Hans-Dietrich Genscher dead: Mourning over former German foreign minister and reunification architect

Hans-Dietrich Genscher dead : Mourning over former German foreign minister and reunification architect

Germany’s popular and long-serving foreign minister who played a key role in reunification has passed away in his Wachtberg home at age 89.

Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Germany’s long serving foreign minister and vice-chancellor is dead at the age of 89. According to his Bonn bureau, he passed away in his home in Wachtberg-Pech Thursday night surrounded by family. The cause was given as heart failure. He is known as one of the key architects of Germany’s reunification of east and west in 1990.

Genscher was foreign minister from 1974 to 1992, serving 18 years under chancellors Helmut Schmidt and Helmut Kohl. He was leader of the Free Democrat Party (FDP) from 1974 to 1985. He stands out in Germany as one of the most popular political leaders and most influential figures among the liberals. German government spokesman Georg Streiter said Genscher was a great statesman who influenced the fate of Germany like few others and that he was both a great German and a great European.

When the Iron Curtain opened in 1989, Genscher was right in the thick of it. Thousands of East Germans had packed into the West German Embassy in Prague, trying to escape to the west from tightly controlled communist eastern Germany. After weeks of diplomatic efforts, he was the one who told the East Germans on September 30 that they could travel to the west, receiving a jubilant ovation. After the Berlin Wall came down on November 9, he was at the table to bring East and West Germany together. German unification was achieved on October 3, 1990, a day that is now commemorated annually.

FDP leader Christian Lindner wrote on Twitter; “Genscher made history and shaped our country. We owe him a lot. Our grief cannot be greater.” And, “After Guido Westerwelle, we lose a second of our great personalities.” Two weeks ago, former FDP leader and foreign minister Guido Westerwelle died of leukemia at age 54. Both politicians were from Bonn. Memorial services and burial will take place on Saturday for Guido Westerwelle in Cologne.