Terry Swartzberg

Terry Swartzberg giving an unforgettable talk for TED

What the world has to say about Terry Swartzberg


“Terry Swartzberg has found himself a very difficult and very rewarding profession –  “ethical campaigner”. His campaigns strive to save the climate, to ensure that the Holocaust and its many victims are not forgotten, to foster understanding among religions, to stop the suffering in Africa, and to free the unjustly imprisoned.


All of his campaigns share a trait –  enthusiasm. Terry himself is a never-ending fount of enthusiasm. His enthusiasm is shared by the many groups and people joining Terry in making his campaigns work – and by the world’s media, which report so avidly and often on them.


To arouse this enthusiasm, Terry, who was born in 1953 in the USA, and who has been residing in Germany since 1980, makes use of a bit of very valuable knowledge: that each and every one of us carries, cherishes an enthralling vision in her or his heart-of-hearts. The vision is of doing the one amazing thing that will surprise, delight ourselves and the world, that will change the way we see ourselves – and the world sees us.


Many of these visions are of us doing an incredible kind of  “tikkun olam” – of “healing the world” in Hebrew.


Terry uses two tools to move people to help him ‘tikkun olam’. The first is to dig deep down into the heart of the matter, to strip away tired, old-fashioned ways of looking at it, and to find the fresh and fascinating stories then forming the core of each campaign. Second, he and his supporters stage events showcasing these stories, events so unexpected, ingenious and daring that the world simply has to take notice – and take action.”


Notable videos

Terry’s inspiring TEDxTUM talk: Terry Swartzberg’s mission is getting people to take the first step.

Watch it and read out it, link and releases below


The first step

Towards the unanticipated and unanticipatible


Terry Swartzberg has a taken a number of first steps. They have led to his having one of the most unforeseeable, thrilling and rewarding lives around.


Among his first steps:

In the 70s, bumbling towards Asia and a  – completely unforeseen – profession of being a truth-seeking, getting-into-all-sorts-of-trouble journalist.

In the 80s, stumbling into Berlin and a career of unearthing some of the Cold War’s darkest and most disturbing secrets.

In the 2000s, meandering into being the unwitting discoverer of compelling and unexpected truths about being Jewish in post-Holocaust Germany.


Today, at the age of 64, Terry is still very much taking first steps. In spring of this year, he set out to realize one of his greatest dreams – of mountain biking Nepal’s Annapurna circuit. Its summit is a pass at 5,416 meters (18,000 feet). It took him hundreds of liters of sweat and a million bumps and jumps, but he made it – and made it with nary a scratch or bruise.


Other recent first steps taken by Terry: towards becoming an advocate for the unjustly imprisoned in Germany and for indigenous people in Africa whose lives have been wrecked by unscrupulous oil companies.


As this shows, Terry has found a way of overcoming the obstacles hindering us from taking the first steps towards the realization of the delightful and astounding visions that we have running our heads.


Actually, he has found two ways. Both will be presented in Terry’s TED talk, and both are guaranteed to get you out of your front doors and into new lives for yourself – and for the world.


Because – and that is a further secret disclosed in Terry’s TED talk – it turns out that the two are intrinsically interrelated.


What’s on the other side of your front door


… are the visions whose very prospects thrill and delight you – prospects of doing things that you never thought possible of yourself, things that will wonderfully redefine you and relationship to the world.


All that is required to realize the visions is to take the first step. Through the door and out into the outside world.


But that – as our experience shows us – is excruciatingly difficult.

Stopping us from taking the first step are the stereotypes and scenarios running around our heads.


Stereotypes about who we actually are – and who we can never be.

There a lot of them. They are all negative, and they share two beginnings.

“I’m only a woman/an ordinary person/…”

“I’m too old/discouraged/poor/set in my ways…”


The scenarios are even more prevalent and negative. They cover what will probably happen once you take the first step. The certain pain and discomfort. The possible danger. The improbability of realization.


The stereotypes are completely wrong. Don’t you ever listen to them. Don’t you ever let yourself demean, limit yourself.


But the fact is that the scenarios are right – as far as they go. Taking the first, second, third and five hundredth and fifty-fifth steps does mean getting past moments demanding all of your grit and all of your guts.


What the scenarios don’t tell you, can’t tell you. The first, second, third and five hundred and five hundredth and fifty-fifth steps will bring you rewards that you had never anticipated, never could anticipate.


Take that knowledge and use it to get yourself out the front door.


To get yourself moving even faster, do something else. Go deep into yourself and discover why you have this vision. Discover the purpose upon which this dream is based.

Let me tell a secret: this purpose will be either about changing yourself or changing the world.

Here’s another secret. It turns out that the two are intrinsically interrelated.

Title: Terry’s inspiring TEDxTUM talk


Terry Swartzberg: inspiring the young at BeInspired


Held on October 13, 2017 at the Bavarian International School, BeInspired teamed up innovators and activists with young persons about to embark on higher education and careers.

One of the innovators speaking at BeInspired was Terry Swartzberg. His topic: “What I know about each and everyone of you –  what realizing your long-cherished dreams will do to you”



“Terry Swartzberg (born July 22, 1953 in Norwalk, Connecticut) is an American PA (public affairs) campaigner and journalist. He is based in Munich, Germany and contributed for 25 years to the International Herald Tribune[1][2][3][4] and other international publications. He is especially known for his work for the holocaust memorial project Stolpersteine and for his “reality check” – since 2012 he has been wearing a kippah in public.


Swartzberg grew up in New York City prior to moving with his family to Bihar, India, where his father, a cultural anthropologist, researched village life on a long-term basis. While in India, he attended a Jesuit boarding school. After studying at Brandeis University and in Paris for a semester in 1973, he transferred to the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he earned a B.A. in 1976 in Asian Urban Studies. In 1976, he became an investigative journalist in Hong Kong. In 1980, he arrived in Berlin, where he launched his long-term relationship with the International Herald Tribune. In 1985, he moved to Munich, where he has lived since.[5]

Since 1999, Swartzberg has been managing director of Swartzberg GmbH. This PA agency stages campaigns and provides content for a range of corporations and public sector institutions[6](including the United Nations and the European Union). The agency’s clients include the Municipality of Munich[7] and the Government of the State of Bavaria.[8]

Swartzberg’s pro bono portfolio of activities comprise his work for Munich’s Reformed Jewish congregation Beth Shalom. He headed the project striving to build a synagogue according to plans compiled by Daniel Libeskind.[9] He now handles public relations for the project. He was voted in 2011 chairperson of Munich’s chapter of the Stolpersteine movement. Since then, he has led the campaign to lift Munich’s ban on these sidewalk-level plaques, which commemorate victims of the Nazis. Munich is one of the very few cities in Europe to prohibit this form of commemoration.[10][11]

Swartzberg’s play Tzaddhik is based upon the Torah‘s principle of each generation’s having 36 righteous. It examines humanity’s self-inciting urge to commit violence. The play’s tour in 2012 included performances in Augsburg, Stuttgart, Nuremberg, Munich and Hamburg.[12] In the same year, Swartzberg and Jim Booras published the satirical self-help manual How to enjoy bad relationships.

On December 1, 2012, Swartzberg embarked upon his experiment of wearing a kippah outside of his home and of the Jewish community. His objectives are to counter antisemitism and to ascertain how Germany’s society really feels about Jews. Disproving predictions to the contrary, all of his experiences have been positive. His “civil courage” led to one of his kippot’s being selected for inclusion in the collection of the Museum of the History of the Federal Republic of Germany in Bonn.[13][14][15]