“Visitation” is the name of Bernd Ingmar Gutberlet’s book. Not without reason: “We perceive the current pandemic as a visit,” says the historian. “Maybe not in a religious sense. But certainly in the sense of being beaten.” He traces the history of pandemics down the centuries from the Middle Ages. Chronological: “Historians like to work chronologically,” as he says . Philipp Kohlhöfer takes a different approach. He puts people at the center of consideration. He calls it “pop science.” His book “Pandemics. How Viruses Change the World “is more like a science thriller.” I wanted to tell it like a movie, “says the author, who wrote a report on coronaviruses in 2003.

Two books, two approaches

“Science in the making” should represent his book, scientifically correct, but garish and colorful. “Kind of like a Roland Emmerich movie,” he laughs. “Or better: like a Guy Ritchie movie with a little Theodor Fontane.”

Epidemics are always personal, explains author Philipp Kohlhöfer. © Deutschlandradio / S. Fischer

He wanted to write a book about people. You have to see what areas you want to cover. Who is the specialist out there, either one of the questions, that is worth telling? So he came across a bat finder who impressed him. “Bats are fantastic and sociable animals,” he says. Bats pollinate more flowers than birds. And they are not inherently dangerous either: there is actually no reason for the virus to jump.

Parallel to previous pandemics

In Bernd Ingmar Gutberlet’s book “The visit rarely occurs Covid-19. Nor is it necessary, the author finds.” There are so many parallels, each one draws the story from their personal experience of Corona was different. “Nevertheless, the parallels lie on the hand.

In the past, trade routes, wars and ignorance played a role in the spread. And the richest in particular would have managed everything so as not to be caught in the strict measures. In times of cholera, European public opinion would have believed for a long time that the epidemic could not affect civilized Europe.

Pandemics and epidemics also offer an opportunity for change, says author Bernd Ingmar Gutberlet. © Deutschlandradio / Europa Verlag

Even the protest has a story

There are recurring patterns in pandemics, explains Philipp Kohlhöfer. Denial, rejection and conspiracy ideas have been around “for centuries, nothing has changed at all.” Tens of thousands of people demonstrated against the smallpox vaccination at the time. He sometimes finds it “totally frustrating”.

The reaction can be explained. You have to deal with being overwhelmed by viruses and bacteria. After all, it is “not the army that is at the door. Who dies and who lives is partly a coincidence.”

Religion is an important factor in pandemics, according to Bernd Ingmar Gutberlet. AIDS has been described by a very conservative party as the result of moral misconduct. Gays had to fight back, Gutberlet says, but it sparked a lot for the gay group.

Learn the lessons of history

And what can science do? For Philipp Kohlhöfer, scientific truth is above all opposed to nonsense and nonsense. “I missed it a bit in the debate,” he says. Especially when you consider how much the virologists at Charity face hatred.

However, he doesn’t want to convince anyone that he didn’t write the book with a target group in mind. “Ultimately my target group is my mom,” he says. “She reads very little, I wanted to write it in a way she likes to read.”

Bernd Ingmar Gutberlet is upset that so many people are complaining and complaining “Before, it was a lot worse,” he says. “We benefit the millions and millions of disease victims over the centuries.” We must give the present experience a historical depth. And finally, we can see that we are building on the experiences of the last century. “You can trust the measurements,” he said. Cow’s lymph has been used for vaccination against smallpox, “anything can happen”.

“We are forced into epidemics”

The next outbreak will happen again, says Phlipp Kohlhöfer. “We are imposing the epidemic on ourselves,” he said. If we cut down the rainforest, the virus is still there. If we turn it into pasture, the virus will infect the cow and the virus will eventually spread to us.

It is only a matter of time before the next pandemic. “And science is the only key to solving this problem.”

Philipp Kohlhöfer: “Pandemics. How Viruses Are Changing the World.”
S. Fischer, Frankfurt 2021. 544 pages, 25 euros.

Bernd Ingmar Gutberlet: “The visit. Epidemics and pandemics: from horror to progress.
Europa Verlag, Munich 2021. 368 pages, 24 euros.