German ex-President Richard von Weizsaecker dies at 94

Richard von Weizsaecker, July 2014 Image copyright AP
Image caption Richard von Weizsaecker served two terms either side of reunification

Germany's former President Richard von Weizsaecker has died at the age of 94, the president's office has announced.

Mr Weizsaecker's 10 years in office, from 1984 to 1994, spanned the period of German reunification.

A soldier in the German army in World War Two, Weizsaecker won widespread praise for his efforts to persuade Germans to confront their Nazi past.

A member of the Christian Democratic Union, he also served as the governing mayor of West Berlin in the 1980s.

Announcing Mr Weizsaecker's death, current President Joachim Gauck said: "Richard von Weizsaecker stood worldwide for a Germany that had found its way to centre of the democratic family of peoples.

"He stood for a federal republic that faces up to its past."

Image copyright AP
Image caption Richard von Weizsaecker (left) with Ronald Reagan and Chancellor Helmut Schmidt in West Berlin, 1982
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mr Weizsaecker takes the oath of office for his first term in 1984

Mr Weizsaecker was first elected president in 1984 and his speech a year later on the 40th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany won him widespread respect.

He told the West German parliament: "All of us, whether guilty or not, whether young or old, must accept the past. We are all affected by its consequences and liable for it. Anyone who closes his eyes to the past is blind to the present.

"The 8th of May was a day of liberation. It freed us all from the system of National Socialist tyranny."

The same year he became the first West German head of state to visit Israel.

In 1986 he addressed a joint session of the UK parliament - the first German to do so.

Mr Weizsaecker was elected unopposed to a second term in 1989, overseeing in the largely ceremonial role the initial years of a reunited Germany.

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