Hans-Dietrich Genscher

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Hans-Dietrich Genscher
Bundesarchiv FDP-Bundesparteitag, Genscher.jpg
Hans-Dietrich Genscher, 1978
Vice-Chancellor of Germany
In office
1 October 1982 – 17 May 1992
Preceded by Egon Franke
Succeeded by Jürgen Möllemann
In office
17 May 1974 – 17 September 1982
Preceded by Walter Scheel
Succeeded by Egon Franke
Foreign Minister of Germany
In office
1 October 1982 – 17 May 1992
Preceded by Helmut Schmidt (acting)
Succeeded by Klaus Kinkel
In office
17 May 1974 – 17 September 1982
Preceded by Walter Scheel
Succeeded by Helmut Schmidt (acting)
Minister of the Interior of Germany
In office
22 October 1969 – 16 May 1974
Preceded by Ernst Benda
Succeeded by Werner Maihofer
Personal details
Born (1927-03-21) 21 March 1927 (age 87)
Reideburg, Germany
Political party Free Democratic Party of Germany (1952–present)
Other political
affiliations
Nazi Party (1945)

Liberal Democratic Party of Germany (GDR) (1946–52)

Spouse(s) Barbara Schmidt Genscher
Occupation Politician
George H. W. Bush and Hans-Dietrich Genscher, 21 November 1989.
Genscher in the GDR, 1990

Hans-Dietrich Genscher (born 21 March 1927) is a German politician of the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP). He served as Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor of Germany from 1974 to 1992 (except for a two-week break in 1982), making him the longest-tenured holder of either post. In 1991, he was the chairman of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Genscher was born on 21 March 1927 in Reideburg (Province of Saxony), now a part of Halle, in what later became East Germany.[1] He was drafted to serve as a member of the Air Force Support Personnel (Luftwaffenhelfer) at the age of 16. In 1945 he became a member of the Nazi Party. According to Genscher's statements, this happened through a collective application in his Wehrmacht unit and against his own intentions.

Genscher fought as a young man in the Wehrmacht at the end of the Second World War. In 1945, Genscher was a soldier in General Walther Wenck's 12th Army. He briefly became an American and British prisoner of war. Following World War II, he studied law and economics at the universities of Halle and Leipzig (1946–1949) and joined the East German Liberal Democratic Party (LDPD) in 1946.

Political career[edit]

In 1952, Genscher fled to West Germany, where he joined the Free Democratic Party (FDP). He passed his second state examination in law in Hamburg in 1954 and became a solicitor in Bremen. From 1956 to 1959 he was a research assistant of the FDP parliamentary group in Bonn. From 1959 to 1965 he was the FDP group managing director, while from 1962 to 1964 he was National Secretary of the FDP.

In 1965 Genscher was elected on the North Rhine-Westphalian FDP list to the West German parliament and remained a member of parliament until his retirement in 1998. He was elected deputy national chairman in 1968. After serving in several party offices, he was appointed Minister of the Interior by Chancellor Willy Brandt, whose Social Democratic Party was in coalition with the FDP, in 1969; in 1974, he became foreign minister and Vice Chancellor.

From 1 October 1974 to 23 February 1985 he was Chairman of the FDP. It was during his tenure as party chairman that the FDP switched from being the junior member of social-liberal coalition to being the junior member of the 1982 coalition with the CDU/CSU. In 1985 he gave up the post of national chairman. After his resignation as Foreign Minister, Genscher was appointed honorary chairman of the FDP in 1992.

Minister of the Interior[edit]

After the federal election of 1969 Genscher was instrumental in the formation of the social-liberal coalition and was on 22 October 1969 appointed as Minister of the Interior. In 1972, while Minister for the Interior, he rejected Israel's offer to send an Israeli special forces unit to Germany to deal with the Munich Olympics hostage crisis. A flawed rescue attempt by German police forces at Fürstenfeldbruck air base resulted in a bloody shootout, which left all eleven hostages, five terrorists, and one German policeman dead. Genscher's popularity with Israel declined further when he endorsed the release of the three captured attackers to the following the hijacking of a Lufthansa aircraft on 29 October 1972.[2]

In the SPD-FDP coalition, he helped shape Brandt's policy of deescalation with the communist East, commonly known as Ostpolitik, which was continued under Helmut Schmidt after Brandt's resignation in 1974.

Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister[edit]

As Foreign Minister, he stood for a policy of compromise between East and West, and developed strategies for an active policy of détente and the continuation of the East-West dialogue with the USSR, Especially from 1987 Genscher campaigned for an "active relaxation" policy response by the West to the Soviet efforts. He was a major player in the negotiations on the text of the CSCE Final Act in Helsinki .In December 1976 the General Assembly of the United Nations accepted in New York Genscher's proposal of an anti-terrorism convention in New York,[3] which was set among other things, to respond to demands from hostage-takers under any circumstances. Genscher was one of the FDP's driving forces when, in 1982, the party switched sides from its coalition with the SPD to support the CDU/CSU in their Constructive vote of no confidence to have Helmut Schmidt replaced with Helmut Kohl as Chancellor. The reason for this was the increase in the differences between the coalition partners, particularly in economic and social policy. Despite the great controversy that accompanied this switch, he remained one of the most popular politicians in West Germany. He retained his posts as foreign minister and vice chancellor through German reunification and until 1992 when he stepped down for health reasons.

