Sylke Tempel, 1963-2017

Journalist who led Stanford courses in Berlin remembered

October 26, 2017
Sylke Tempel

A leading German journalist who taught for more than two decades at Stanford University has died.

Sylke Tempel was born in Bayreuth, Germany, in May 1963 and studied political science and Jewish studies up to master’s level at LMU Munich (1988). She received a scholarship to conduct research in New York and gained a PhD in political science, Jewish studies and history from Bundeswehr University Munich.

In 1993, Dr Tempel began her career as a journalist working in Israel, where she covered major events such as the Oslo Accords and the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. She retained a deep interest in Jewish issues, publishing Israel: Reise durch ein altes neues Land (Israel: Journey Through an Old New Country, 2008) and a study of anti-Nazi activist Freya von Moltke (2011), as well as a number of novels for young adults.

Establishing herself as a leading expert on foreign policy, Dr Tempel frequently took part in German talk shows and panel discussions. She served as editor-in-chief of Internationale Politik and Berlin Policy Journal, both published by the German Council on Foreign Relations, a non-profit policy institute. From 1993, she taught German history, international relations and globalisation at Stanford’s Bing Overseas Studies Program in Berlin and on several occasions went to the main California campus as a visiting lecturer. At the time of her death, she was due to repeat her latest course, Leading from Behind? Germany in the international arena since 1945, and to travel to Los Angeles as part of the Thomas Mann Fellowship, a programme for German intellectuals designed to encourage transatlantic dialogue on international affairs.

Deeply engaged with her students, Dr Tempel also expressed her passion for education by going out to read to young people in the poorer areas of Berlin. She was equally committed to promoting professional development and leadership roles for women within the field of peace and international relations and took on the role of chair of the Women in International Security organisation.

Russell Berman, professor of comparative literature and German studies at Stanford, described Dr Tempel as “a charismatic teacher, a brilliant political analyst and a witty and warm person…Her death is a big loss to the Stanford community and to the international political discussion.”

Dr Tempel was killed by a falling tree on 5 October while trying to move debris from in front of her car during Storm Xavier, which savaged much of Central Europe. She is survived by her wife, Judith Hart.

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