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Richard von Weizsäcker

In office
July 1, 1984 – June 30, 1994
Chancellor Helmut Kohl
Preceded by Karl Carstens
Succeeded by Roman Herzog

Born April 15, 1920 (1920-04-15) (age 89)
Stuttgart, Germany
Nationality German
Political party Christian Democratic Union
Spouse(s) Marianne Freifrau (Baroness) von Weizsäcker
Alma mater University of Oxford
University of Grenoble
University of Göttingen
Religion Protestantism

Richard Karl Freiherr von Weizsäcker About this sound listen (born April 15, 1920), known as Richard von Weizsäcker, is a German politician (CDU). He served as Governing Mayor of West Berlin from 1981 to 1984, and as President of Germany from 1984 to 1994 (West Germany only 1984-1990).


Early life

Weizsäcker was born in the New Castle in Stuttgart, the son of diplomat and politician Ernst von Weizsäcker and Marianne, née von Graevenitz, a member of the noted Weizsäcker family. He has two brothers, the physicist and philosopher Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker and Heinrich von Weizsäcker, who was killed in action in 1939. His grandfather Karl von Weizsäcker was Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Württemberg, and was ennobled in 1897 and raised to the hereditary title of Baron (Freiherr) in 1916. Because his father was a career diplomat, he spent much of his childhood in Switzerland and Scandinavia. The family lived in Basel 1920-1924, in Copenhagen 1924-1926, in Oslo 1931-1933, and in Berne 1933-1936, where Richard von Weizsäcker attended the Swiss Gymnasium Kirchenfeld. The family relocated to Berlin in 1936.

When he was 17 years old, he moved to Britain, where he studied philosophy and history at Balliol College, Oxford. He subsequently also studied at the University of Grenoble in France. After the outbreak of World War II, he served in the German Army, ultimately as a Captain in the Reserves. He was wounded in East Prussia in 1945 and transported home to Stuttgart. Then he continued his study of history in Göttingen and eventually studied law.

He took his first legal state exam in 1950, the second in 1953, and earned his doctorate (doctor juris) in 1955. In 1953 he married Marianne von Kretschmann; they have four children: Baron Robert Klaus von Weizsäcker, a Professor of Economics at the University of Munich, Baron Andreas von Weizsäcker, an art professor at the Academy of Fine Arts Munich, Baroness Beatrice von Weizsäcker, a lawyer and journalist, and Baron Fritz Eckart von Weizsäcker, a Professor of Medicine.

Richard von Weizsäcker worked for Mannesmann 1950-1958, as a scientific assistant until 1953, as a legal councel from 1953 and as head of the department for economic policy from 1957. From 1958 to 1962, he was head of the Waldthausen Bank, a bank owned by relatives of his wife. From 1962 to 1966, he served on the board of directors of Boehringer Ingelheim, a pharmaceutical company.

Political career

Weizsäcker joined the CDU in 1954, becoming a member of the Bundestag (German Parliament) in 1969, serving until 1981. In 1981 he was elected vice president of the Bundestag (1979-1981) and then Governing Mayor (Regierender Bürgermeister) of West Berlin (1981-1984). He was elected President of Germany by the Bundesversammlung (Federal Convention) in 1984, succeeding Karl Carstens.

Governing Mayor of West Berlin, Richard von Weizsäcker, with US President Ronald Reagan and German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, at Checkpoint Charlie in 1981

Weizsäcker is known for his speeches. Because of the high esteem in which he is held by Germany's political establishment, Weizsäcker is so far the only candidate to have stood for elections for the office of President uncontested; he was elected in such a way to a second term of office on May 23, 1989. He took office for his second presidential term on July 1, 1989. His second term oversaw the end of the Cold War and the German Reunification.

von Weizsäcker in 1981

Weizsäcker stretched the traditionally ceremonial position of Germany’s president to reach across political, national, and generational boundaries to address a wide range of controversial issues.

In his public addresses and writings, Weizsäcker has been a strong and articulate advocate of democratic principles, tolerance, and social responsibility. He has been actively involved in food aid activities targeted at relieving global hunger problems.

He was a member of the Synod and the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany from 1967-1984.

Although now an elder statesman, Weizsäcker is still involved in politics and charitable affairs. He was the chair of a commission installed by the then Social Democratic-Green government for reforming the Bundeswehr.

Weizsäcker has served on many international commissions. He was chairman of the Independent Working Group on the future of the United Nations and was one of three "Wise Men" appointed by European Commission President Romano Prodi to consider the future of the European Union.

President Richard von Weizsäcker and First Lady Marianne von Weizsäcker in Jordan in 1985, with King Hussein of Jordan and Queen Queen Noor of Jordan

Weizsäcker's publications include Von Deutschland aus; Die deutsche Geschichte geht weiter; Von Deutschland nach Europa; and Vier Zeiten. His memoirs have been published as From Weimar to the Wall: My Life in German Politics (1999). He has received many honors in his career, including an honorary doctorate from Johns Hopkins University in 1993 and the creation of the Richard von Weizsäcker Professorship at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of Johns Hopkins University and the Robert Bosch Foundation of Stuttgart in 2003, and more than 11 other honorary doctorates, ranging from the Weizmann Institute in Israel to Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard universities, the Charles University in Prague and the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras[1], the Leo Baeck Prize from the Central Council of Jews in Germany, and the Buber-Rosenzweig Medallion from the Society for Christian-Jewish Cooperation.


External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Karl Carstens
President of Germany
1984 – 1994
Succeeded by
Roman Herzog
Preceded by
Hans-Jochen Vogel
Mayor of West Berlin
1981– 1984
Succeeded by
Eberhard Diepgen

Simple English

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