Johannes Rau

Johannes Rau (German: [joˈhanəs ˈʁaʊ] (About this soundlisten); 16 January 1931 – 27 January 2006) was a German politician (SPD). He was the president of Germany from 1 July 1999 until 30 June 2004 and the minister president of North Rhine-Westphalia from 20 September 1978 to 9 June 1998. In the latter role, he also served as president of the Bundesrat in 1982/83 and in 1994/95.

Johannes Rau
Johannes rau 2004-05-16 berlin-RZ.jpg
Johannes Rau during the Berlin-Brandenburg Broadcaster Youth Debate competition in Berlin in May 2004
President of Germany
In office
1 July 1999 – 30 June 2004
ChancellorGerhard Schröder
Preceded byRoman Herzog
Succeeded byHorst Köhler
Minister-President of North Rhine-Westphalia
In office
20 September 1978 – 9 June 1998
DeputyHorst-Ludwig Riemer
Burkhard Hirsch
Diether Posser
Herbter Schnoor
Michael Vesper
Preceded byHeinz Kühn
Succeeded byWolfgang Clement
President of the German Bundesrat
In office
1 November 1994 – 31 October 1995
Preceded byKlaus Wedemeier
Succeeded byEdmund Stoiber
In office
1 November 1982 – 31 October 1983
Preceded byHans Koschnick
Succeeded byFranz Josef Strauss
Mayor of Wuppertal
In office
Preceded byHermann Herberts
Succeeded byGottfried Gurland
Personal details
Born(1931-01-16)16 January 1931
Wuppertal, Rhine Province, Prussia, German Reich
Died27 January 2006(2006-01-27) (aged 75)
Berlin, Germany
Political partySocial Democratic Party of Germany
Spouse(s)Christina Rau (née Delius)
ChildrenPhilip Immanuel Rau
Anna Christina Rau
Laura Helene Rau

Education and workEdit

Rau was born in the Barmen part of Wuppertal, Rhine Province, as the third of five children. His family was strongly Protestant. As a schoolboy, Rau was active in the Confessing Church, a circle of the German Protestant Church which resisted Nazism.

Rau left school in 1949 and worked as a publisher, especially with the Protestant Youth Publishing House.

Political careerEdit

Rau was a member of the All-German People's Party (GVP), which was founded by Gustav Heinemann. The party was known for proposing German reunification from 1952 until it was disbanded in 1957.

In 1958, the pacifist[1] Rau and his political mentor, Gustav Heinemann, joined the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), where he was active in the Wuppertal chapter. He served as deputy chairman of the SPD party of Wuppertal and was elected later on to the City Council (1964–1978), where he served as chairman of the SPD Group (1964–1967) and later as Mayor (1969–1970).

In 1958, Rau was elected for the first time as member of the Landtag (state parliament) of North Rhine-Westphalia. In 1967, he became chairman of the SPD fraction in the Landtag, and in 1970, he was Minister of Science and Education in the cabinet of Minister President Heinz Kühn. He soon gained a reputation as a reformer. As part of the mass education campaign of the 1970s, he founded five universities, each at different sites, in North Rhine-Westphalia and initiated Germany's first distance learning university at Hagen (modelled on the British Open University).

In 1977, Rau became Chairman of the North Rhine-Westphalia SPD and, in 1978, Minister President of the state, which he remained until 1998, with four successful elections for the SPD, which became strongest party in the Landtag each time and gained an absolute majority three times, in 1980, 1985, 1990 and finally 1995. From 1995 onwards, Rau led an SPD-Greens coalition in North Rhine-Westphalia. Rau twice served as President of the Bundesrat in 1982/83 and 1994/95.

In 1987, Rau was his party's candidate to become chancellor of Germany for the SPD, but he lost the elections against Helmut Kohl’s Christian Democrats (CDU). In 1994, Rau was a candidate to become President of Germany but lost to Roman Herzog.

