100-year-old German grandmother enters politics - GulfToday

100-year-old German grandmother enters politics

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Lisel Heise, 100 years old and member of the town council of the German southwestern city of Kirchheimbolanden. AFP

German great-grandmother Lisel Heise's ambition to enter politics crystalised a few years before her 100th birthday, when organisers of a public hearing cut off her microphone.

Heise, who retired from teaching school 40 years ago, was arguing for the reopening of an outdoor pool.

"When I started out, some people really didn't want to listen to me apparently they even pulled the plug!" she said, still stunned by the impudence.

"The kids really give me hope. There is a tendency in politics to favour the car industry and that's counterproductive.
It's great that the youth aren't just waiting for the grownups to do something."

"Now people from around the world are coming to talk to me. Who's laughing now?"

What changed was Heise's election, against the odds, to the town council of Kirchheimbolanden in southwestern Germany just weeks after she embarked on her second century on the planet.

It was no accident that the pool galvanised Heise, given two issues close to her heart: young people and public health.

Those concerns have also dovetailed in another pet cause: climate protection.

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Lisel Heise poses in front of her house. AFP

The remarkably spry Heise says she has taken inspiration from the Fridays for Future youth protest movement.

"The kids really give me hope. There is a tendency in politics to favour the car industry and that's counterproductive," she said.

"It's great that the youth aren't just waiting for the grownups to do something."

Bundles of energy

Heise, who takes daily walks through the quaint old town of Kirchheimbolanden, population 8,000, is part of a groundswell of seniors unwilling to sit out their dotage on the sidelines of public life.

"A politician needs to have a vision and think logically but also humanistically.

The Omas Gegen Rechts (Grannies Against the Right) action group fighting extremism launched in Austria in 2017 and has since expanded to Germany. It regularly rallies elderly women, drawing on the lessons of history to stand up to racism.

Heise's political career began in earnest earlier this year when a town council member, Thomas Bock, 59, saw her as a potential ally.

"She's got a strong character and bundles of energy," he said.

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Lisel Heise, answers journalists' questions at her home. AFP

Bock said the fact that most middle-aged Kirchheimbolanden natives had had Heise as a teacher when they were young was also a distinct advantage.

"Everyone respects her," Bock said.

Heise lives a short walk from the site of the former synagogue, where a mature tree and a memorial now stand, in the sprawling house she once shared with her parents.

Widowed four years ago after more than seven decades of marriage, she now lives there with one of her four children and an adult grandson. She has eight great-grandchildren.

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Lisel Heise, 100 years old, poses in the southwestern German city of Kirchheimbolanden. AFP

Heise regularly entertains visitors in her sitting room, which is filled with books including a prominently displayed volume of photos of Barack Obama.

"A politician needs to have a vision and think logically but also humanistically," she said.

US President Donald Trump, whose ancestors came from the nearby village of Kallstadt, is "turning the world upside down", she said.

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Lisel Heise, one hundered years of age and member of the town council poses at her home. AFP

"I'm ashamed his grandfather is from here."

Heise stays physically and mentally fit working in her flower garden and watching political talk shows.

Cafe owner Sepandar Lashkari, 44, said Heise had been one of his first customers when he opened for business a few years ago and they've been close friends ever since.

"A lot of people have become more politically active because of her," he said. "She inspires young and old in a really positive way."

Agence France-Presse