Navigation
Malteser Stiftung

Portrait of Norbert Bergmann

Globetrotter, businessman and benefactor

Norbert Bergmann has been travelling the continents for 50 years

As his hands clasp the 30 passports lying on the table in front of him, Norbert Bergmann is also holding a large part of his life story. The 77 year old freelance trade representative, who sells products of large international textile companies, is a globetrotter. And has been for nearly 50 years. As a young man he went off into the world straight after completing his business studies course.  

1966: The son of a district deputy is curious about life outside of his home in the Lower Rhine and is "anti-military". Norbert Bergmann wants to postpone his national service in the army and says he is planning a several month study trip to India - which he only returns from six and a half years later.

Norbert and a travelling companion hitch-hike across Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan to India and come into contact with a lot of interesting people. Such as the Maharaja of Kerala, in the South of India, who takes the two young men from Germany out hunting on the backs of elephants. On this first big journey the 26-year old discovers the diversity of life, learned freedom, happiness, adventure and gets to know other cultures. He wants to go further, not back.  The long journey around the world had just begun, not ended, as was originally planned.

Bergmann and his friend from Duisburg hitch-hike further East to Australia, where their paths split. When his money runs out, Norbert Bergmann finds a job. In Australia Norbert, who by his own admission has "two left hands", spends six months toiling on the construction of a dam to earn some money. Then his journey takes him to Africa and the Middle East. At a kibbutz in Israel, one of the few which accepted Germans, he got to know Elisabeth from Switzerland. They travel together to Germany, back to the Lower Rhein, and get married. Norbert Bergmann doesn't hear anything else from the army.

Even when the family grows to include three sons, the desire to travel still remains. He learnt to liaise between different cultures, to make money through commission on textiles which are produced in one part of the worth and sold in another. "I can plan and organise things" says Bergmann. He spends weeks in expensive hotels, jumps from meeting to meeting, negotiates and sells. The profitable business gives him the opportunity to travel by himself, which led him to find simple accommodation and to meet poor people.

Bergmann's wife and three suns often have to cope without a husband and father on his longer trips, even when important decisions have to be made. "Thankfully, my wife has kept me from constantly being on the road", Norbert Bergmann now says in reflection. The Lower Rhine remains his base, even though after 15 visits to Nepal over the years, it feels like a second home to him.

Travelling is often not easy, in fact there are dangers involved. In Ethiopia he was very fortunate to escape unscathed as a small group of rebels shot at his truck. The local driver was killed and the person in the passenger seat was injured. In Sudan he travels along the Nile in 4th  class in miserable conditions. He makes it to Luxor, the city of the Kings in Egypt, and then it is all over for him: he is knocked down by jaundice, is fully exhausted and has to take a long break. But fear never overcomes him. He keeps his sense of ease, and his sense of humour. He is always able to solve problems somehow and gets back on track to his next goal.

"I have always earned well and like to give it away", explains the man with the beard he has had since his youth. Whether it is to beggars on the side of the road, sponsoring children, giving to a children's hospital or refugee aid: He likes to give to those in need. His personal capital comes from his encounters with people and customs. His home in Kalkar is full of objects and photos which are proof of this. He has met Mother Theresa in Calcutta, the Dalai Lama in Nepal and other people who fascinate him. His conclusion is: "Even though there are a lot of poor people in Asia and Africa, they are often happier than people in the West who are lacking this sometimes."

Before his last business trip, which took him to Kuwait, Dubai and Shanghai for six weeks in autumn, Norbert Bergmann once again made generous donations. He recommended to the Maltese aid service, where he also set up his own foundation to promote development cooperation and catastrophe aid, to double the donations for Syrian refugees. For each donation the Maltese make for this goal, up to 100,000, he will donate the same amount on top.

Norbert Bergmann will stop working at the end of the year. His energy levels are slowly dropping and are no longer up to the exertions of all the meetings. But this is not stopping him planning the next trips with the help of his family. Once a globetrotter, always a globetrotter.

Even when the family grows to include three sons, the desire to travel still remains. He learnt to liaise between different cultures, to make money through commission on textiles which are produced in one part of the worth and sold in another. "I can plan and organise things" says Bergmann. He spends weeks in expensive hotels, jumps from meeting to meeting, negotiates and sells. The profitable business gives him the opportunity to travel by himself, which led him to find simple accommodation and to meet poor people.

Bergmann's wife and three suns often have to cope without a husband and father on his longer trips, even when important decisions have to be made. "Thankfully, my wife has kept me from constantly being on the road", Norbert Bergmann now says in reflection. The Lower Rhine remains his base, even though after 15 visits to Nepal over the years, it feels like a second home to him.

Travelling is often not easy, in fact there are dangers involved. In Ethiopia he was very fortunate to escape unscathed as a small group of rebels shot at his truck. The local driver was killed and the person in the passenger seat was injured. In Sudan he travels along the Nile in 4th  class in miserable conditions. He makes it to Luxor, the city of the Kings in Egypt, and then it is all over for him: he is knocked down by jaundice, is fully exhausted and has to take a long break. But fear never overcomes him. He keeps his sense of ease, and his sense of humour. He is always able to solve problems somehow and gets back on track to his next goal.

"I have always earned well and like to give it away", explains the man with the beard he has had since his youth. Whether it is to beggars on the side of the road, sponsoring children, giving to a children's hospital or refugee aid: He likes to give to those in need. His personal capital comes from his encounters with people and customs. His home in Kalkar is full of objects and photos which are proof of this. He has met Mother Theresa in Calcutta, the Dalai Lama in Nepal and other people who fascinate him. His conclusion is: "Even though there are a lot of poor people in Asia and Africa, they are often happier than people in the West who are lacking this sometimes."

Before his last business trip, which took him to Kuwait, Dubai and Shanghai for six weeks in autumn, Norbert Bergmann once again made generous donations. He recommended to the Maltese aid service, where he also set up his own foundation to promote development cooperation and catastrophe aid, to double the donations for Syrian refugees. For each donation the Maltese make for this goal, up to 100,000, he will donate the same amount on top.

Norbert Bergmann will stop working at the end of the year. His energy levels are slowly dropping and are no longer up to the exertions of all the meetings. But this is not stopping him planning the next trips with the help of his family. Once a globetrotter, always a globetrotter.

Weitere Informationen

Spendenkonto: Malteser Stiftung  |  Bank für Sozialwirtschaft  |  IBAN: DE71700205000008869107  |  BIC / S.W.I.F.T: BFSWDE33MUE