Johannes Rau


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(b. Wuppertal, 16 Jan. 1931; d. Berlin, 27 Jan. 2006)

German; Minister-President of North Rhine-Westphalia 1978–98; federal President 1999–2004 Rau was the son of an Evangelical pastor of the anti-Nazi Confessing church and followed his father's beliefs. He completed an apprenticeship in the book trade but developed an early interest in politics. Through personal association with Heinemann he joined the GVP in opposition to German rearmament and when the party was dissolved he followed Heinemann into the SPD. In 1958 he was elected to the parliament (Landtag) of North Rhine-Westphalia and in 1962 to the executive of the SPD Landtag group, becoming the chairman in 1967. After serving briefly as mayor of Wuppertal he was appointed Minister of Science and Research in the SPD government of North Rhine-Westphalia. He was elected Minister-President in 1978. Successful regional election campaigns in 1980 and 1985 secured the SPD an absolute majority in the Landtag and helped his election as deputy chairman of the national SPD and adoption as the party's candidate to oppose Kohl in the 1987 election. The SPD gained a smaller share of the vote than in 1983 and lost ground to the Greens, whom Rau had vigorously opposed. Rau, however, managed to maintain his, and the SPD's, grip on North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous region. He resigned as Minister-President in 1998 after leading the state for twenty years. In the federal assembly he stood unsuccessfully for the position of federal President in 1994 against Roman Herzog, but was successful in 1999, becoming the first SPD President for thirty years. He visited Israel in 2000 and, in a speech in German to the Knesset, apologized for the Nazi persecution of the Jews.

Subjects: Politics.

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