Reunification efforts[edit]

He is most respected for his efforts that helped spell the end of the Cold War, in the late 1980s when Communist eastern European governments toppled, and which led to German reunification. He had great interest in European integration and the success of German reunification, which he in 1990 with his counterpart from the GDR, Markus Meckel negotiated. He also sat down for an effective support of political reform processes in Poland and Hungary . For this purpose He visited Poland to meet the chairman of Solidarity Lech Wałęsa as early as January 1980. His 30 September 1989 speech from the balcony of the German embassy in Prague was an important milestone on the road to the end of the GDR. In the embassy courtyard thousands of East German citizens had assembled. They were trying to travel to West Germany, but were being denied permission to travel by the Czechoslovak government at the request of East Germany. He announced that he had reached an agreement with the Communist Czechoslovakian government that the refugees could leave: "We have come to you to tell you that today, your departure ..." (German: "Wir sind zu Ihnen gekommen, um Ihnen mitzuteilen, dass heute Ihre Ausreise ..."). After these words, the speech drowned in cheers.[4] In November 1990, Genscher and his Polish counterpart Krzysztof Skubiszewski signed the German-Polish Border Treaty on the establishment of the Oder-Neisse line as Poland's western border. In 1988, he was awarded the Prize For Freedom of the Liberal International.

Post Reunification[edit]

In 1991, Genscher recognized the Republic of Croatia in the Croatian War of Independence shortly after the Serbian attack on Vukovar. The rest of the European Union was pressured to follow suit soon afterward. The UN Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar had warned the German Government, that a recognition of Slovenia and Croatia would lead to an increase in aggression in the former Yugoslavia .

Genscher also was an active participant in the further development of the European Union, taking an active part in the Single European Act Treaty negotiations in the mid 1980s, as well as the joint publication of the Genscher-Colombo plan with Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Emilio Colombo which advocated further integration and deepening of relations in the European Union towards a more federalist European State.

In 1992, Genscher, together with his Danish colleague Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, took the initiative to create the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) and the EuroFaculty.[5]

On 18 May 1992 Genscher retired at his own request from the federal government, which he had been member of for a total of 23 years. He had his decision announced three weeks earlier, on 27 April 1992 . At that time he was Europe's longest-serving foreign minister.

Career after politics[edit]

Having finished his political career, Genscher has been active as a lawyer and in international relations organizations. He founded his own Hans-Dietrich Genscher Consult GmbH in 2000. In 2009 he expressed public concern at Pope Benedict XVI's lifting of excommunication of the bishops of the Society of Saint Pius X. Genscher wrote in the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung: "Poles can be proud of Pope John Paul II. At the last papal election, we said We are the pope! But please—not like this."[6] He argued that Pope Benedict XVI is making a habit of offending non-Catholics. "This is a deep moral and political question. It is about respect for the victims of crimes against humanity", Genscher said.[7]

On Dec 20, 2013, it was revealed that Genscher played a key role in coordinating the release and flight to Germany of Russia's former head of Yukos, Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Following the pardoning of Khodorkovsky by President Vladimir Putin "for humanitarian reasons," a private plane provided by Genscher brought Khodorkovsky to Berlin for a family reunion at the Adlon Hotel.

Selected works[edit]

  • Die Rolle Europas im Kontext der Globalisierung, in: Robertson-von Trotha, Caroline Y. (ed.): Herausforderung Demokratie. Demokratisch, parliamentarisch, gut? (= Kulturwissenschaft interdisziplinär/Interdisciplinary Studies on Culture and Society, Vol. 6), Baden-Baden 2011,ISBN 978-3-8329-5816-9

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Dennis Kavanagh (1998). "Genscher, Hans-Dietrich". A Dictionary of Political Biography. Oxford: OUP. p. 184. Retrieved 1 September 2013. 
  2. ^ "1972 Olympics Massacre: Germany's Secret Contacts to Palestinian Terrorists". Der Spiegel. 28 August 2012. Retrieved 26 July 2013. 
  3. ^ Drafting of an international convention against taking hostages
  4. ^ Genscher at the German Embassy in Prague 1989
  5. ^ Gustav N Kristensen, Born into a Dream. EuroFaculty and the Council of the Baltic Sea States, Berliner Wissenschafts-Verlag 2010, ISBN 978-3-8305-1769-6.
  6. ^ Wir Sind Papst – aber bitte nicht so! Mitteldeutsche Zeitung, 2 February 2009
  7. ^ "German-born pope under fire in his homeland over tolerance of Holocaust denial". Haaretz. 3 February 2009. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Ernst Benda
German Minister of the Interior
1969–1974
Succeeded by
Werner Maihofer
Preceded by
Walter Scheel
Foreign Minister of Germany
1974–1982
Succeeded by
Helmut Schmidt
(acting)
Preceded by
Helmut Schmidt
(acting)
Foreign Minister of Germany
1982–1992
Succeeded by
Klaus Kinkel
Preceded by
Walter Scheel
Vice Chancellor of Germany
1974–1982
Succeeded by
Egon Franke
Preceded by
Egon Franke
Vice Chancellor of Germany
1982–1992
Succeeded by
Jürgen Wilhelm Möllemann
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
-
Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE
1991
Succeeded by
Jiří Dienstbier
Czechoslovakia