Jens Schmalzing (jensen) & Debian accidental death

Personally, I resigned from some of my voluntary Debian activities at a time when I lost two family members. Some of the other volunteers have been incredibly rude to my family at the most painful time. It is not unusual to feel alone at such a time but Debian-related rudeness can make those feelings a lot worse. The connection between isolation and suicides has been examined in some of my blogs about the Debian Day volunteer suicide, the death of Lucy Wayland and the suicide of Richard Rothwell.

It turns out that maybe I am not so alone: in private, there was extraordinary rudeness towards the family and friends of Jens Schmalzing. It reminds me of the Debian rudeness my family experienced in 2018 and beyond. In other words, there are a wide range of people who have been insulted by Debian group behavior, either in private or in public.

In 2005, Debian reported that Jens Schmalzing (jensen) died in a tragic accident. The report is particularly brief.

Jens Schmalzing (jensen) died on July 30th in a tragic accident at his workplace in Munich.

Schmalzing worked at the Arnold Sommerfeld Center for Theoretical Physics, University of Munich.

A more detailed report was sent to the debian-private (leaked) gossip network. The report notes that he fell from the roof. It was a Saturday. A huge thread appeared, Schmalzing spelled incorrectly in the subject line.

Subject: Jens Schmalzig (jensen) has died
Date: Fri, 5 Aug 2005 09:22:47 +0200
From: Andreas Barth <>

Dear all,

I'm sorry to inform you all that Jens Schmalzig (jensen) died last Saturday
in a tragic accident here in Munich, after falling down from the roof of
his work place. His family has been grieving his death privately. I'll see
if someone in the local Debian community has more contact with them.

Jens was involved as powerpc porter with the kernel, the installer and many
other places, and as "local" Developer in Munich. We had lots of good times
with him.

Jens, it was a pleasure to have known you. We will miss you.


The more verbose reference to the roof was also leaked on the Infodrom web site but it isn't mentioned in any official Debian announcement.

In most countries, the coroner's court is open to the public and the cause of death is reported publicly. In Germany, the coroner gives the cause of death to the family privately. In many cases, the family and others will refer to the death as an accident.

In the month where Schmalzing died, there were 1587 emails on the debian-devel mailing list, 1167 on debian-boot (the installer), another 407 messages on debian-powerpc and countless more on other lists like debian-private.

The Debian Bug Tracking System (BTS) shows 197 bug reports that Schmalzing interacted with. It is not clear how many of these bugs he owned at the time of the death. The report can only show the last owner of the bug.

Overworking and the related phenomena of work addiction are closely correlated with both accidental deaths and suicides.

Thiemo Seufer was doing Debian work on 25 December 2008, Christmas Day and he died in a traffic accident late in the evening.

There is an archived copy of Schmalzing's CV. We can see that he is a theoretical physicist. His blog/web page/CV does not give any hints that he was doing practical / experimental physics, ham radio or similar activities that would involve working on the roof to install scientific experiments or antennas.

Jens Schmalzing, Debian, Munich

Debian-private went nuts

This became one of the most unpleasant threads in the history of debian-private. Some samples of the discussion:

Database for final wishes

Subject: Re: Jens Schmalzig (jensen) has died
Date: Sun, 7 Aug 2005 20:43:12 +0300
From: Konstantinos Margaritis 

On Κυριακή 07 Αύγουστος 2005 20:26, sean finney wrote:
> > Perhaps we should have a field in the LDAP or something where
> > each DD can store data on their preferences of what should be
> > done in the event of their death.  The default would be to match
> > the common cultural standards of the US and Western Europe (which
> > is to express sympathy to the relatives/friends and make an
> > official announcement of a suitable nature).
> this is kind of morbid, but also practical and considerate of the
> views of others.  furthermore, we could have a field in LDAP for a
> 'debian successor' or 'executor', which could be used by one d-d to
> name another responsible for taking over/redistributing his/her
> packages and projects in the case of a permanent [VAC] (death or
> otherwise).

