Johannes Rau

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Johannes Rau (2004)
Signature of Johannes Rau

Johannes Rau (born January 16, 1931 in Wuppertal ; † January 27, 2006 in Berlin ) was a German politician and from 1999 to 2004 the eighth Federal President of the Federal Republic of Germany .

After joining the SPD , he was Lord Mayor of Wuppertal from 1969 to 1970 and then Minister of Science in North Rhine-Westphalia . From 1977 to 1998 he was state chairman of the SPD and from 1978 to 1998 the sixth Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia , which means that he has held both offices longer than anyone else. In the federal election in 1987 , he was the SPD's candidate for chancellor . In 1993, after the resignation of Björn Engholm, he provisionally chaired the SPD federal party.


Youth and job

Rau was the son of the merchant and Blue Cross preacher Ewald Rau (born April 1, 1898 - December 15, 1953) and of Helene Rau, b. Hartmann (March 27, 1901 - August 1, 1988). After attending the Schützenstrasse elementary school in Wuppertal- Barmen , he entered the Wilhelm-Dörpfeld-Gymnasium in Wuppertal- Elberfeld in 1942 , which was destroyed in the air raid on Elberfeld at the end of June 1943 . Later Rau attended the Humanist Gymnasium in Barmen, today's all-day high school Johannes Rau . After he had stayed away to the chagrin of his father's class several times, he had on his insistence in September 1948, the school after Obertertia cancel. On October 5, 1948, he began an apprenticeship as a bookseller at the Emil Müller publishing house in Wuppertal. From 1949 he was also a freelancer for the Westdeutsche Rundschau in Wuppertal.

After completing his apprenticeship, he worked as a publishing assistant in Wuppertal from June 1952 and became an editor at a smaller publishing house in Witten in 1953 . From 1954 he worked as managing director of the youth service publishing house ; In 1962 he became a member of the board and in 1965 director of this publishing house.


On August 9, 1982, Johannes Rau married Christina Delius (* 1956), a granddaughter of the former Federal President Gustav Heinemann and niece of the theologian Uta Ranke-Heinemann . The marriage resulted in three children, Anna Christina (born December 19, 1983), Philip Immanuel (born January 28, 1985) and Laura Helene (born November 10, 1986). The civil ceremony took place in London , while the church ceremony took place on August 22, 1982 in the New Evangelical Island Church in Spiekeroog . The children were also baptized on the North Sea island. For decades, Spiekeroog was the holiday destination of the Rau family, who owned a holiday home there. In the summer of 2000, Rau became an honorary citizen here .

Rau got by with three residences all his life: he grew up between Barmer Nordpark and Klingelholl in his parents' apartment and stayed there until the end of the 1970s. During his time as Prime Minister he lived in his own home in the Briller quarter in the Elberfeld district . Only when he took office as Federal President did he have to live in Berlin; Bellevue Palace was not available due to renovation work. For example, the “official residence of the Bundestag President ” (Miquelstrasse 66–68 in Dahlem ), built between 1911 and 1912, was used, which he did not use himself.

His way of living the Evangelical Christian faith publicly earned Rau the name "Brother Johannes", but also a satirical rating as a "feared church congressman". He borrowed his life motto “ Teneo, quia teneor ” from the Confessing Church , in which he himself was active in his youth.

The grave of Johannes Rau the day after the funeral

Rau had known about his dangerous aneurysm in the abdominal artery since 1995 , but always refused an operation out of consideration for his offices and the impending election of the Federal President until he had an operation on July 23, 2000 at the Essen University Hospital. On August 18, 2004, he had to undergo severe heart surgery in which an artificial heart valve was inserted. Only two months later (October 19, 2004) a bruise in the abdomen had to be surgically removed at the Essen University Hospital.

Johannes Rau's last public appearances were the presentation of the German-Turkish Friendship Prize in Solingen (May 29, 2005) and the inauguration of the Frauenkirche in Dresden (October 30, 2005). For health reasons, he was unable to attend a reception for the Federal President on his 75th birthday on January 16, 2006 in Bellevue Palace in Berlin.

Johannes Rau died on January 27, 2006 around 8:30 a.m. in Berlin with his family. The funeral took place on February 7th, following an act of mourning at the Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof in Berlin in the closest family and friends.

Political career

All-German People's Party

After the first Federal Minister of the Interior, Gustav Heinemann , resigned from his post in 1950 in protest against the planned rearmament and two years later also resigned from the CDU he co-founded, he founded the All-German People's Party (GVP), a member of the Rau and immediately its district chairman in Wuppertal has been. As early as 1957, the GVP disbanded and Rau became a member of the SPD together with Heinemann and others .

