Former German Prez Johannes Rau dies at 75 | india | Hindustan Times
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Former German Prez Johannes Rau dies at 75

There was no immediate word on the cause of death, but Rau had suffered from persistent health problems.

india Updated: Jan 27, 2006 21:39 IST

Former German President Johannes Rau, who urged his country to open up to foreigners and promoted deeper ties with Israel, died on Saturday at 75, his office said.

Rau died at his Berlin apartment on Saturday morning. There was no immediate word on the cause of death, but Rau had suffered from persistent health problems over recent years.

During his 1999-2004 term as president, Rau paid particular attention to cementing Germany's ties with Israel, rooted in the countries' shared history of the Holocaust.

In 2000, he became the first person to speak German in the Israeli parliament, making an emotional plea for forgiveness.

"With the people of Israel watching, I bow in humility before those murdered, before those who don't have graves where I could ask them for forgiveness," Rau said.

"I am asking for forgiveness for what Germans have done, for myself and my generation, for the sake of our children and grandchildren, whose future I would like to see alongside the children of Israel."

The son of a Protestant pastor, Rau was born in the western city of Wuppertal on January 16, 1931. He dropped out of high school and worked as a journalist and at a Protestant publishing house before entering politics as a member of the Social Democratic Party.

He became mayor of Wuppertal in 1969 and, in 1978, the governor of his home state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous and the country's industrial heartland -- a post that he held for two decades.

First Published: Jan 27, 2006 21:39 IST