The Family Tradition

To serve society – the commitment of the Mohn family

The conviction that ownership comes with responsibility became the foundation of Reinhard Mohn’s social commitment. This family tradition is carried forward by by those who succeed him: by his wife, Liz, and his children, Brigitte und Christoph

Reinhard Mohn
Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Citizen

The belief that business leaders must also assume social responsibility was a key conviction that greatly influenced the life of Reinhard Mohn. He assumed responsibility for Bertelsmann, the family company, which he rebuilt after the war and which is now one of the globe’s leading international media groups. His leadership values were based on the principles of decentralization and delegation of responsibility, as well as on participation and individual creativity. Mohn believed that wealth entails responsibility and acted accordingly. Together with his wife Liz, he saw to it that “contributing to society” was always one of the company’s objectives. In the early 1990s, he transferred the majority of his stock and voting rights in what was then Bertelsmann AG to the Bertelsmann Stiftung, which he had founded in 1977, thereby helping ensure continuity at the company. Mohn established the Bertelsmann Stiftung as an expression of his civic engagement and because he believed that shaping life in a democracy is not only the responsibility of the state, but also of each citizen.

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Social innovations

Mohn’s activities as a philanthropist were influenced by his experiences in the business world in general and at Bertelsmann in particular. He always viewed society, the state and the political sphere through an entrepreneur’s eyes. In view of what he experienced in the business community, he believed that competition could become a driving force for increasing creativity and motivation in the public sector and in other areas of society as well. For Mohn, competition, transparency and the ability to draw comparisons were the prerequisites for developing social innovations. Unimpeded by economic and political constraints, the Bertelsmann Stiftung was designed as an “operational organization” that could use its own projects to analyze social problems and develop sustainable solutions.

Ideas for reform

For more than 40 years, the Bertelsmann Stiftung has been addressing the tasks it was given by its founder: shaping social change to benefit people, further developing the social market economy and supporting democracy. Since it was founded, the Bertelsmann Stiftung has launched more than 1,000 projects in order to move society forward. As a result, ordinary citizens now have more opportunities for getting involved in public life. In many areas of society there is also greater transparency and more participation in decision-making processes. Reinhard Mohn recognized the importance of civil society for ensuring that communities are able to function and that society remains cohesive. He believed that the state cannot be responsible for everything, and that the business community and public must therefore do their share. He worked to promote civic engagement as a result – for example by establishing Germany’s first community foundation in 1996 in his hometown of Gütersloh.

“Even today, the world’s political and social systems revolve around the fundamental issues of humanity and justice.”
Reinhard Mohn, Philanthropist

Other foundations followed

In 1989, he established the Fundació Biblioteca d’Alcudia “Can TORRÓ,” a foundation whose objective was to create a public library in Alcudia on the island of Majorca. In 1995, he founded the Fundación Bertelsmann in Barcelona, which initially worked to support libraries and promote reading among young people in Spain. It then focused on civic engagement. Today, it partners with businesses, trade associations and policy makers to combat youth unemployment.

In 2006, he founded the Reinhard Mohn Stiftung, which began its project work in 2009 and is now led by his son, Christoph. The Reinhard Mohn Stiftung focuses on education. More specifically, it improves educational opportunities for children and young people regardless of their social or cultural background.


Reinhard Mohn received numerous awards in Germany and other countries for his efforts on behalf of the nonprofit sector. For example, his hometown of Gütersloh made him an honorary citizen in 1981. In 1996, together with his wife Liz, he was awarded the Europäischer Stifterpreis der Fördergemeinschaft der Europäischen Wirtschaft. In 1998, he received the Knight Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. For his efforts on behalf of Spanish society, he received the Prince of Asturias Award bestowed by the Spanish royal family, and, in 1999, the Spanish Grand Cross of the Order of Civil Merit.

In numerous essays and books he discussed his entrepreneurial principles and examined issues relating to social responsibility and other topics of importance to society. He died on October 3, 2009, in Gütersloh. The Reinhard Mohn Prize has been given since 2011 in remembrance of the goals he considered important and his efforts to achieve them.