Conscientious objectors and SPD parliamentarians

From 1958 to 1962 Rau was chairman of the Young Socialists in Wuppertal. During this time he also became a member of the group of conscientious objectors (GdW), from which the Association of Conscientious Objectors emerged in 1958 . In 1958 he competed with the then GdW chairman Werner Böwing for the Juso chairmanship in Wuppertal and won. In the same year he was first elected to the state parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia , to which he belonged until 1999. In 1962 he became a member of the executive committee of the SPD parliamentary group and in 1967 its chairman. From 1964 to 1978 he was also a member of the Wuppertal city council.

From 1973 he was a member of the state board in North Rhine-Westphalia, from 1977 to 1998 also its chairman.

Deputy SPD federal chairman

In 1968 Rau was elected to the federal executive committee of the SPD and from 1978 was a member of the presidium of the SPD. From 1982 Johannes Rau was the SPD deputy federal chairman under the party leaders Willy Brandt , Hans-Jochen Vogel , Björn Engholm , Rudolf Scharping , Oskar Lafontaine and Gerhard Schröder . After Björn Engholm's resignation, Johannes Rau took over provisional chairmanship of the SPD from May 5 until Rudolf Scharping was elected on June 23, 1993.

Lord Mayor of Wuppertal

From 1969 to 1970 Johannes Rau was honorary mayor in his native city of Wuppertal .

Minister in North Rhine-Westphalia

Erich Honecker, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the SED and Chairman of the State Council of the GDR, with Johannes Rau, Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, during his information visit to the GDR in 1985

In 1970, Prime Minister Heinz Kühn Rau appointed him to the cabinet and made him responsible for science and research .

During Rau's tenure as Minister of Science in North Rhine-Westphalia from 1970 to 1978, five comprehensive universities were founded in North Rhine-Westphalia in 1972 in Duisburg, Essen, Paderborn, Siegen and Wuppertal, which were later renamed universities. Rau, who is considered to be the father of higher education regionalization in North Rhine-Westphalia, also founded the distance university in Hagen in 1974 as the first state distance university and converted the former engineering schools into technical colleges .

Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia

Johannes Rau with the chairman of the GDR – SPD Ibrahim Böhme during the election campaign for the last Volkskammer election (1990)

In 1977 Rau was elected chairman of the NRW-SPD. He won the vote against Friedhelm Farthmann , which was also a preliminary decision for the office of Prime Minister.

In 1978, Rau succeeded Heinz Kühn as Prime Minister. Under his leadership, the SPD was able to win or defend an absolute majority in the state elections in 1980 , 1985 and 1990 . Well-known representatives of the NRW CDU, who were defeated by the SPD in the election campaigns that were entirely tailored to Rau's person, failed in the process: the CDU challengers Kurt Biedenkopf in 1980, Bernhard Worms in 1985, Norbert Blüm in 1990 and Helmut Linssen in 1995 . In 1985, the SPD in NRW under Rau achieved the best result in its history with 52.1%, which is also due to the campaign “We in North Rhine-Westphalia”. In 1995 the SPD lost an absolute majority with 46% of the vote and formed a coalition with Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen . During his tenure, he briefly held the post of Minister for Federal Affairs in 1980 and from 1990 to 1995 . From November 1, 1982 to October 31, 1983 and from November 1, 1994 to October 31, 1995, Rau held the office of President of the Federal Council.

Chancellor candidate

In the federal election in 1987 he was a candidate for chancellor of the SPD, but was defeated by the incumbent Chancellor Helmut Kohl . The SPD received 37 percent of the vote and thus lost 1.2 percentage points compared to 1983.

Resignation as Prime Minister

In May 1998 he resigned as Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia and in the same year also as state chairman of the SPD NRW . His successor in the party office on May 24th was Franz Müntefering , the former state labor minister and then federal manager of the SPD. Wolfgang Clement was elected Prime Minister on May 27, 1998 (→ Clement I cabinet ), who was Minister of Economics in the Rau V cabinet until his election .

Federal President

Federal President Rau on the Day of German Unity 2002 in Berlin

In 1994 the SPD nominated Johannes Rau for the first time as its candidate for the office of Federal President. In the third ballot, however, he was defeated by the CDU candidate Roman Herzog .

Since the Bundestag election in 1998 , red-green had a majority in the Bundestag and Rau was nominated again by the SPD as a candidate for the office of Federal President in November 1998. On May 23, 1999, the Federal Assembly elected him Federal President in the second ballot . The CDU had nominated the later Thuringian Minister of Science Dagmar Schipanski ; the PDS the non-party theologian Uta Ranke-Heinemann , an aunt of Rau's wife. On July 1, 1999, Rau was sworn in as Federal President during the last session of the Bundestag in Bonn.

