back to article German 'minister for cut'n'paste' resigns over PhD plagiarism

The German defence minister has been forced to resign after being dubbed "minister for cut-and-paste" and "Baron zu Googleberg" for plagiarism while completing his PhD thesis. Freiherr* Doktor Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, a 39-year-old Bavarian aristocrat, resigned his ministerial post following a firestorm of press and public …


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  1. Ralph B

    Karl Theodor Maria Nikolaus Johann Jacob Philipp Franz Joseph Sylvester Freiherr v.u.zu Guttenberg

    Seems his parents were fond of copy & pasting too.

    1. DrXym Silver badge

      Or fond of Monty Python

      Johann Gambolputty de von Ausfern schplenden schlitter crasscrenbon fried digger dingle dangle dongle dungle burstein von knacker thrasher apple banger horowitz ticolensic grander knotty spelltinkle grandlich grumblemeyer spelterwasser kurstlich himbleeisen bahnwagen gutenabend bitte ein nürnburger bratwustle gerspurten mitz weimache luber hundsfut gumberaber shönedanker kalbsfleisch mittler aucher von Hautkopft of Ulm

    2. Anton Ivanov
      Thumb Up

      Goes further back than you think

      "A descendant of the renowned 19th-century Prussian strongman Otto von Bismarck, the man we have to thank for the existence of Germany as a single unified nation"

      AFAIK some of Bismark speeches and writings contain vertbatim copies (translated from Russian or French into German) of stuff from one of his greatest opponents. Or vice versa. You never know. Too much time has passed under the bridge from the days when the Austrian Empire was ruling the roost and two young diplomats - Otto von Bismark and Alexander Mihailovich Gorhcakov were "doing time" as ambassadors to the "German confederation". So it is not quite clear who pinched what from whom but pinch they did. If not one than the other.

  2. Bill Fresher

    Waste of space

    I sincerely hope his PhD examiners will be taken to task over this.

    They should have spotted substantial plagiarism in his thesis.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Halo

    Not before time, too

    zu Guttenberg's popularity here is unbelievable and until this scandal blew he'd made a good job of being a "fair and balanced" politician even "a man of the people" championed by Bild, the German version of The Sun. He's like a German version of Steve Jobs who seems able to do no wrong. But he made a real hash of this, considering it beneath him. There were the initial denies and then a small group of journalists were invited to hear the initial apology. But his appearance before parliament last week was one of breathtaking arrogance and condescension where he admitted to writing a "load of rubbish" in his thesis. Unfortunately, having been awarded the doctorate with "summa cum laude" this meant he was also pissing from on high on the University of Bayreuth and within days to a *written* letter of protest by 20,000 PhD students. Understandably academia is in foment over this. The rest of the population doesn't seem to care but with a heap of state elections to fight this year and just on the end of a pummelling in Hamburg, the CDU couldn't stand to have the affair roll on. Particularly with the possible court cases (one for flouting the rules of the university and another for abuse of copyright) plus a possible disciplinary action in the parliament as it's rumoured parliamentary resources were used in preparing the thesis. ie. he didn't even do all the copy and paste himself it's likely he was asked to jump.

    However, it's happened all before with previous CSU superman Franz-Josef Strauss being sent into the wilderness after being done for bribery (actually that needs checking, before my time) but remaining prime minister of Bavaria and later unsuccessful chancellor candidate and finally having Munich airport named in his honour. I'd love to be able to vote for Bavarian independence to get rid of the pheasant pluckers but that's on the ballot here.

    1. DrXym Silver badge

      So what was the extent of his plagiarism

      Was it just a few unattributed sources, or a misquoted section, or a whole ripoff of other works? The first few are probably forgivable mistakes in a massive thesis, the latter not so much.

      1. Anonymous Cowardess

        Re: extent of his plagiarism

        The problem is, we don't really know. The university was pressured last week to take away his PhD without making any further fuss, to get the story out of the media (that thankfully didn't work). I am not sure whether they will still conduct a thorough investigation now. I hope the court cases go through and will shed some light on the extent of the copy&paste. Esp. whether he really used in full a paper written by a tax-paid goverment research department (which he commissioned in his role as MP).

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Paris Hilton


        Current estimates are around 20% plagiarism. The amount of this or actual work done by donkey's of the German parliament is still unknown.

        There is a further under-reported irony about his brief tenure at the economics ministry where he, then still very much a doctor of law, he commissioned Linklaters, the British office, to draught a new insolvency law. The thing was the ministry has no legal competence in the area of insolvency.

        As has been noted elsewhere - he could have accepted a guest professorship at a university somewhere and had the right to call himself professor. I'm not sure if that's what Professor von der Leyen did to get her title or quite how she managed he qualifications whilst rearing seven brats. But I don't want to cast aspersions on intelligence, career or ability as a parent. She was, however, the author of the "think of the children" internet censorship law which is on the statute books but only because government has promised not to enforce it. As any fule no: neither the government nor the parliament is involved in law enforcement. Her current law is also of doubtful constitutional validity.

        Just goes to show that politicians are inept pretty much wherever you are. Might as well just vote for Paris! ;-)

        1. Liam Johnson

          closer to 50%

          From this page...

          And that is giving him the benifit of the doubt, since most of the pages which don't show any copying are the TOC and index pages!

          Pretty impressive if the above link is accurate.

  4. Monkey Bob

    Missed a trick there guys

    Freitard von und zu Guttenberg shurely?

    Caffeine not kicked in yet?

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      @Monkey Bob


      Freitard von und Baron zu Googleberg

  5. Joefish

    Press outs Guttenberg?

    Come on, not even a Bismarck / sinking one gag? I pity El Reg today.

