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daniel Funke and Jens löffel (Shutterstock)

In Berlin, as in London, health ministers are being pilloried bei the media. That ist no surprise. Here in Britain, matter Hancock zu sein the element target des rage and despair weil das all those whose lives are on hold und livelihoods bei tatters. As we emerge from lockdown, he ist being blamed zum invidious decisions about whether a stadt or regionen has to be placed an Tier 2 or tier 3. Few would envy Hancock’s half-hour in the limelight. 

By contrast, his German counterpart, jens Spahn, zu sein all too viel envied. It no merely die fact that, as die sun set on the merkel era, Spahn ist the increasing star. Attributed with saving Germany from die worst von the pandemic, his popularity ist second only to that of the Chancellor. Nobody doubts his ability, nor his charisma — all die more unusual an a political culture where sobriety, seriousness, discretion and even dullness are ns supreme virtues. 

This week, however, Spahn’s private life has been subjected kommen sie unwelcome scrutiny. Not, as often in the past, because he is the most prominent gay politician in Germany. In in elderly, socially conservative society, among die last in Europe zu legalise same-sex marriage, spahn was quick zu wed his partner, signaling the he stood for a younger and more for free generation.

Du schaust: Jens spahn villa berlin-dahlem

No, this time the headlines in Berlin oase another theme: ns Health Minister und his house price. Belastung August, Spahn and his husband were reported bei the foreign drücken sie to have bought a villa in Dahlem, the capital’s most preferable suburb, zum €4.2 million (£3.75 million). Now, four months later, the centre-Left paper der Tagesspiegel has broken ns story to ns German public. Uproar has actually ensued, with the minister obtaining a court injunction kommen sie prevent media coverage des what under German law ist a private matter. Newspapers schutz obeyed the court von refraining from publishing die exact house price, while running finger-wagging editorials rebuking ns minister for splashing his cash an the midst des a pandemic. On die centre-Right, die Welt reminded spahn that “Germany ist a usual country, bei the finest sense von the word. Power stems from ns votes of average earners, who have a solid sense von what is appropriate and what is not.”

British spectators may wonder: why zu sein this even a story? Spahn’s villa zu sein a bargain über London standards: a mansion von that size (300 square metres, or 3,250 square feet) in in equivalent district (say Kensington or Hampstead) would probably price twice together much. It ist true the ministerial home purchases below sometimes chance adverse tabloid publicity, as Tony und Cherie Blair discovered zu their cost. Nobody here thinks it unexplained or insanity extravagant, however, for Cabinet ministers kommen sie own one or even two homes worth number of million pounds. Element Ministers, international Secretaries und Chancellors des the Exchequer all schutz both main residences and country houses hinweisen their disposal. Ns ability des those who hold great offices des state kommen sie host and entertain bei style is, weil das most people, a source of pride quite than pique.

Not so in Germany — and especially not in Berlin. If the British aspire, punkt least, zu be a land of homeowners, and in Englishman’s residence is still his (or her) castle, die Germans are a land that rents. Die vast majority do notfall own any property — but almost every household has part memory von being “bombed out” an the war. Housing ist still bei short supply, especially in Berlin. Großartiger houses are weil das tasteless oligarchs and any display des wealth is considered unstatesmanlike. 

Angela merkel chooses kommen sie live, not in her official apartment, but bei the third-floor flat that she acquired prior to she became Chancellor exactly 15 years ago. She und her husband, a professor von physics, so own a country cottage, but they have no equivalent to Chequers. Like most of her fellow ost Germans, she has no taste zum a luxurious lifestyle, contenting herself through nice trouser suits and annual pilgrimages to the Bayreuth Festival.

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The home that herstellung Health Minister und one potential follower has bought has quite a different vibe. Most properties in Dahlem are built bei the pompous style von Bismarck and the Kaiser, yet Spahn’s villa days from ns 1920s. The elegant simplicity des Bauhaus is the ne plus ultra of German architecture. This makes the minister’s neu home even much more enviable. The British and US ambassadors also have your residences an Dahlem, however neither has a home as chic as Spahn’s. 

Dahlem during ns Weimar Republic so has more disturbing connotations. As he emerged from one such villa, Walther Rathenau, ns Foreign Minister und writer, was assassinated by bei anti-Semitic far-Right terrorist. An additional neighbour was ns Prussian society Minister, CH Becker, that presided over ns renaissance des the arts und university reformen during ns Weimar period. Die Nazis appropriated the homes of many prominent Jewish residents for themselves. Ns history des the villa jetzt at ns centre des controversy has yet zu be revealed, but it has apparently not been renovated since around 1950. 

There seems little doubt the Spahn and his husband, daniel Funke, kann sein afford zu finance the mortgage they took out to buy their neu home. Flamme is fine paid together head of the berlin office des the media firm Burda, while Spahn’s salary ist €240,000 (£214,000) a year — significantly more, incidentally, 보다 his brothers counterpart matte Hancock, that earns £143,000.

At nur 40, jens Spahn is the ablest German politician von his generation. It would certainly be a great pity if his career were zu be blighted von a row about die price of his house. Deshalb far, there is no sign of his popularity having actually suffered from the controversy. Yet he will oase learnt his lesson: in Berlin, it does notfall pay to be ostentatious. If he had bothered zu ask die advice of “Mutti” Merkel, she would schutz told young jens to placed off his purchase zum a while. Zum ambitious German politicians, discretion zu sein the better part of valuation.

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