OBITUARY: Werner Rulf

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The Independent Online
Werner Rulf was for more than 20 years the distinguished London Correspondent of Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF), the independent channel of German Television. He proved an outstanding interpreter of Britain to the German audience. Raising his reporting above the cliche level to which, through ignorance or lack of time, so much of the work of foreign correspondents succumbs, became a mission for him.

When he obtained British naturalisation in 1961, he was proud to be allowed to remain a German citizen. His two passports were something of a symbol. England was his and his family's devoted home, but he was German first, a rare being nowadays, when national loyalties are looked down upon; he was true to his country's best democratic tradition, and at the same time loved the country of his adoption. The often controversial, indeed unproductive, area of Anglo-German relations found no better professional practititioner.

The quality of his reporting on the British political, social and cultural scene was helped by his previous interest. Rulf read English, German and Romanic philology at the university of Gottingen and came to England in 1949 as an assistant lecturer in German at Birmingham University. Next year he joined the German Service of the BBC, then a prestige job for a young German abroad, since the BBC still had many listeners in Germany inherited from forbidden wartime listening. Rulf became a newscaster, later editor and author of his own broadcasts, which also led to joint programmes with the new German Broadcasting Association (ARD), much indebted to British midwifery.

Early in 1963 Rulf was invited to set up the London studio of Germany's Second Channel Television (ZDF) and became staff correspondent and head of its London office until 1983. He stayed on as a permanent collaborator until 1989, producing his own documentary features - on relations between British public and police, on the role of the ancient universities, on the environmental rebirth of the Port of London - which found much acclaim in Germany.

A Berliner by birth - his father was a civil servant in the Berlin-Wilmersdorf local government - Rulf completed his grammar-school education at the well-known Grunewald Gymnasium by 1941. He was then conscripted to the Luftwaffe, trained as a wireless operator, and seconded to an interpreter school. He counted himself fortunate that the war ended for him as a British prisoner of war by September 1945. His Evangelical family background was important for him in withstanding the allurement of Nazism for a German of his generation, and to find an easy bridge to Britain's liberal tradition. He was at heart a German conservative (with a small c), rare in his metier.

After his retirement he continued to report on British affairs for the German weeklies Christ und Welt and Rheinische Merkur, and was devoted to his hobby, a large collection of videos of old British and German films and television programmes overflowing into many rooms of his Chiswick home. He was the author of two lively travel guides for German readers, England, der Suden (1990) and London (1991).

He had married in 1951 Helga Muller, from an old Westphalian family of mineworkers, and their two daughters continue professionally in their father's bilingual commitment.

Roland Hill

Werner Rulf, journalist: born Berlin 30 May 1920; Assistant Lecturer in German, Birmingham University 1949-50; staff, BBC German Service 1950- 62; London staff correspondent, ZDF 1963-89; died London 22 October 1995.