Johannes Rau

Last updated

Johannes Rau
Johannes rau 2004-05-16 berlin-RZ.jpg
Johannes Rau in 2004
President of Germany
In office
1 July 1999 30 June 2004
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
Preceded by Roman Herzog
Succeeded by Horst Köhler
Minister President of North Rhine-Westphalia
In office
20 September 1978 9 June 1998
DeputyHorst-Ludwig Riemer
Burkhard Hirsch
Diether Posser
Herbter Schnoor
Michael Vesper
Preceded by Heinz Kühn
Succeeded by Wolfgang Clement
President of the German Bundesrat
In office
1 November 1994 31 October 1995
Preceded by Klaus Wedemeier
Succeeded by Edmund Stoiber
In office
1 November 1982 31 October 1983
Preceded by Hans Koschnick
Succeeded by Franz Josef Strauss
Minister of Federal Affairs of North Rhine-Westphalia
In office
4 June 1980 18 August 1980
Preceded by Christoph Zöpel
Succeeded by Dieter Haak
Minister of Research of North Rhine-Westphalia
In office
28 July 1970 20 September 1978
Preceded byOffice created
Succeeded by Reimut Jochimsen
Mayor of Wuppertal
In office
Preceded by Hermann Herberts
Succeeded by Gottfried Gurland
Personal details
Born(1931-01-16)16 January 1931
Wuppertal, Germany
Died27 January 2006(2006-01-27) (aged 75)
Berlin, Germany
Political party Social Democratic Party of Germany
Spouse(s) Christina Rau, née Delius
ChildrenPhilip Immanuel Rau
Anna Christina Rau
Laura Helene Rau
Profession Publisher
Signature Johannes Rau Signature 2.svg

Johannes Rau (German pronunciation: [joˈhanəs ˈʁaʊ] ; 16 January 1931 27 January 2006) was a German politician (SPD). He was President of Germany from 1 July 1999 until 30 June 2004 and Minister President of North Rhine-Westphalia from 20 September 1978 to 9 June 1998. In the latter role, he also served as President of the Bundesrat in 1982/83 and in 1994/1995.

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Alps, Lake Constance and the High Rhine to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

A politician is a person active in party politics, or a person holding or seeking office in government. Politicians propose, support and create laws or policies that govern the land and, by extension, its people. Broadly speaking, a "politician" can be anyone who seeks to achieve political power in any bureaucratic institution.

Social Democratic Party of Germany Social-democratic political party in Germany

The Social Democratic Party of Germany, or SPD, is a social-democratic political party in Germany.


Education and work

Rau was born in the Barmen part of Wuppertal, Rhine Province, as the third of five children. His family was strongly Protestant. As a schoolboy, Rau was active in the Confessing Church, a circle of the German Protestant Church which resisted Nazism.

Barmen former city in eastern Rhineland, Germany

Barmen is a former industrial metropolis of the region of Bergisches Land, Germany, which merged with four other towns in 1929 to form the city of Wuppertal. Barmen, together with the neighbouring town of Elberfeld founded the first electric suspended monorail tramway system, the Schwebebahn floating tram. Barmen was a pioneering centre for both the early industrial revolution on the European mainland, and for the socialist movement and its theory. It was the location of one of the first concentration camps in Nazi Germany, KZ Wuppertal-Barmen, later better known as Kemna concentration camp.

Wuppertal Place in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Wuppertal is a city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, in and around the Wupper valley, east of Düsseldorf and south of the Ruhr. With a population of approximately 350,000, it is the largest city in the Bergisches Land. Wuppertal is known for its steep slopes, its woods and parks, and its suspension railway, the Wuppertal Schwebebahn. It is the greenest city of Germany, with two-thirds green space of the total municipal area. From any part of the city, it is only a ten-minute walk to one of the public parks or woodland paths.

Rhine Province province of Prussia

The Rhine Province, also known as Rhenish Prussia (Rheinpreußen) or synonymous with the Rhineland (Rheinland), was the westernmost province of the Kingdom of Prussia and the Free State of Prussia, within the German Reich, from 1822 to 1946. It was created from the provinces of the Lower Rhine and Jülich-Cleves-Berg. Its capital was Koblenz and in 1939 it had 8 million inhabitants. The Province of Hohenzollern was militarily associated with the Oberpräsident of the Rhine Province.

Rau left school in 1949 and worked as a publisher, especially with the Protestant Youth Publishing House.

