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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SPLIT, Croatia — There's a lot of hype surrounding Froggyland. The brochure for the museum, located outside the walls of Split's ancient palace built for the 4th century Roman Emperor Diocletian, declares: "Froggyland and first love will never be forgotten!"

BERLIN – Germany is formally recognizing that its killing of tens of thousands of people belonging to two ethnic groups more than a century ago in present-day Namibia was a genocide.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas announced the recognition on Friday, saying "in light of Germany's historical and moral responsibility, we will ask Namibia and the descendants of the victims for forgiveness."

He added that Germany will support Namibia and the victims' descendants with more than $1.3 billion for reconstruction and development.

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Consequences are coming for Belarus. The European Union has called on all EU-based airlines to avoid flying over the Eastern European country after the government there forced a commercial flight to land so they could arrest a journalist.

SPLIT AND DUBROVNIK, CROATIA — The Croatian immigration agent isn't impressed with my flimsy CDC-issued COVID-19 vaccination card. The paper, filled out in loopy strokes of blue cursive by a pharmacist at a Sam's Club in Houston more than a month earlier, looks easy to forge.

"Your second vaccination date hasn't even occurred yet," the immigration agent says, lifting an eyebrow and pointing to its date: 04-12-2021.

I explain that in the United States, we write the month first, then the day. "Oh!" she shouts with a giggle.

BERLIN — Since 1913, beer from the tap of the Metzer Eck pub has flowed through two World Wars, a flu pandemic and the Soviet occupation of East Berlin, which came and went over mere decades of the establishment's history.

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BERLIN — Hungary's Klubradio station broadcast its news program on Feb. 14 as it had for more than two decades. The next day it was pulled off the air.

Some 3.5 million people in the capital of Budapest, more than a third of the country's population, tuned in for the show, according to the station's head of news, Mihaly Hardy. Now devoted listeners stream it online only.

"We have lost 60 to 70% of our usual audience," Hardy says.

Seven years ago, Mathias Döpfner was at a ceremony celebrating Tesla founder Elon Musk. Döpfner, the head of German media company Axel Springer, was seated next to a CEO of one of Germany's biggest carmakers, and he turned to him and asked, "Isn't this guy dangerous for you?"

As he later recounted, the CEO shook his head. "These guys in Silicon Valley, they have no clue about engineering, about building really beautiful and great cars," the CEO told him. "So we don't have to worry."

Germany's Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, is constantly on the lookout for potential threats to Germany's democratic constitutional system, and it has wide-ranging powers when it finds them.

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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny announced he plans to return home to Russia on Sunday from Germany, where he has spent months recovering from being poisoned.

In an Instagram post Wednesday, he said he purchased a plane ticket to Russia that morning after feeling "almost healthy enough to come back home."

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the leaders of Germany's 16 states have agreed to extend the country's current lockdown through the end of January. Starting next Monday, people who live in coronavirus hot spots will be allowed no further than 15 kilometers (less than 10 miles) from their homes for nonessential purposes, and individuals may only meet with one other person outside their households.

Journalist Mariusz Kowalewski noticed something was amiss when his editors came to him with a new assignment: follow an outspoken critic of Poland's ruling party with a drone.

"The idea was to send this drone over to his house in order for him to notice it and to feel threatened, like he was being watched," Kowalewski recalls. "This was an intimidation method straight out of communism."

The order came from his editors at TVP, Poland's largest broadcaster, which oversees a vast network of public television and radio stations.

China's president and European leaders met Wednesday to mark their agreement on an investment deal between the European Union and China despite a request for talks on the issue by the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden.

After months of wrangling over the terms of a budget and coronavirus recovery package totaling more than $2 trillion, the European Union agreed Thursday night to end a standoff with two member states that threatened to delay the much-needed relief funds.

Four years ago, Simon Neumeyer enrolled in the Saxony State Police Academy in the eastern German city of Leipzig as a 19-year-old cadet.

"At the time, I naively thought the police were 100% committed to law and order," he remembers.

His naiveté began to wear off on the academy's target-shooting grounds while he and his fellow cadets, guns in hand, listened to a lecture from their commander.

"He told us we have to shoot well, because there are many refugees coming to Germany," Neumeyer recalls. "I thought to myself: 'Wow. This is very racist.'

On the day after the U.S. election, millions of votes in swing states were still being counted and there was no winner yet. But that didn't stop Janez Jansa, the prime minister of Slovenia, birthplace of first lady Melania Trump, from posting a congratulatory tweet, cheering on a second term for President Trump – and bashing the mainstream media for good measure.

Germany officially passed 1 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Friday as the country's daily totals remain high through the first month of what the government calls "lockdown light." Since the beginning of November, schools and most shops have remained open, but bars, gyms and other indoor leisure centers have closed, with restaurants only open for takeaway orders.

On Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced the country will have to live with these restrictions through at least Dec. 20.

Police in Berlin used water cannons Wednesday to disperse thousands of protesters who refused to wear masks and keep their distance from one another as required by pandemic regulations.

Protesters had gathered at the city's landmark Brandenburg Gate as German lawmakers debated a bill that will provide the legal underpinning for the government to issue social distancing rules, require masks in public and close stores and other venues to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The European Union's landmark stimulus plan to assist member states whose economies have been battered by the COVID-19 pandemic is now in crisis after Hungary and Poland blocked passage of the 2021-2027 EU budget.

The two Eastern European countries say they're vetoing the budget and coronavirus recovery plan over language in the measure that would dole out EU funds to member states on condition that they uphold the bloc's rule-of-law standards.

The 1.8 trillion euro ($2.1 trillion) EU budget must be approved by all 27 member states to be adopted.

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President Trump's announcement that he and the first lady have tested positive for the coronavirus sent global markets downward and drew compassion from world leaders. But as NPR's Rob Schmitz reports, not everyone was sympathetic.

Updated at 1:25 p.m. ET

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been discharged from a Berlin hospital after spending more than a month there following his poisoning in Siberia.

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At first glance, swimmers along Germany's Baltic coast thought the creature swimming toward them was a dog. A sailor had seen the animal, too, miles away from shore in the open sea, and thought it was a porpoise. But they were all mistaken. It was a wild boar.

Updated at 2 p.m. ET

Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny was poisoned with a variant of Novichok, a Soviet-era nerve agent, according to tests carried out by a German military laboratory. A German government spokesman said the evidence is "without a doubt."

Navalny "is the victim of a crime that intended to silence him," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said during a news conference Wednesday about the findings. The crime, she said, was an "attempted murder."

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