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"You're Dead, We've Checked the Records"

DW staff (win)
May 17, 2005

A German woman who recently stopped receiving her pension must have felt very much like the (late) US novelist Mark Twain, who famously said: "Rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated."

Martha Kruse's far from looking for a "resting place"Image: dpa

Worried about what had happened to her pension checks, Martha Kruse called up her pension fund. She hadn't received any money in April and May and was starting to have difficulties paying her bills.

But the 82-year-old woman from a small town near Hanover in northern Germany wasn't prepared for the explanation she got.

"Don't get upset, but you died on Jan. 28," an employee at the Bundesknappschaft fund told her, adding that she should send back any checks she had received since then.

You're quite wrong, Kruse told the fund official. I'm still very much alive.

Bureaucracy's beauty

She hadn't taken into consideration the mysterious ways of Germany's bureaucracy.

Tote kriegen keine Rente
Martha Kruse's still very much aliveImage: dpa

Just hearing Kruse's voice on the phone wasn't good enough. Instead, the fund official asked for a so-called "life certificate," obtainable from her municipal office at 4.80 euros ($6).

The certificate stated that Kruse was alive and well and fully able to present her identity papers.

How about some flowers?

Thomas Lieth, the head of the Bundesknappschaft fund, said Kruse had been confused with another client who had died, but defended the decision to ask for proof she was alive.

"When someone just telephones us, it is not enough," Lieth said, adding that the fund had apologized.

Kruse said she would have expected a little more.

"When someone makes a mistake like that, they could at least offer a bouquet of flowers," she said.

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