Merkel leads Germany in mourning Weizsaecker's death
Chancellor Angela Merkel led Germany in mourning the death of ex-president Richard von Weizsaecker, who as the head of state during the fall of the Berlin Wall and the country's reunification in 1990, played a crucial role in integrating people from both sides of the divided nation.
Berlin: Chancellor Angela Merkel led Germany in mourning the death of ex-president Richard von Weizsaecker, who as the head of state during the fall of the Berlin Wall and the country's reunification in 1990, played a crucial role in integrating people from both sides of the divided nation.
Government leaders and politicians across the political spectrum paid tributes to Weizsaecker as "one of the most outstanding German politicians" of the post-World War II era.
He was also praised for his role as a driving force behind Germany's reconciliation with eastern Europe and for his efforts to gain international esteem for this country after the war.
Weizsaecker, who was the president during the period between 1984 and 1994, died yesterday aged 94.
Merkel spoke of von Weizsaecker as "one of the most important and highly respected personalities" of Germany.
He had done a "great service for our country" and his death "is a big loss for Germany," she said in a statement.
Merkel said his statement on Germany's surrender in the World War II was a "necessary and clear message for the nation." She also praised his contributions as the first president of a unified Germany.
President Joachim Gauck said this nation "has lost a great man and an excellent head of state."
Weizsaecker set high standards for the president's office and exercised great influence on the public as the "moral authority" of the nation.
He will be remembered above all as the first German president to speak openly about the country's guilt in the war and to describe the capitulation of Nazi Germany at the end of the war as a "liberation" from a brutal regime.
In a speech before the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, on May 8, 1985 to mark the 40th anniversary of the end of WWII, Weizsaecker said the end of the war was a "liberation from the inhuman system of the National Socialist (Nazi) tyranny."
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Germany has lost a statesman, who had done a great service for the country's image abroad.