You are joking right? Both of you? What's next, we'll wear mason rings and meat each other secretly in catacombs, using secret gestures? This whole thing started because someone was inhuman enough to suggest something totally heartless. And now we get a suggestion of something as ridiculous as adding a field to a database, A DATABASE, damn it, about how we treat someone's death? Please, get serious...


Under the [OT] prefix

Subject: [OT] Secret Decoder Rings
Date: Mon, 8 Aug 2005 08:05:31 -0500
From: Chad Walstrom <>

On Sun, Aug 07, 2005 at 08:43:12PM +0300, Konstantinos Margaritis wrote:
> You are joking right? Both of you? What's next, we'll wear mason
> rings and meat each other secretly in catacombs, using secret
> gestures?

+1!!   Mason rings are boring.  I want a secret decoder ring!  Even if
it's simple ROT+N, it would be cool shit!  I'm not sure about meating
each other, though.  Would that include meatballs, italian sausage, or
just fish?  Running around and smacking each other with fish is likely
to really hurt.

-1 to the fish.

Chad Walstrom  
           assert(expired(knowledge)); /* core dump */

Some people had enough

Subject: Re: Jens Schmalzig (jensen) has died
Date: Sun, 07 Aug 2005 22:09:35 -0700
From: Jeremy T. Bouse <>

Jason Thomas wrote:
> Take this crap else where.

	Thank you... I've seen this thread filling up my inbox for a couple
days now and can't for the life of me figure out why we're going on and
on about it. Enough already and either do something or not, but this
poor horse has already been to the glue factory several times now I
think, so just bury it already.

There was more than one Debian suicide

In the thread about Frans Pop, the Debian Day volunteer suicide, there are references to another suicide:

Subject: leak? Re: Death of Frans Pop
Date: Mon, 23 Aug 2010 10:02:02 +0200
From: Giacomo A. Catenazzi <>
To: Stefano Zacchiroli <>
CC:, Debian Account Managers <>

On 22.08.2010 21:48, Stefano Zacchiroli wrote:
> Privacy of -private
> -------------------
> This list has an unfortunate history of bitter arguing and sometime
> flames. Also, it is a list in which we trade off our principle of
> openness for the temporary benefits of some privacy. If we cannot trust
> this list to be, err, private, then this list has no reason to exist.
> That is why leaks from this list are not acceptable.
> So, many thanks to DAM for setting a very light yet visible sanction for
> the leaks, and also thanks to LI and Pascal who have acknowledged their
> mistakes. Please everyone think about this episode in the future and
> respect the privacy of this list.

[Note: a similar email was written 15 hours ago, and discarded
to cool down (it was anyway I shocking news), but I've still
the same concern, and IMHO the reasons of ban are not rationale.]

Really I don't understand, so I ask you (DAM) to reconsider the unsubscriptions.

The reasons:

- There was no bad faith on the "leak"
- Debian tradition IIRC has notice or ev. 5/10 RC bug resolutions for
  leaks (which I consider worse).
- We were talking about disclosure of the death and about a release
  dedication, the original forwarded email said to communicate the
  death to his closer Debian friends.
  Are we now like the "evil companies", where all information should
  be disclosed by a lawyers teams?
  I acknowledge that the two DDs wrote unfortunately too much about
  the suicide, so consider this a simple valuation error, surely not
  a "leak".
- I remember my feeling when I discovered the first suicide of a DD.
  I was shocked, I was never thinking that a DD could suicide.
  I wanted to talk about it to few my friends but I strongly followed
  the rules not to leak "private". Now I think it was an error. I was
  reading email many times and searched for possible future suicide
  candidated. But than: what to do?

  I think the two DDs was shocked and ask for opinions.
  Cynically: live as priority to death, so if the "leak" helped them
  to live better, let's "leak" private.


PS: and anyway I don't think we could really (technically) ban a DD
from private, without taking a lot stronger measures, like disabling
log-in. So anyway the unsubscription is only "strong message".

PS: the old internet rule: "don't write on email the things you don't
want to see on first page on your local newspaper". I.e. errors and
leaks happens (also before wikileaks), so really never write in
-private what should remain 100% private!

Arnold Sommerfeld Center

Arnold Sommerfeld Center, Munich, Jens Schmalzing, jensen, Debian