  6. jnievele
    Thumb Down


    What do you mean, "we have to thank for the existence of Germany as a single unified nation"?

    Large parts of what is now called Germany has been merely annected by Prussia, and every attempt to get our freedom back has been fought with military power, as late as the 1920s...

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Big Brother

      By you know whom

      "In the late afternoon of September 1, 1870, King William I, surrounded by a pompous staff of princes and generals, was looking down from a hill south of the Meuse at the battle in progress, when an officer brought the news that the capitula­tion of Napoleon III and his whole army was imminent. Then Moltke turned to Count Falkenberg, who like himself was a mem­ber of the Parliament of Northern Germany, and remarked: "Well, dear colleague, what happened today settles our military problem for a long time." And Bismarck shook hands with the highest of the German princes, the heir to the throne of Württemberg, and said: "This day safeguards and strengthens the German princes and the principles of conservatism."[i]In the hour of overwhelming victory these were the first reactions of Prussia's two foremost states­men. They triumphed because they had defeated liberalism. They did not care a whit for the catchwords of the official propaganda: conquest of the hereditary foe, safeguarding the nation's frontiers, historical mission of the house of Hohenzollern and of Prussia, unification of Germany, Germany foremost in the world. The princes had overthrown their own people; this alone seemed im­portant to them."

  7. Reaps

    can't stop myself

    Does this mean he goes down on the bismark?

  8. Anonymous Coward

    No admittance of guilt reported in German news

    The register reports "He had admitted copying large parts of his thesis." The German news only reports that admits that he may occasionally have forgotten to cite a source here and there.

    His lack of admittance is the real scandal here!

    The internet neatly points out the extent of his plagiarism. Even it you cannot read German, just seeing which portions are marked in red as copies is enough:

    1. Bill Fresher


      Thanks for the link.

      He barely seems to have written anything himself... although I'm starting to wonder whether he hired someone to write the thesis. This someone then taking the easy route to getting the job done.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        That was my thought as well

        Though it may not be "him hiring". It may be the taxpayer doing the "hiring" in his case.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "The death and wounding of soldiers has moved into the background," he said.

    The real problem is, I made an ass of myself, he thought. Let's blame something else, quick, look the other way!

    "The humiliated, workshy freetard aristo will presumably now retire to his family castle in Bavaria."

    Yeah right, more like a promotion, like it's always the case when top bureaucrats eff up.

  10. Emilio Desalvo


    Basil Fawlty was right...

  11. Just Thinking

    How many more?

    A bit foolish to plagiarise in the internet age. Even in 2007 there must have been tools to spot this sort of thing.

    What about older theses, from way before the web? Are any enterprising journos scanning those in and checking for matches in Google?

    This could be better than the expenses scandal.

    1. Mike Shepherd
      Thumb Down

      Friends, Romans, Countrymen!

      They'll never find me out.

      If it were so, it was a grievous fault.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'd just like to point out that...

    Guttenberg had previously said that he copied chunks of his thesis due to the pressure of other commitments he had at the time, including being an MP and raising his children alongside his wife, TV presenter Countess Stephanie von Bismarck***.

    Prior to becoming defence minister, Guttenberg had served as an MP since 2002. Before that he managed his family's investments, studied law at university and did his compulsory military service, becoming a sergeant in an alpine unit. One of his moves as minister was to abolish such conscription, moving the German services toward becoming an all-volunteer force.

    The offending doctorate was granted in 2007 for studies of constitutional law in the USA and EU.

    1. Noons

      And I would like to point out that... #

      Before becoming defence minister, Guttenberg had served as an MP since 2002. Before that he managed his family's investments, maybe studied law at university and did his compulsory military service, becoming an email sergeant in an alpine unit. One of his moves as minister was to abolish such conscription, moving the German services' Department of Email toward becoming an all-volunteer open source force.

      Baron zu Guttenberg had previously said that he copied chunks of his thesis due to the pressure of other commitments he had at the time, including being an MP, raising his children alongside his wife, TV presenter Countess Stephanie von Bismarck, and going for a drink with his friends at the weekend.

      The offending doctorate was granted in 2007 for absence of studies of constitutional law in the USA and EU. Guttenberg is still recovering from the shock of finding out that the subordinates he'd pressured into writing his thesis for him had actually stitched him by producing such a rubbish cut and paste job. They, in stark contrast, are now laughing their heads off at him and the committee that approved the thesis with best grade "suma cum laude". LOL!

  13. Timothy Slade

    Guttenbergs project was not free...

    Maybe he thought it was out of copyright....

  14. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    I thieve you intellectually!

    Annette Schavan says...

    "intellectual theft is not a small thing. The protection of intellectual property is a higher good."

    What the hell does that even _mean_?

    Has she been zombified by lawyer leeches? Something lost in translation? Confused paytardery?

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

      Anybody in science knows

      that correct attribution of ideas is essential. Creating new ideas is what us scientists are about. You cannot touch them, but you can certainly steal them. (Almost) NOTHING makes scientists madder than others walking away or taking the credit for other peoples' ideas.

      Budget cuts also make them mad of course.

  15. Winkypop Silver badge


    His full name is almost as long as a Thesis itself....

  16. Zero Sum
    Thumb Down

    More honest than plagiarist Putin

    Funny. Vladimir Putin apparently plagiarised big chunks of his dissertation and almost no-one made any noise at all.

    He certainly wasn't stripped of his doctorate.

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

      but with Putin

      if you make a noise, some thing BAD will happen to you

  17. TeeCee Gold badge

    "...he was resigning because he had become the story....."

    Guttenberg is having trouble with the press?

    Same shit, different year......

  18. moonface

    Good move!

    The last thing any country wants is a defence minister that know how to cut and paste.

    One dodgy dossier is quite enough for the world!

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