Prof. Dr. Leoluca Orlando
Lawyer, politician, Mayor of Palermo
DAAD Scholarship 1969–1970
When Leoluca Orlando first took office as Mayor of Palermo in 1985, around 250 people were being murdered in the Sicilian capital every year, all at the hands of the Mafia. In 2001, the year in which he gave up the post to become leader of the opposition in the regional parliament, eight people died a violent death. “That is eight too many, but none of them were killed by the Mafia,” says Orlando. In 2012, Orlando was elected for a fourth term of office as Mayor of Palermo.
The only way to beat corruption and terror is to have the courage to stand by your principles.
Born in Palermo in 1947, Orlando is regarded as an intrepid warrior in the fight against the terror of the “Cosa Nostra”. He topped their death lists for many years. In his book “Fighting the Mafia and Renewing Sicilian Culture”, published in 2001, the writer openly and self-critically describes how he broke through the wall of the “omertà”, the icy silence. His credo is: “The only way to beat corruption and terror is to have the courage to stand by your principles.”
He became aware of the Mafia issue above all while studying in Heidelberg. In 1968, his fellow students would greet him with the words: “Hey, there comes our Mafioso!” The DAAD scholarship holder read law in the city on the River Neckar and later became a professor of law and solicitor in Palermo. He won the mayoral elections in his home city four times: in 1985, 1993, 1997 and 2012. During these years, he repeatedly fought successfully against corruption and terror, provided the initiative for a cultural renewal, the “Palermitan Renaissance”.
Orlando has received a number of national and international awards for his commitment to this cause, with which he risks his life. They include the Goethe Medal, awarded in Weimar in 1999, the Humanism Prize of the Deutscher Altphilologenverband (German Association of Classical Philologists) in 2008, and in 2013 the Honorary Award of the German Sustainability Award foundation, in cooperation with the Federal Government, for his civil courage in the fight against the Mafia.
Orlando knows that he might have won a battle, but has far from won the war. Nowadays, the Mafia are involved in international finance: “Killers have become bankers”. He urgently warns against corruption, for “where there is corruption, there is bound to be the Mafia”. His unshakeable belief in the good and his strong trust in people having the courage to stand by their principles is also at the heart of his latest book The Sicilian Cart, 50 stories from an eventful life.