Former German President Richard Von Weizsaecker dies
Berlin, Feb 1 (IANS) Former German President Richard von Weizsaecker died in Berlin Saturday, Germany’s Office of the Federal President announced. He was 94.
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Weizsaecker was West Germany’s head of state from 1984 and became the first president of the reunited Germany, following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and German reunification a year later. He stepped down in 1994.
A soldier in the German army in the Second World War, Weizsaecker won widespread praise for his efforts to persuade Germans to confront their Nazi past, a BBC report said.
A member of the Christian Democratic Union, he also served as the governing mayor of West Berlin in the 1980s.
Announcing Weizsaecker’s death, current German President Joachim Gauck said: "Richard von Weizsaecker stood worldwide for a Germany that had found its way to (the) centre of the democratic family of peoples.”
"He stood for a federal republic that faces up to its past."
Weizsaecker’s speech May 8, 1985, on the 40th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany in the Second World War won him widespread respect.
He told the West German parliament: "All of us, whether guilty or not, whether young or old, must accept the past. We are all affected by its consequences and liable for it. Anyone who closes his eyes to the past is blind to the present.”
"The 8th of May was a day of liberation. It freed us all from the system of National Socialist tyranny."
The same year he became the first West German head of state to visit Israel.
In 1986, he addressed a joint session of the British parliament — the first German to do so.
Weizsaecker was elected unopposed for a second term in 1989, overseeing the initial years of a reunited Germany in his largely ceremonial role.