“I did what came naturally to me.”
Reinhard Mohn, Philanthropist


Learning from the World:
Why Reinhard Mohn Founded the Bertelsmann Stiftung
Reinhard Mohn Gesamtausgabe
Nach dem Tod von Reinhard Mohn sind nun zum ersten Mal seine Bücher, Vorträge und Schriften in einer Gesamtausgabe zusammengefasst worden.

Liz Mohn
A Dedicated Life

Liz Mohn has consciously chosen to lead a dedicated life – in order to strengthen values and social cohesion, promote corporate social responsibility and civic engagement, and foster trustworthy leadership in the political and business spheres. “I always wanted to do something meaningful, to give to others,” she explains. She believes values such as respect, fairness, a sense of responsibility and goodwill serve as the basis for every functioning community, be it a family, a business or society at large. “I want to encourage people to begin listening to each other once again and to get involved to help those in need.” Overcoming self-centeredness, dogma and vanity and setting aside one’s own interests in order to assist the needy are, for her, fundamental requirements for creating a sense of community and a vibrant civil society in which each individual can assume responsibility for the common good to the best of their ability.

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Corporate culture and values

Corporate cultures based on trust lead to economic success. That, however, presupposes a willingness to identify with the organization’s goals and with one’s own responsibilities. Delegating responsibility and “getting many minds thinking” are the basic principles that Reinhard Mohn always applied when fulfilling his leadership duties. They are the same principles that Liz Mohn continues to apply today. To that end, trust and self-initiative remain fundamental framework conditions. Liz Mohn is committed to ensuring that as many people as possible continue to participate as times change and that they feel they belong, including in business organizations, despite the dislocations resulting from globalization and digitization. She wants to promote a forward-looking leadership culture, increase corporate social responsibility, improve work-life balance and move more women into positions of leadership. As a business woman and mother of three, she knows how difficult it can be to have a successful career while taking care of a family.

“Fears and prejudices are best overcome when people speak with each other.”
Liz Mohn, vice-chairwoman of the Bertelsmann Stiftung Executive Board

Active on behalf of the Bertelsmann Stiftung

Following the death of her husband Reinhard Mohn, Liz Mohn represents the fifth generation of the Bertelsmann/Mohn founding family. As a member of the Bertelsmann Stiftung Executive Board, she oversees a number of the foundation’s programs, including Germany and Asia, Leadership and Corporate Culture, Living Values, Discovering Music, and Business in Society. Under her leadership, the Bertelsmann Stiftung has initiated numerous projects that have allowed her to address several key issues, such as developing modern leadership methods, helping the business community assume social responsibility, building values through education, promoting social cohesion, increasing understanding among peoples, cultures and religions, and fostering an engagement with music. In 1987, she founded the internationally renowned NEUE STIMMEN International Singing Competition, in 1993 the German Stroke Foundation and, in 2005, the Liz Mohn Foundation for Culture and Music.

Since 2005, moreover, she has been president of the Fundacíon Bertelsmann, the foundation established by the Bertelsmann Stiftung in Barcelona.

“First you get to know and appreciate each other. That results in respect and trust, which can then turn into friendship.”
Liz Mohn, vice-chairwoman of the Bertelsmann Stiftung Executive Board

Building bridges

Connecting people, building bridges across languages and borders, and creating trust among peoples, cultures and religions – that is how Liz Mohn fulfills what she views as her duty to increase international understanding and promote peace. To that end, she has launched the International Cultural Dialogues, a platform for exchange – for example, among participants in the Balkans, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Japan, Vietnam, China and India. The dialogues are designed to create networks among different cultures and promote intercultural understanding.


Liz Mohn has been recognized with a number of prestigious honors for her efforts in the area of international understanding. In 1996, for example, she received Germany’s Cross of Merit, First Class, and, together with her husband Reinhard Mohn, the Europäischer Stifterpreis der Fördergemeinschaft der Europäischen Wirtschaft. When presenting her with the 2008 Vernon A. Walters Award, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan praised her engagement on behalf of transatlantic relations and German-Israeli ties. “The world needs more interreligious and intercultural encounters,” he said.

