In memory of Pierre Simonitsch (1937 – 2018)
By Jan Dirk Herbermann
The Geneva press corps has lost an outstanding correspondent, who covered the UN for more than half a century. ACANU has lost a highly committed member, he served six times as president.
Some of us lost a great friend. I knew him for more than 20 years and I always enjoyed his company and I loved the stories about his adventurous life.
Let me mention some oft he highlights of Pierre's amazing life and career. He was born in Vienna in 1937. Two years later WWII broke out. Pierre's father was killed in action. Pierre, his mother and his little sister got evacuated from Vienna and ended up as refugees in Bavaria, Germany. After the war, Pierre and his family had to march back to Vienna, their beloved hometown. It was the Vienna many of us know from the movie THE THIRD MAN.
After some years in the graphic design business, Pierre turned to journalism. In 1964 he became UN correspondent of Frankfurter Rundschau and Tages-Anzeiger (Zurich) here at the Palais. One of his first big articles was an interview with Che Guevara, whom he met several times in the press bar and at other locations. According to Pierre, the famous revolutionary Che Guevara was rather fussy, he kept on changing his answers and he even kept on changing Pierres questions.
Pierre covered many wars, he was embedded with the Vietnamese forces in Cambodia, with the Soviet forces in Afghanistan and with the Turkish army during the Invasion of Cyprus. When he arrived by plane in Jamaica for a conference, civil war broke out and he was detained.
He covered all big disarmament treaties, the last one was the atomic weapon ban treaty. Pierre spent four years in Moscow where he reported on the collapse of the Soviet Union and the putsch against Gorbatschow. „The tanks were rumbling through the streets“, Pierre remembered.
Although very weak already Pierre was active as a journalist until this summer, his very last article was on the Human Rights Council. One of his trademarks was his great Viennese sense of humour, very dry. He was opinionated but not pompous.
He said: „When I became a journalist, it was the golden age of newspapers. The newspapers did have money. And we, the journalists, knew how to spend it.“
Geneva, November 2018