Political career

Rau was a member of the All-German People’s Party (GVP), which was founded by Gustav Heinemann. The party was known for proposing German reunification from 1952 until it was disbanded in 1957.

All-German Peoples Party former political party of Germany

The All-German People's Party was a minor political party in West Germany active between 1952 and 1957. It was a Christian, pacifist, centre-left party that opposed the re-armament of West Germany because it believed that the remilitarisation and NATO integration would make German reunification impossible, deepen the division of Europe and pose a danger to peace.

Gustav Heinemann German politician, President of Germany 1969-1974

Gustav Walter Heinemann was a German politician. He was Mayor of the city of Essen from 1946 to 1949, West German Minister of the Interior from 1949 to 1950, Minister of Justice from 1966 to 1969 and President of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1969 to 1974.

In 1958, the pacifist [1] Rau and his political mentor, Gustav Heinemann, joined the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), where he was active in the Wuppertal chapter. He served as deputy chairman of the SPD party of Wuppertal and was elected later on to the City Council (1964–1978), where he served as chairman of the SPD Group (1964–1967) and later as Mayor (1969–1970).

In 1958, Rau was elected for the first time as member of the Landtag (state parliament) of North Rhine-Westphalia. In 1967, he became chairman of the SPD fraction in the Landtag, and in 1970, he was Minister of Science and Education in the cabinet of Minister President Heinz Kühn. He soon gained a reputation as a reformer. As part of the mass education campaign of the 1970s, he founded five universities, each at different sites, in North Rhine-Westphalia and initiated Germany’s first distance learning university at Hagen (modelled on the Open University ).

North Rhine-Westphalia State in Germany

North Rhine-Westphalia is a state of Germany.

Heinz Kühn German politician (SPD)

Heinz Kühn was a German Social Democratic Party (SPD) politician and the 5th Minister President of North Rhine-Westphalia between 8 December 1966 and 20 September 1978. He was born and died in Cologne.

Hagen Place in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Hagen is the 41st-largest city in Germany. The municipality is located in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. It is located on the south eastern edge of the Ruhr area, 15 km south of Dortmund, where the rivers Lenne and Volme meet the river Ruhr. As of 31 December 2010, the population was 188,529. The city is home to the FernUniversität Hagen, which is the only state funded distance education university in Germany. Counting more than 67,000 students, it is the largest university in Germany.

In 1977, Rau became Chairman of the North Rhine-Westphalia SPD and, in 1978, Minister President of the state, which he remained until 1998, with four successful elections for the SPD, which became strongest party in the Landtag each time and gained an absolute majority three times, in 1980, 1985, 1990 and finally 1995. From 1995 onwards, Rau led an SPD-Greens coalition in North Rhine-Westphalia. Rau twice served as President of the Bundesrat in 1982/83 and 1994/95.

President of the German Bundesrat speaker

In Germany, the President of the Bundesrat or President of the Federal Council is the chairperson or speaker of the Bundesrat. He or she is elected by the Bundesrat for a term of one year. Traditionally, the Presidency of the Bundesrat rotates among the leaders of the sixteen state governments. This is however only an established praxis, theoretically the Bundesrat is free to elect any member it chooses, and a President could also be re-elected. As well as acting as a chairperson the President of the Bundesrat is ex officio deputy of the President of Germany.

Bundesrat of Germany Legislative body representing the German federated states since 1949

The German Bundesrat is a legislative body that represents the sixteen Länder of Germany at the national level. The Bundesrat meets at the former Prussian House of Lords in Berlin. Its second seat is located in the former West German capital of Bonn.

In 1987, Rau was his party's candidate to become chancellor of Germany for the SPD, but he lost the elections against Helmut Kohl’s Christian Democrats (CDU). In 1994, Rau was a candidate to become President of Germany but lost to Roman Herzog.

In 1998, Rau stepped down from his positions as SPD Chairman and Minister President, and on 23 May 1999, he was elected President of Germany by the Federal Assembly of Germany to succeed Roman Herzog (CDU). On 1 July 2004, he was succeeded by Horst Köhler. In common with all other Federal Presidents except for Heinemann, who had not wished to be seen off in this manner, Rau was honored by a Großer Zapfenstreich which, at his request, included the hymn "Jesus bleibet meine Freude" (Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring).

During 2000, Rau became the first German head of state to address the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in German. The controversial step prompted some Israeli delegates to walk out. However, Israeli President Moshe Katsav supported and praised him for bridging the gap between the two states. Rau had a deep and lifelong commitment to bringing reconciliation between Germany and its past.


