|Federal Minister of Justice
27 October 1998 – 22 October 2002
|Preceded by||Edzard Schmidt-Jortzig|
|Succeeded by||Brigitte Zypries|
12 August 1943 |
Bratislava, Slovak Republic
|Political party||Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD)|
|Alma mater||University of Tübingen|
She was born in Bratislava, Slovak Republic, as the daughter of Hans Gmelin (d. 1991), who was mayor of Tübingen from 1954–1974. She studied history, economy, law and political science in Tübingen and Berlin. Since 1974, she has been admitted as a lawyer, first in Stuttgart, then in Berlin. Since 1992, she has lectured law at the Freie Universität Berlin, which made her an honorary professor in 1995.
She joined the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) in 1965 and became a member of the Bundestag in 1972. She held several party offices in the 1980s and 1990s, serving as deputy party chairman from 1988-1997. From 1994–98, she was chairwoman of the "Rechtspolitik" working group and legal adviser to the SPD parliamentary group. In 1993, the SPD nominated her to fill the vacancy of vice-president of the Federal Constitutional Court, but after conservative parliamentary groups blocked the nomination for nine months as being "too political" she abandoned this career step in favor of Jutta Limbach.
From 1998 to 2002, she served as Justice Minister in Gerhard Schröder's first cabinet, where she oversaw a number of controversial reform projects such as the reform of German citizenship legislation, the introduction of same-sex civil unions, and the overhaul of the German Civil Code, the most invasive since its inception in 1900.
On September 18, 2002, four days before Schröder's re-election, she attended a meeting at a restaurant in Derendingen (near Tübingen) with about 30 trade unionists from two local factories (the topic was "Globalization and Labor"). Däubler-Gmelin, who has long been known for her outspokenness, later said she had been unaware that a reporter from local newspaper Schwäbisches Tagblatt was present, insisting that she regarded the event as an internal meeting. After discussion had turned to the Iraq crisis, she remarked that U.S. president Bush was preparing a war to detract from domestic problems such as the economic crisis at the time, and that this was a popular political strategy which had already been used by Adolf Hitler. When some participants showed disagreement, she added immediately that this was not meant to liken Bush to Hitler as a person, but rather to compare their methods, and that British prime minister Margaret Thatcher had also used the 1982 Falklands War to improve election prospects. She also described the U.S. legal system as "lousy".
This was the version published by Schwäbisches Tagblatt (a paper widely regarded as liberal to leftist and respected for its journalistic quality), which later stated that Däubler-Gmelin herself had confirmed the wording of the report, as well as several present at the meeting. Another account of the meeting states that the Hitler comparison originated from a participant and that Däubler-Gmelin had merely agreed that Hitler had used such tactics, too.
Immediately after the article had been published, Däubler-Gmelin strongly denied it, claiming to have been misquoted. She also announced that she would sue the Schwäbische Tagblatt, but later chose not to do so. She encountered heavy criticism for expressing anti-americanism by many both in Germany and abroad, including members of the U.S. government such as Ari Fleischer and Condoleezza Rice. On September 20, Däubler-Gmelin called U.S. Ambassador Dan Coats to state that the reports had no basis and Schröder wrote an apology letter to Bush, stating "there is no place at my cabinet table for anyone who makes a connection between the American president and such a criminal." He did not force her to resign immediately, claiming to trust her denial of the quotation, but she was dropped from his new cabinet when it was formed a few weeks after his narrow re-election. Some[who?] political analysts estimated that the affair had done considerable damage to Schröder's election results.
From 2002 to 2005 she was chairman of the Bundestag's Committee on Consumer Protection and Agriculture, and since 2005 she chairs the Committee for Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid. In October 2011, she was made a member of the European Commission High Level Expert Group on Media Freedom,
Däubler-Gmelin is a member of several charitable and non-profit organizations. Her husband is Wolfgang Däubler, one of the most prominent experts on German labor law. They were married in 1969 and have two children.
- Däubler-Gmelin: Bush will ablenken. Schwäbisches Tagblatt, 19 September 2002. Onlince copy at the Internet Archive
- "Bush Gets Apology For Hitler Remark". CBS News.
- So kam es wirklich zu dem Bush-Hitler Vergleich. Rote Fahne no.39/2002, 26 September 2002. Online copy at the Internet Archive
- "Schroeder apologises for Hitler row". BBC News. 21 September 2002.
- "European Commission - Press release Digital Agenda: high-level group to discuss freedom and pluralism of the media across the EU". 2011-10-11. Retrieved 2011-10-16.
- (German) Personal website