Key Cold War figure, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, passes away at 89

Key Cold War figure, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, passes away at 89
(Image via Euronews)

[Ed. – A sometimes controversial statesman with a notable past as a refugee from East Germany, he exercised a remarkable, defining influence on post-Cold War Europe. But what he will always be associated with is his landmark 1989 refugee agreement with (then) Czechoslovakia, which hastened the fall of the Berlin Wall. R.I.P]

Genscher, a one-time refugee from the Communist East, died of heart failure at home surrounded by his family on Thursday night, his office said in a statement on Friday.

As Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor over a period of 18 years, Genscher was West Germany’s top diplomat during a crucial time. …

FDP leader Christian Lindner said on Twitter that Genscher had made history, calling him “the architect of unity (and) one of the founders of the EU”. …

Born on March 21, 1927, at Reideburg, near Halle, Genscher served in the Luftwaffe (air force) towards the end of World War Two. He said it was only many years later that he learned his name was entered in the rolls of Nazi Party members.

After the war, he studied economics and law in East Germany before fleeing to the West in 1952 where he joined the liberal Free Democrats (FDP). …

Genscher strongly supported European integration, believing it to be the key to the success of German reunification. He was also a ferocious advocate of political reforms in Poland and Hungary.

On September 30 1989, his speech from the balcony of the German embassy in Prague was a turning point.

Thousands of East German citizens, who were refused entry to the West, gathered in the embassy courtyard as Genscher announced the agreement with the Communist Czechoslovakian government that the refugees could leave.

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