Anna Huber worked for medico international for over 30 years before duly retiring upon reaching her 65th birthday in 2013. She spent most of her professional life as Head of Administration and, as part of the Management team, helped to shape the organisation in a special way. For the diminutive woman with the southern German accent was not simply a professional when it came to administrative matters and project finances. In her inimitable way, she embodied unconditional solidarity with the excluded, empathy with employees’ concerns (after all, she was also something of an HR manager), and she possessed surprising courage, which could show itself in her deft and quick-witted negotiations with donors.
When Anna left medico, we put together a special issue of her beloved medico newsletter for her. A private edition exclusively for and about her. We did this to honour her, but we also did it in order to find the words to describe her work, and so it became a form of remembering, of preserving experience and furthering development. Everyone who begins working at medico is still given a copy of this booklet to this day because it contains a pertinent description of political administration. For example, a former colleague once wrote that Anna had the ability to see the reality behind numbers: ‘In them she saw mobile clinics and psychosocial care for patients and physiotherapy for the victims of war.’ She was a manager who ‘knew when to ask for details and when not to,’ according to Tsafrir Cohen, Head of medico’s office in Ramallah.
In the wake of Anna’s unexpected death, that booklet reads like a long obituary. But we wrote it for her during her lifetime. To let her know what she meant to us. This is some consolation in the face of our deep sorrow at losing her.
It also contains a text by Thomas Gebauer with whom she worked for so long and so closely. She would often proudly announce that she had started at medico one month before he did. In this text, Thomas uses the idea of instrumental reason, as described by Max Horkheimer, to criticise a form of administration that is ubiquitous in commercialised social action today. But there are people like Anna who, opposed to the close intertwining of aid and power, ‘look for another way’. Humane administration of the variety that Anna personified can only succeed when built upon a critical understanding of society and a talent for introspection.
Our Anna – as she was
Anna repeatedly struggled with illness during the last years of her life. Instead of her well-deserved retirement after years of 60-hour weeks, visits to the doctor and to the hospital increasingly became routine. But for Anna, the glass was always half full. In conversation, Anna always seemed to be doing well. ‘The sun is shining on my bed. That’s nice,’ she said shortly before her death. Curiously, a lot of people called her on Thursday, 30 March. Colleagues, friends and relatives. And so we can all still hear her lively, somewhat strained voice announcing to us, with her innate optimism, that she would soon be better. If those wonderful Biermann lines applied to anyone, then it was to Anna: ‘You, don’t let these hard times get you down’. Anna Huber died on 30 March in Frankfurt am Main.