Former German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher passed away Friday, April 1, in Bonn. He was 89. Genscher, who has been called an architect of German unification, served as foreign minister for 18 years from 1974 to 1992.
In what is now remembered as an iconic moment on the road to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, it was Genscher who announced to thousands of East German refugees camping on the grounds of the West German Embassy in Prague that they would be allowed to travel to the West. (see video below)
Federal President Joachim Gauck, in a message of condolence to Genscher’s wife, Barbara, called him an outstanding personage in Germany’s history. The peaceful unification of Germany was for Genscher a matter very close to his heart, Gauck said. “Persistently, ubiquitously, and with a keen intuition for historic moments, he advanced the peaceful growing together of our nation and our continent.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel called the process of European East-West detente in the 70s and 80s and the peaceful unification of Germany his lifeswork. “With deep respect, I bow before the lifeswork of this great liberal patriot and European,” Merkel said on Friday.
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, speaking during his visit to Tajikistan, said he was deeply moved and saddened by the news of Genscher’s death.
“Over the course of his long and eventful life, Hans-Dietrich Genscher literally made history – that of our country, Germany, and of Europe. He is assured of a place in the history books. His life‑long task was to overcome the division of Germany and the rift in Europe.”
German Ambassador Peter Wittig, who worked in Genscher’s offices in the early 1990s, called him an outstanding statesman, a good friend of the United States and his admired boss.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Genscher was instrumental in the successful negotiations between the then USSR and the other three WWII allies, the United States, Great Britain and France, and East and West Germany. Those negotiations lead to the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany, or the Two Plus Four Agreement, signed in September 1990, which finally ended the Cold War division of Germany. It is considered one of the great diplomatic accomplishments of the century.
Courtesy The Week in Germany