Genscher, Hans Dietrich

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Genscher, Hans Dietrich

Hans Dietrich Genscher (häns´ dē´trĬk gĕn´shər), 1927–2016, German political leader. A lawyer and Liberal party member in East Germany, he left the East in 1952, joining the Free Democrats (FDP) in West Germany. Elected to the Bundestag (1965), he became interior minister (1969) and the party's chairman (1974), leading it into a coalition government with the Social Democrats (SPD), and becoming vice chancellor and minister of foreign affairs that same year. His split with the SPD (1982) brought down the government. He engineered a new governing coalition between Helmut Kohl's Christian Democrats (CDU) and the FDP, and remained vice chancellor and minister of foreign affairs. He resigned from the party chairmanship in 1985, but retained his government posts, playing a leading role in negotiating the reunification of East and West Germany in 1990. Known for his avuncular and unassuming manner, he advocated détente with the USSR in the 1970s and 80s, was the chief architect of a European settlement encompassing the East European nations and the remnants of the former Soviet Union, and strongly championed European unity. He stepped down from his cabinet posts in 1992 and left parliament in 1998, but remained active behind the scenes into his 80s.

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