time, Wolfram Ruhenstroth-Bauer did not yet suspect that this would one day become his life’s work, which would bring him into contact with the political elite and earn him great recognition.

In the newly founded Agricultural Social Society, which was based at the University of Göttingen, he met high-ranking experts working with farming families who had fled from Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. Especially the meeting with Theodor Oberländer, then State Secretary for Refugees in the Bavarian Ministry of the Interior, would significantly influence the young TUM student’s career.

You have to keep at it if you want to make a difference.

On several occasions, Wolfram Ruhenstroth-Bauer presented State Secretary Theodor Oberländer with approaches and concepts for promoting the integration of refugee farmers in West German agriculture. The latter eventually also formally assigned this difficult task to Wolfram Ruhenstroth-Bauer, who in the meantime had earned a degree in Agricultural Sciences. Within the Bavarian Secretary of State, the integration of refugee farmers had thus become a task involving all the technical and budgetary implications. “You have to keep at it if you want to make a difference”, Wolfram Ruhenstroth-Bauer says with determination.

Wolfram Ruhenstroth-Bauer with Queen Silvia of Sweden at the Festspielball.

In the course of his career Wolfram Ruhenstroth-Bauer has met many famous people. The photo with Queen Silvia of Sweden was taken on the 1st of July 1989 at the Festspielball (festive ball) on the occasion of the opening of the Munich Festival in Munich’s Herkulessaal. Queen Silvia was the guest of honour. Wolfram Ruhenstroth-Bauer was deputy chairman of the Festspielball Association (photo: Foto-Richter Bernau/Chiemsee).

More Than a Civil Servant

Theodor Oberländer soon realised that he had brought in more than just an exceptionally clever and technically skilled mind. He had also hired a highly motivated employee whose results-oriented approach far exceeded the usual civil servant mentality and career considerations. Wolfram Ruhenstroth-Bauer was guided by a fundamental humanitarian conviction, which took into account the big picture, as well as individual life stories. Rooted in his deeply felt compassion the young civil servant developed an always respected, sometimes feared determination, assertiveness and persuasiveness. He had to withstand fierce resistance in order to lead even hopeless projects to fruition.

After his move from the Bavarian administration to Federal Government – Theodor Oberländer had meanwhile become Federal Minister – the time of his biggest personal commitment had come for Wolfram Ruhenstroth-Bauer. He organised an East German Farmers’ Day with several thousand participants and, with the help of Theodor Oberländer, was able to win over Chancellor Konrad Adenauer for a keynote speech in which he agreed to provide the required funding for the implementation of a five-year programme to secure the livelihoods of around 10,000 refugee families. The world press in the West voiced that this statement by the German Chancellor constituted a decisive step against the Soviet efforts to politically annex West Germany. Not a single person in Bonn or elsewhere suspected the reason for this government declaration Wolfram Ruhenstroth-Bauer had devised, and on which the ambitious goal of a shared humanity has consistently been implemented.

After the plans for integration had been completed, Wolfram Ruhenstroth-Bauer joined the Federal Ministry for Development Aid, from where he again brought to success an internationally acclaimed project in an agricultural cooperative located in southern Brazil with Danube Swabian refugees from Yugoslavia. The cooperative AGRARIA in Paraná, which is well known in professional circles, is today the second largest agricultural cooperative of Brazil. In this development project, as in numerous others, the first impulse and initial material relief came from Wolfram Ruhenstroth-Bauer, usually as a matter of course within the framework of the German government’s overall development policy planning.

A Lifetime of Commitment

Wolfram Ruhenstroth-Bauer has received prestigious awards for his unparalleled personal commitment to human and social development. He has been awarded the Federal Cross of Merit, the Bavarian State Medal and an Order of Knighthood of the Holy See. He was the first German to be made an honorary citizen of the Brazilian state of Paraná. According to the responsible German mission abroad, John F. Kennedy and Pope Paul John II  also received this title of distinction.

There is no doubt that Wolfram Ruhenstroth-Bauer is proud of the results of his work. He is aware of his achievements. Not surprisingly, Wolfram Ruhenstroth-Bauer still uses every opportunity to be there for his fellow humans. He had barely moved to a retirement home in the south-east of Munich in 2015 when he was already elected to the advisory board there, to which residents can turn with their concerns and problems. Not a day goes by without the 95-year-old former Ministerialdirigent doing laps in the in-house swimming pool or playing Bach, Beethoven and Schubert on the piano. His fingers move over the keys with remarkable ease and soulfulness. “You do have to do something for yourself,” he says with conviction.