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Niklaus Meienberg Swiss journalism icon took his own life 25 years ago

Swiss journalist and intellectual Niklaus Meienberg, who was particularly well respected in German-speaking Switzerland, ended his own life 25 years ago.  

After studying history at the University of Fribourg and Zurich, Niklaus Meienberg became a journalist. He went first to Paris, where he covered the start of May 1968 events and the rise of the French politician François Mitterrand.

His Paris years helped to seal his reputation. Meienberg’s articles, which were popular with the public, appeared in leading newspapers such as Weltwoche, Tages-Anzeiger and Ostschweiz.

Returning to Switzerland, he became a real icon of journalism thanks to his reporting. But he was deliberately controversial, also making enemies by attacking the establishment. This is the case, for example, with his damning portrait of the reigning prince of Liechtenstein or of Ulrich Wille, the general who led the Swiss army during the First World War.

His polemic writing meant that he was no longer published by the Tages-Anzeiger. And so he continued his career as a freelance journalist, regularly selling articles to different publications, including the weeklies WochenZeitung” and Weltwoche.

Meienberg was renowned not only for the content of his articles, but also for the beauty of his writing. But the star of journalism also had a dark side, being accused of narcissism and investigation methods that were sometimes rather brutal.

Highly sensitive, Meienberg coped badly with the 1990s and the upheaval in values that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall. Suffering from financial and health problems, he committed suicide in September 1993 at the age of 53.