Germany: Death of former President Roman Herzog at 82
Former German President Roman Herzog died at the age of 82 on 10 January 2017. First President of Germany elected into office after the country's reunification in 1990, Roman Herzog is famous for urging his fellow citizens to reform in a speech in 1997.
Born on 5 April 1934 in southern Bavaria, Roman Herzog studied law. As from 1965 he held a chair of public law at the Free University of Berlin. In 1969 he began to practice at the German Higher School of Administrative Sciences in Speyer. In 1973, Roman Herzog became a full member of the Synod of the Evangelical Church.
Roman Herzog had chaired the German Constitutional Court before becoming the first head of state elected by representatives of Germany from 1994 to 1999. In this function, which lacked an executive role but allowed a great deal of freedom of speech, he had provoked controversy by a virulent speech calling on Germany to "shake off" itself in April 1997.
"We have to say goodbye to our dear ones. We are all concerned; we must all make sacrifices and must contribute, "he said, a few years before the reforms of the welfare state imposed by the Social Democratic chancellor Gerhard Schröder.
Roman Herzog, a child who grew up under Nazism, asked for "pardon" from the Poles in 1994, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, "for what the Germans did".
The following year, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, he had chosen to attend a Jewish ceremony in the Shoah's emblematic camp rather than at the official ceremony organized by the Polish government.
Chancellor Angela Merkel paid him a vibrant homage: "Roman Herzog fulfilled this supreme function with his inimitable style. He cultivated frankness, was unpretentious, humorous and even self-deprecating." Current president Joachim Gauck paid tribute to "a prominent personality, who has shaped the image of Germany and the coexistence within the society".
The World Jewish Congress greeted on Tuesday the memory of the former head of state, "a great fighter for the rule of law and for a free and tolerant society", who "worked hard for the place" of the Jewish community “within the German civil society ".
Roman Herzog was married since 1959 with professor of home economics Christiane Krauß, who died in 2000. The couple had two sons. In 2001, Roman Herzog married Alexandra Freifrau von Berlichingen. The date of Roman Herzog’s funeral has not been communicated yet.