Rob Schmitz

Rob Schmitz is NPR's international correspondent based in Berlin, where he covers the human stories of a vast region reckoning with its past while it tries to guide the world toward a brighter future. From his base in the heart of Europe, Schmitz has covered Germany's levelheaded management of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of right-wing nationalist politics in Poland and creeping Chinese government influence inside the Czech Republic.

Prior to covering Europe, Schmitz provided award-winning coverage of China for a decade, reporting on the country's economic rise and increasing global influence. His reporting on China's impact beyond its borders took him to countries such as Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Vietnam, Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand. Inside China, he's interviewed elderly revolutionaries, young rappers, and live-streaming celebrity farmers who make up the diverse tapestry of one of the most fascinating countries on the planet. He is the author of the critically acclaimed book Street of Eternal Happiness: Big City Dreams Along a Shanghai Road (Crown/Random House 2016), a profile of individuals who live, work, and dream along a single street that runs through the heart of China's largest city. The book won several awards and has been translated into half a dozen languages. In 2018, China's government banned the Chinese version of the book after its fifth printing. The following year it was selected as a finalist for the Ryszard Kapuściński Award, Poland's most prestigious literary prize.

Schmitz has won numerous awards for his reporting on China, including two national Edward R. Murrow Awards and an Education Writers Association Award. His work was also a finalist for the Investigative Reporters and Editors Award. His reporting in Japan — from the hardest-hit areas near the failing Fukushima nuclear power plant following the earthquake and tsunami — was included in the publication 100 Great Stories, celebrating the centennial of Columbia University's Journalism School. In 2012, Schmitz exposed the fabrications in Mike Daisey's account of Apple's supply chain on This American Life. His report was featured in the show's "Retraction" episode. In 2011, New York's Rubin Museum of Art screened a documentary Schmitz shot in Tibetan regions of China about one of the last living Tibetans who had memorized "Gesar of Ling," an epic poem that tells of Tibet's ancient past.

From 2010 to 2016, Schmitz was the China correspondent for American Public Media's Marketplace. He's also worked as a reporter for NPR Member stations KQED, KPCC and MPR. Prior to his radio career, Schmitz lived and worked in China — first as a teacher for the Peace Corps in the 1990s, and later as a freelance print and video journalist. He also lived in Spain for two years. He speaks Mandarin and Spanish. He has a bachelor's degree in Spanish literature from the University of Minnesota, Duluth, and a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

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BERLIN — Millions of Germans will head to the polls in a federal election on Sunday that will determine who will succeed Angela Merkel after 16 years as Germany's chancellor.

According to the latest polls, Germany's center-left Social Democratic Party is narrowly ahead of Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian partner, the Christian Social Union. They're closely followed by the Greens, the far-right Alternative for Germany and the libertarian Free Democratic Party, all holding onto double-digit poll numbers going into Sunday's election.

RUEGEN, Germany — It was a cold, misty morning in November of 1990 when the fishermen noticed a woman standing outside their hut. They'd been fishing in the Baltic Sea and were approaching shore, trying to make out who it was. Hans-Joachim Bull was worried the stranger might be an inspector sent by the government to enforce fishing quotas.

"We offloaded our fish and then we asked her what she wanted," he remembers. "She said she was running for parliament and wanted to learn how we fishermen were doing. So we naturally invited her into our hut to drink schnapps with us."

HAMBURG, Germany — The hammering typically begins at 8 o'clock sharp and continues through the day, its pulsing sound echoing along the gleaming renovated buildings and canals of this city's harbor district. It's the heartbeat of Hamburg.

For the past 10 years, this has been the soundtrack to the transformation of Germany's largest port from one of run-down warehouses to a thriving cultural center filled with loft apartments, hotels and pedestrian trails and capped with a massive philharmonic hall, a glass goliath whose roof is in the shape of undulating ocean waves.

Updated September 2, 2021 at 4:12 PM ET

RAMSTEIN, Germany — Hangar 5 at this giant U.S. air base can snugly fit some of the largest planes in the world. It was not meant to house people. But for the past two weeks as the United States conducts the largest airlift in its history, the base has hosted more than 25,000 Afghans waiting to be taken to America.

MALLERSDORF, Germany — The village church bells chime 11 in the morning and Hermann Zausinger has decided he needs more beer. He's a farmer, and by midday, he has worked up a thirst.

"My farm has vegetables, a fish pond, a herd of sheep," he says. "I grow everything for myself, except for beer."

He's just emerged from his village brewery and he plops four crates — 80 bottles — into the trunk of his car, smiles, and proclaims an oft-repeated phrase from these parts. "Beer is Bavarian bread."

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Germany and Belgium are beginning to recover from historic flooding that has devastated parts of those countries and left more than 180 people dead. German Chancellor Angela Merkel toured some of the affected areas today.

DUBROVNIK, Croatia — The first state-imposed quarantine happened here, in present-day Dubrovnik, Croatia, an ancient walled city atop the cliffs of the Adriatic Sea. The first people to ever be quarantined — more than 500 years ago — had a nice view but not-so-nice consequences if they decided they had had enough of it.

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