She received the ECHO Klassik Award in 2002 and 2012. Also in 2012, she was named an officer of the French Legion of Honor. In addition, she has been the recipient of several major awards given by the Spanish government. And because she has always worked to improve the prospects of people living in her native region, she was made an honorary citizen of her hometown, Gütersloh, in 2017.


NEUE STIMMEN – Creating Careers
NEUE STIMMEN is a international renowned singing competition with worldwide preselection rounds and an recognized master class program for opera singing.
Kultur- und Musikstiftung
Stiftung Deutsche Schlaganfall-Hilfe
 “Schlüsselmomente” – Erfahrungen eines engagierten Lebens
Liz Mohn veröffentlicht ihr zweites Buch
Press Release
Liz Mohn, erklärt anlässlich des Religionsmonitors 2013, was Religion für sie persönlich bedeutet und wie wichtig Verständigung und Respekt zwischen den Religionen für das Zusammenleben sind.

Dr. Brigitte Mohn

Dr. Brigitte Mohn has been a member of the Bertelsmann Stiftung Executive Board since 2005, having previously been active in the foundation’s health-care projects. She directs the programs Communities for Better Living, Improving Health Care – Informing Patients, and Civil Society. In 2002, she became chairwoman of the German Stroke Foundation’s Executive Board and has been chairwoman of its Board of Trustees since 2005.

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Through numerous projects designed to reform Germany’s health-care system, Dr. Mohn has worked to increase transparency and ensure that health-care services reflect actual needs. In 2008, together with the umbrella associations of Germany’s major patients’ and consumers’ organizations, she initiated Weisse Liste, an independent online guide to the country’s health-care system.

“Civic engagement must become something that everyone experiences. It must change German society by making getting involved and volunteering a normal part of everyday life.”
Dr. Brigitte Mohn, member of the Bertelsmann Stiftung Executive Board

Civil society

One issue she considers particularly important is getting people more involved in civil society. She is committed to helping establish a new culture of participation and recognition and to ensuring that children and young people are introduced at an early age to social engagement and democratic processes.

For Dr. Mohn, communities are the common ground where the public, businesses, government and civil society meet. Many of the projects she leads therefore address the challenges resulting from demographic change, growing social divisions, and social integration. The web-based Community Roadmap, for example, supports communities in making policy decisions by giving them access to socio-demographic data, strategic action plans and examples of best practice.


Wegweiser im Gesundheitswesen
Wegweiser Kommune
Informiert über demographische Entwicklungen in Kommunen
Stiftung Deutsche Schlaganfall-Hilfe

Christoph Mohn

Christoph Mohn is chairman of the Executive Board of the Reinhard Mohn Stiftung, which began its project work in 2009. The foundation is committed to ensuring that the educational achievement of children and young people does not depend on their social or cultural background – something that is all too often the case in Germany.

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The foundation’s projects focus on communities in Eastern Westphalia–Lippe, the native region of Reinhard Mohn and his family.

“Through the foundation’s activities, we want to move society forward. Educational achievement among children and young people plays a key role in realizing that goal.”
Christoph Mohn

The projects carried out by the Reinhard Mohn Stiftung are based on best practices found in Germany and beyond, especially those introduced by educational authorities in Toronto and Zurich. These two cities have been particularly successful in reducing the varying levels of achievement among children and young people of different backgrounds.

Conceptually, the foundation’s activities address those aspects of the educational system that play a critical role in determining achievement, such as individualized learning, transitions from one institution to the next, parental participation and cooperation among multi-professional teams at child-care centers and schools.

In terms of content, the projects thus focus on a range of issues, including the acquisition of early numeracy skills, partnerships between parents and educators at primary schools, self-organized learning processes, and cooperative structures at all-day schools.

All projects are developed or adapted with partners on site before being implemented. They reflect participants’ needs as a result.


Reinhard Mohn Stiftung
Photography: Wolfgang Wesener, Jan Voth, Hartmut Blume Unternehmensarchiv Bertelsmann AG
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