Ferdinand von Schirach (born 1964 in Munich) is a German lawyer and writer. He published his first short stories at the age of forty-five. Shortly thereafter he became one of Germany's most successful authors. His books, which have been translated into more than 35 languages, have sold millions of copies worldwide and have made him "an internationally celebrated star of German literature."
Life and work
A member of the noble Sorbian (West Slavic) Schirach family, he is the son of Munich businessman Robert von Schirach (1938–1980) and his wife Elke (née Fähndrich, 1942) and a grandson of the Nazi youth leader Baldur von Schirach. His American great-grandmother is a descendant of two signatories of the American Declaration of Independence, and descends from the Founding Fathers of the United States, the Mayflower pilgrims.
He grew up in Munich and Trossingen and was educated at the Jesuit college Kolleg St. Blasien, about which he wrote in connection with sexual harassment in the Catholic Church in Der Spiegel. After studies in Bonn and his Referendariat in Cologne and in Berlin he became an attorney in 1994, specialised in criminal law. Von Schirach is considered a prominent attorney and represented, among others, the BND spy Norbert Juretzko, and, in the so-called "Politbüro trial", Günter Schabowski. He attracted attention in connection with the "Liechtenstein Tax Affair", in which charges were brought against the German Federal Intelligence Service Bundesnachrichtendienst and when he complained to the Berlin data protection agency on behalf of the family of the late actor Klaus Kinski, when it allowed the publication of Kinski's medical file. Schirach is active exclusively in the domain of criminal law.
In August 2009, Schirach published the book Verbrechen ("Crime") with the publisher Piper Verlag. The book remained on Der Spiegel's bestseller list for 54 weeks. The collection of stories is based on cases from his chambers. Rights to the book were sold in more than 30 countries.
In August 2010, his second book, Schuld ("Guilt") appeared, again with Piper Verlag, and again it contains short stories drawing on von Schirach's everyday experience as an attorney.
In September 2011, Piper Verlag published Schirach's third book, Der Fall Collini ("The Collini Case"), which reached no. 2 on the bestseller list of Der Spiegel. The book tells of the murder of the industrialist Hans Meyer, who had been a Nazi officer in Italy. It deals, controversially, with the sometimes excessively mild ways in which the post-World War II justice system in Germany dealt with former Nazis.
He has since published another collection of three short stories Carl Tohrbergs Weihnachten ("Carl Tohrberg's Christmas"), a second Novel Tabu ("The Girl Who Wasn´t There"), a collection of the essays he wrote for Der Spiegel titled Die Würde ist antastbar ("The dignity is violable", alluding to the first sentence of the German Constitution) and the theater play Terror. The play stages the court trial of an army pilot accused of mass murder after having shot down a hijacked civil plane which was intended to crash into a soccer stadium. The audience gets to act as a jury and votes on the verdict on which the sentence at the end of the play is then based.