R.I.P. Hans-Dietrich Genscher (1927 – 2016)

How do you see Hans-Dietrich Genscher’s role in German, European politics? Read few comments.

Christian Schweiger, Senior Lecturer in Government, Department of Politics, Durham University

Genscher was a representative of West Germany’s traditional multilateral post-war foreign policy and as such he will be remembered as a passionate European and also the architect of Germany’s reunification in 1990. Genscher contributed substantially to West Germany becoming a  respected leading European player.

On the other hand his ‘cheque book’ diplomacy was increasingly criticised after Germany’s renunification as Germany’s partners, most of all the US expected the larger Germany to engage in military burden- sharing. Genscher also became a controversial figure at home after he switched from the SPD and supported Helmut Kohl’s election as chancellor. Overall I would say he was part of the post-war generation of leaders who still had a passion and a vision for a united Europe.

Eric Langenbacher, Associate Teaching Professor, Department of Government , Georgetown University

Genscher’s role in German and European politics was extremely consequential on two levels. On the level of day-to-day politics, no one was as masterful as Genscher in negotiating among various positions and massaging different egos to get to a solution. German reunification is the best example, but so too is the release of Khodorkovsky in 2013. On a higher level, Genscher was instrumental in consolidating Germany’s rehabilitation in the eyes of its neighbors and defining its distinctive soft power stance–honest broker, bridge between East and West, supporter of basic liberal values, and a vigilant peace-oriented mindset. By helping to solve “the German problem” Genscher contributed greatly to the most peaceful Europe for centuries. Of course a man of his stature and longevity in politics (foreign minister for 18 years) had a healthy dose of Machiavellianism (orchestrating the change in government in 1982 for instance) and some outright mistakes, such as the botched operation with the Israeli hostages at the Munich Olympics in 1972 (when he was interior minister) or the hasty recognition of Croatia in the early 1990s. But, these flaws should not mar our memory of a towering statesman hugely responsible for peace in our time.

Michael Gehler, Leiter des Instituts für Geschichte an der Stiftung, Universität Hildesheim

Genscher was one of the best Foreign Ministers the FRG ever had. He was open minded and a very clever and conceptional politician. He was interested in all the fields of foreign policy. His special interest was concentrated on CSCE diplomacy and politics – the CSCE succession process and also european integration policy. Together with the Italian Foreign Minister Emilio Colombo he developed an initiative for a European Political Union in 1981. Before the Wall came down he developed also papers for a European Currency Union.

During the time of the German unification process 1989/90 he was flexible enough to think about a Austrian solution (neutrality for soviet troop withdrawal) for the GDR and warned also very early with regard to the consequences of a future NATO Eastern enlargement.

He was against any German foreign policy military engagement because of the Fundamental Law (Grundgesetz). Even in case of a unanimous decision (mandate) by the UN Security Council he refused any German military intervention for principal reasons.



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