In long history of heart disease, he died a few days after his 75th birthday on 27 January 2006. The funeral took place on 7 February following a funeral act of state on the Dorotheenstadt cemetery in Berlin in the closest of family and friends.

Rau's grave the day after his burial. Rau grab.jpg
Rau's grave the day after his burial.
Johannes Rau at Schloss Bellevue in 2002. Johannes Rau 2002.jpeg
Johannes Rau at Schloss Bellevue in 2002.

Motto and maxim

The maxim of Rau was "to reconcile, not divide".

As his personal motto, Rau adopted the Confessing Church dictum "teneo, quia teneor" (I hold because I am held).

In his acceptance speech after his election, Rau claimed "A patriot I will be" because "a patriot is someone who loves his fatherland, a nationalist is someone who despises the fatherlands of the others". The quote can be attributed to the French writer Romain Gary.

Prizes and medals

Rau was awarded fifteen honorary doctorates. In 2001, he received the Leo Baeck Medal for his humanitarian work promoting tolerance and social justice.

Private life

Rau was known as a practising Christian (and sometimes titled Bruder Johannes, "Brother John", to ridicule his intense Christian position; however, he sometimes used this term himself). He held lay positions in, and was a member of, the Synod of the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland, a member church of the Evangelical Church in Germany.

On 9 August 1982, Rau married the political scientist, Christina Delius (born 1956). Christina Rau is a granddaughter of her husband's mentor, Gustav Heinemann, former President of Germany. The couple had three children: Anna Christina, born 1983, Philip Immanuel, born 1985 and Laura Helene, born 1986. Since 1995 Rau was aware of his dangerous aneurysm in the abdominal aorta, but declined an operation out of respect for his office and the upcoming election as president. On 23 July 2000 the operation took place at the University Hospital of Essen. On 18 August 2004, he had to undergo serious heart surgery, in which an artificial heart valve was inserted. Only two months later (19 October 2004) a hematoma in the abdominal cavity was surgically removed.

After leaving office, Rau lived with his family in the federal capital, Berlin. However, they also kept a house in Wuppertal.


Foreign honours

See also

Related Research Articles

President of Germany Head of state of the Federal Republic of Germany

The President of Germany, officially the Federal President of the Federal Republic of Germany, is the head of state of Germany.

Gerhard Schröder (CDU) German politician (CDU), federal minister

Gerhard Schröder was a West German politician and member of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party. He served as Federal Minister of the Interior from 1953 to 1961, as Foreign Minister from 1961 to 1966, and as Minister of Defence from 1966 until 1969. In the 1969 election he ran for President of Germany but was outpolled by Gustav Heinemann.

Heinrich Lübke German politician

Karl Heinrich Lübke was a German politician who was the second President of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1959 to 1969. Prior to his presidency he served as Federal Minister for Agriculture. The moderate conservative suffered from his deteriorating health and is known for embarrassing statements or behavior. Besides agriculture he was interested in the state of developing countries. Lübke resigned three months before the scheduled end of his second term.

Karl Arnold politician from Germany

Karl Arnold was a German politician. He was Minister President of North Rhine-Westphalia from 1947 to 1956. From 7 September 1949 until 8 September 1950 he was President of the German Bundesrat. He is, together with Jens Böhrnsen and Horst Seehofer, one of the three Presidents of the Bundesrat who have acted as head of state during a vacancy of the office of President, according to Article 57 of the Basic Law.

2005 North Rhine-Westphalia state election election

The North Rhine-Westphalia state election, 2005, was conducted on 22 May 2005, to elect members to the Landtag of North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany. It was a victory for the Christian Democratic Union, who received enough seats to form a coalition with their preferred partner, the FDP, and end the previous government formed by the Social Democratic Party and the Greens, who also ruled at the federal level.

Kurt Beck German politician

Kurt Beck is a German politician (SPD), who served as the 7th Minister President of Rhineland-Palatinate from 1994 to 2013 and as the 55th President of the Bundesrat in 2000/01. On 14 May 2006 he succeeded Matthias Platzeck as chairman of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD). He resigned from that post on 7 September 2008.

Hans Ehard German politician

Hans Ehard was a German lawyer and politician, a member of the Christian Social Union (CSU) party.

Bodo Hombach German politician

Bodo Hombach is a German politician of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD).