In 1998, Rau stepped down from his positions as SPD chairman and Minister President, and on 23 May 1999, he was elected President of Germany by the Federal Assembly of Germany to succeed Roman Herzog (CDU). On 1 July 2004, he was succeeded by Horst Köhler. In common with all other Federal presidents except for Heinemann, who had not wished to be seen off in this manner, Rau was honored by a Großer Zapfenstreich which, at his request, included the hymn "Jesus bleibet meine Freude" (literally "that Jesus remain my Joy", but commonly Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring).

During 2000, Rau became the first German head of state to address the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in German. The controversial step prompted some Israeli delegates to walk out. However, Israeli President Moshe Katsav supported and praised him for bridging the gap between the two states. Rau had a deep and lifelong commitment to bringing reconciliation between Germany and its past.


Rau's grave the day after his burial.

Rau had a long history of heart disease and died 11 days after his 75th birthday on 27 January 2006. The funeral took place on 7 February following a funeral act of state on the Dorotheenstadt cemetery in Berlin in the closest of family and friends.

Motto and maximEdit

The maxim of Rau was "to reconcile, not divide".

As his personal motto, Rau adopted the Confessing Church dictum "teneo, quia teneor" (I hold because I am held).

In his acceptance speech after his election, Rau claimed "A patriot I will be" because "a patriot is someone who loves his fatherland, a nationalist is someone who despises the fatherlands of the others". The quote can be attributed to the French writer Romain Gary.

Prizes and medalsEdit

Rau was awarded fifteen honorary doctorates. In 2001, he received the Leo Baeck Medal for his humanitarian work promoting tolerance and social justice.

Private lifeEdit

Rau was known as a practising Christian (sometimes known as Bruder Johannes, "Brother John", in ridicule of his intense Christian position; however, he sometimes used this term himself). He held lay positions in and was a member of the Synod of the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland, a member church of the Evangelical Church in Germany.

On 9 August 1982, Rau married the political scientist Christina Delius (born 1956). Christina Rau is a granddaughter of her husband's mentor, Gustav Heinemann, former President of Germany. The couple had three children: Anna Christina, born 1983, Philip Immanuel, born 1985 and Laura Helene, born 1986.

Since 1995 Rau was aware of a dangerous aneurysm in his abdominal aorta, but declined an operation out of respect for his office and the upcoming election as president. On 23 July 2000, the operation took place at the University Hospital of Essen. On 18 August 2004, he had to undergo serious heart surgery, in which an artificial heart valve was inserted. Only two months later (19 October 2004), a hematoma in the abdominal cavity was surgically removed.

After leaving office, Rau lived with his family in the federal capital, Berlin. However, they also kept a house in Wuppertal.


Foreign honoursEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Johannes Rau".
  2. ^ "Reply to a parliamentary question about the Decoration of Honour" (PDF) (in German). p. 1654. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
  3. ^ Icelandic Presidency Website (Icelandic), Order of the Falcon, Johannes & Christina Rau Archived 1 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine, 1 July 2003, Grand Cross with Collar & Grand Cross respectively
  4. ^ Slovak republic website, State honours : 1st Class in 2001 (click on "Holders of the Order of the 1st Class White Double Cross" to see the holders' table)
  5. ^ "The ceremony conferred the Order of the State – History". Presidency of Republic of Turkey. 6 April 2000. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
  6. ^ "Boletín Oficial del Estado" (PDF).

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Heinz Kühn
Minister-President of North Rhine-Westphalia
Succeeded by
Wolfgang Clement
Preceded by
Hans Koschnick
President of the German Bundesrat
Succeeded by
Franz Josef Strauss
Preceded by
Klaus Wedemeier
President of the German Bundesrat
Succeeded by
Edmund Stoiber
Preceded by
Roman Herzog
President of Germany
Succeeded by
Horst Köhler
Party political offices
Preceded by
Björn Engholm
Leader of the Social Democratic Party
Succeeded by
Rudolf Scharping