Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Longest-Serving German Foreign Minister, Dies at 89

01.04.2016

Hans-Dietrich Genscher, who was German Foreign Mnister in 1974-1992 and played a pivotal role in German reunification, died Friday aged 89. “Genscher will be remembered as a man who took the first stone out of the Berlin Wall,” Alexander Rahr, Research Director of the German-Russian Forum, told valdaiclub.com.

“As German Foreign Minister, he came to Prague and reached an agreement with the communist government of Czechoslovakia that it would allow the Eastern Germans, who fled there in a hope to enter West Germany, to leave the country. And a thousand people entered West Germany overnight. Soon the actual Berlin Wall fell, but it was Genscher who took the first stone out of it,” Rahr said.

Hans-Dietrich Genscher was a Cold War-era man, the Valdai Club expert added. His diplomatic style, ability to build strategically important relations at difficult times demonstrate that he was quite a flexible politician.

“He will also be remembered as a man who masterfully negotiated the reunification of Germany. That was not so easy: Britain and France objected to reunification, Americans agreed to it provided that both parts of Germany become part of NATO, while the Soviet Union proposed its own security system, but ended up without any potential,” Rahr said.

According to him, Genscher belonged to a generation, which was more responsible about the issues of European security than younger ones. “He saw the mistakes that the West was committing, but [at the same time] he did not support everything that Russia was doing. But he always demonstrated understanding of Russia’s national interests,” he added.

It was Genscher’s firm belief that Russia’s role in the past and the future of Europe must be understood. “He objected to humiliating and cornering Russia, making it a junior political partner. Till his very last days he treated Russian with great respect,” Rahr stressed.

Genscher retained influence in Germany after he had left his position in the government. “He continued to consult German politicians, especially foreign ministers. Thus, he continued to play a colossal role behind the scenes,” the expert concluded.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

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