The Politics of North Rhine-Westphalia takes place within a framework of a federal parliamentary representative democratic republic. The two main parties are the Centre-right Christian Democratic Union and the Centre-left Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD).

Christina Rau Spouse of German President

Christina Rau is the widow of Johannes Rau, President of Germany from 1999-2004.

Diether Posser German politician

Diether Posser was a German politician, representative of the Social Democratic Party.

History of Germany since 1990 aspect of history

The history of Germany since 1990 spans the period following the Reunification of Germany, when West Germany and East Germany were reunited after being divided during the Cold War. Germany after 1990 is referred to by historians as the Berlin Republic. This time period is also determined by the ongoing process of the "inner reunification" of the formerly divided country.

2010 North Rhine-Westphalia state election election

The North Rhine-Westphalia state election, 2010, was an election held on 9 May 2010, to elect members to the Landtag of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The incumbent government at the election was the Christian Democrat (CDU)–FDP administration of Minister-President Jürgen Rüttgers. The biggest opposition party was the Social Democratic Party, led by Hannelore Kraft since 2005.

Hannelore Kraft German politician

Hannelore Kraft is a German politician. She served as the Minister President of North Rhine-Westphalia from 2010 until 2017. Kraft was the first woman to serve as head of government of this state and was the third woman to become head of a state government in Germany. Between 1 November 2010 and 31 October 2011 she was the President of the Bundesrat, again the first woman to hold the office. She is the former leader of the SPD North Rhine-Westphalia and served on the SPD's federal executive from November 2009 until May 2017, and was one of the four federal deputy chairs.

The North Rhine-Westphalia state election, 1995 was held on 14 May 1995 to elect 221 members of the Landtag of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The incumbent state government at that time was a SPD majority government led by Johannes Rau that tried to defend its majority after 15 years in power. The main opposition was the CDU led by Helmut Linssen since 1990.

1990 North Rhine-Westphalia state election

The North Rhine-Westphalia state election, 1990 took place on 13 May 1990 to elect the 239 members of the Landtag. It resulted in clearly confirming the state government led by Johannes Rau, providing the SPD with an absolute majority of seats for the third time after 1980 and 1985. Rau, who received the opportunity to challenge chancellor Helmut Kohl in the 1987 federal election also because of his strong performance as head of government in Germany's most populous state, was defeated by Kohl so that he stayed in North Rhine-Westphalia and remained vice chairman of the federal SPD. The CDU chose Norbert Blüm, federal minister for labour and social affairs, as their candidate for the office of Minister-President because due to an absence of 24 years from power at that time, the party lacked charismatic leaders on the state level. The FDP could maintain its share of votes whereas the Greens, who failed to pass above the 5%-threshold in the 1985 state election, returned to the Landtag.

Andreas Pinkwart politician and dean

Andreas Pinkwart is a German politician and academic who currently serves as State Minister for Economic Affairs, Digitization, Innovation and Energy in the government of Minister-President Armin Laschet. He previously was the Dean of HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management and holder of the Stiftungsfonds Deutsche Bank Chair of Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship.

Ralf Jäger German politician

Ralf Jäger is a German politician. He is a member of the SPD. Since 2000 he is a MP of the Landtag, the parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia. Between 2010 and 2017 he served as Minister for Interior and Local Government of North Rhine-Westphalia, in the cabinet of Minister-President Hannelore Kraft. In 2014 he was chairman of the Standing Conference of Interior Ministers in Germany.


  1. "Reply to a parliamentary question about the Decoration of Honour" (pdf) (in German). p. 1654. Retrieved November 2012.Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  2. Icelandic Presidency Website (Icelandic), Order of the Falcon, Johannes & Christina Rau Archived 1 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine , 1 July 2003, Grand Cross with Collar & Grand Cross respectively
  3. Slovak republic website, State honours  : 1st Class in 2001 (click on "Holders of the Order of the 1st Class White Double Cross" to see the holders' table)
  4. "The ceremony conferred the Order of the State - History". Presidency of Republic of Turkey. 06-04-2000. Retrieved 2013-07-31.Check date values in: |date= (help)
  5. Boletín Oficial del Estado
Political offices
Preceded by
Heinz Kühn (SPD)
Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia
1978 1998
Succeeded by
Wolfgang Clement (SPD)
Preceded by
Roman Herzog
President of Germany
1 July 1999 30 June 2004
Succeeded by
Horst Köhler
Party political offices
Preceded by
Björn Engholm
Chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany
Succeeded by
Rudolf Scharping