Dr. Fritz Harzendorf was born in the southern German town of Konstanz on the 27 of July 1889. He was the youngest child, and only son, of a local musician.
In 1987, when celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Stiftung Michael, his daughter Agathe Bühler wrote in the jubilee tribute:
Who was this man really? The person who studied without financial help from his family and finished his studies with PhDs in philosophy and political science? This person whose sole aim was to become a journalist and who, supported by Count Zeppelin, finally succeeded? This person who as early as in 1946 managed to analyse the political development leading to Nazi-regime?
Who was this man who – as was reported by the newspapers of that time - 1934 - "had always fulfilled his duties and fought from the beginning to the end of the First World War – ultimately as a German officer and in charge of young soldiers?"
(Quote from: Göppinger Zeitung No. 10 of January 13, 1934)
My father was 50 years of age when I was born. He was almost 70 years old when I started to fully understand what a great person he had been. Talking about him, means I have to quote from his published work and refer to my mother's memories.
As a journalist and publisher, my father fought the Nazi ideology even before they came in power - because of his personal principles and strong belief that the freedom of speech is the mainstay of democracy. Without being personally prosecuted or endangered, he spoke out definitely as a believer in democracy and had his part when in 1933 the number of voters for the Nazi party in the area of his newspaper was very low. He did more than that and continued to fight for his beliefs even when it became dangerous.
The ""Göppinger Zeitung", a local newspaper, wrote on the 16 January 1934, nearly a year after the Nazis seized power in Germany:
"Finally, one would have forgiven each and every remorseful sinner. One would have forgiven Dr. Harzendorf's outrageous impertinence had he chosen to fall silent. But that a journalist, who in the past disqualified Hitler as a deserter and described last year's elections as fake, continues to publically drag the Nazi-movement through the mud and express his lowest views and deepest dislike of the new era - that such a person should be allowed to publicize and thus educate the German 'volk', is impudent beyond belief."
Dr. Harzendorf was dismissed as a journalist and had to work as salesman first for soap, then later for insurances. He and his family led a life close to the underground. A political sentence in a German concentration camp due to his continuing criticism was imminent, but luckily enough, this never happened.
After the war, Dr. Harzendorf became editor-in-chief of a local newspaper in his hometown. In 1946, the American military government in Southern Germany granted Dr. Harzendorf permission to publish a regional newspaper, and he became co-publisher of the "Neue Württembergische Zeitung".
His liberal and democratic political views (which had been the source of many personal difficulties in the Third Reich) were now the appropriate ideology for rebuilding a new and democratic Germany. His role as editor-in-chief and publisher of a newspaper were the personal means Dr. Harzendorf had for contributing to this development.
Shortly after birth, it became evident that Dr. Harzendorf's son Michael was suffering from epilepsy. Still hoping to pass on the work of a lifetime to his son, he consulted the then best doctors in Germany, at the time, only to learn how little could be done to fight epilepsy back then and how much needed to be done in the future.
This experience and the fate of his son led him to sell his share of the "Neue Württembergische Zeitung" and to make this money the basis of a private foundation to stimulate research in epilepsy in Germany.
He discussed his plan for a private donation and foundation with his son's doctor, Professor Dr. Dieter Janz, and his legal advisor, Professor of law Dr. Konrad Duden. The foundation was announced legal and charitable by the regional authorities on September 5, 1962.
When giving an inaugural reception for the foundation's trustees in 1962, Fritz Harzendorf welcomed his guests at his home near the Lake of Constance knowing that he had done the right thing – that his life-long efforts would live on towards an important cause. Nobody knew that Dr. Harzendorf already knew about his illness of which he died 2 years later.