Rau continued the series of Berlin speeches begun in 1997 by his predecessor Roman Herzog . Unlike under Herzog, he gave the annual speeches himself, thus establishing a new tradition. In his first speech, given in 2000, "Without fear and without dreams: Living together in Germany", he named the tasks associated with immigration to Germany . In 2001 his speech was “Will everything be okay? For progress on a human scale ”. In it he addressed the fundamental questions raised by progress, for example in reproductive medicine. In the speech given in 2002, “Chance, not fate - shaping globalization politically”, Johannes Rau spoke about how much people's lives are influenced by international developments and what opportunities and problems this brings with it. "Acting together - Germany's responsibility in the world" was the title of the Berlin speech in 2003. Rau mentioned that since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent German reunification in 1990, a large number of international tasks were added to Germany and had to be helped to shape it. Johannes Rau gave his last Berlin speech in May 2004 on the subject of “Trust in Germany - an encouragement”. In it he urged politicians and entrepreneurs in Germany to be more honest and responsible in an unusually direct manner.

Rau undertook a total of 76 trips abroad as head of state. During his state visit to Israel in 2000, he was the first German politician to stand before the Knesset in this capacity . His speech there on February 16 was the first to be given in German. There he asked for forgiveness for the crimes of the Holocaust .

In 2001 Johannes Rau spoke to the German Bundestag on the occasion of the commemoration day for the commemoration of the victims of National Socialism .

On June 22, 2002, Johannes Rau issued a statement that was unusual in its severity on the occasion of the party spectacle surrounding the Immigration Act , in which he described the tussle organized by the parties about the Federal Council vote on the aforementioned law as unworthy. The legal assessment of the inconsistent votes cast by the State of Brandenburg, which the then President of the Federal Council, Klaus Wowereit, took as approval, was controversial in the constitutional literature. Rau nevertheless drafted the law in order to enable the Federal Constitutional Court to review the law by means of an abstract control of norms .

Johannes Rau (2003)

According to Rau's understanding of office, the Federal President is only entitled to refuse the execution of a law if it was "obviously and undisputed" in violation of the constitution. Since such a case had not yet occurred in practice, there was no comparable case law of the Federal Constitutional Court , so that only different legal comments were available that came to different results. The constitutional assessment of a law, about the correct implementation of which there are different legal opinions, is not the responsibility of the Federal President, but the competence of the Federal Constitutional Court. In this view, Rau referred, among other things, to comparable decisions made by his predecessors Carstens and Herzog .

The Federal Constitutional Court declared the Immigration Act null and void in a judgment of December 18, 2002, because the Federal Council had not agreed: the inconsistent voting by the state of Brandenburg could not be taken as approval.

On September 4, 2003, Rau announced that he would no longer run for the office of Federal President in the next election on May 23, 2004.

On March 23, 2004, Rau broke off his trip to Africa before the planned troop visit to German marines in Djibouti . According to intelligence reports, a high-ranking European representative, possibly Rau, was to be murdered. On April 23, 2004, he returned from Poland from the last state visit of his term in office.

On June 29, 2004, he was adopted by the Bundeswehr with a big tattoo . His term of office ended on June 30, 2004.

Evaluation of his policies by others

Supporters praised Johannes Rau as a moral authority that was always concerned with social equilibrium, one of his best-known quotes was “Reconciling instead of splitting”. Religious motives also played a role in his work, for example with regard to his commitment to social justice.

Critics accuse Johannes Rau of the fact that the state of North Rhine-Westphalia has fallen behind significantly economically, technologically and socially under its 20-year leadership in Germany. Rau held on to old industries for too long, especially the deficit coal mining , and gave too little support to new technologies. These critics are often countered by the fact that the structural change in the steel industry and mining has had a disproportionate impact on the country and that the politics of Raus have contributed to preventing mass impoverishment as a result of the structural change.

Politics affairs

Johannes Rau (2004)

Der Spiegel reported in February 2000 that during Rau's tenure as Prime Minister, the Westdeutsche Landesbank ( WestLB ) had been turned into a secret side fund of the state, with travel for the government and travel for the election campaign not being properly separated and government work being financed from sources that Parliament did not know and could not control. In addition to the protagonist Johannes Rau named in the Spiegel report, his successor Wolfgang Clement was also criticized.

In the Düsseldorf flight affair , WestLB paid leading SPD politicians - including Rau - and CDU their private flight costs and also deducted the excessive bills from taxes. WestLB also took on the costs of 150,000 DM for a party that Johannes Rau celebrated on January 18, 1996 with 1,500 guests on the occasion of his 65th birthday.

As a candidate for chancellor, Rau was supported by the GDR government in the 1986/87 election campaign . In 1986 around 100,000 Tamils, Lebanese, Iranians, Indians, Ghanaians and other foreigners entered the Federal Republic as asylum seekers, mostly via the GDR airport Berlin-Schönefeld. This immigration was perceived as a burden and was a campaign issue. During his visit in 1986, the GDR leadership made the SPD presidium member Egon Bahr publicly the concession to prevent the refugees from entering the Federal Republic in future. In return, Rau promised to be the first Federal Chancellor to declare full respect for GDR citizenship in his government program.

Other engagement

Honorary positions

Johannes Rau was the patron of the Students Help Life initiative and honorary sponsor of the world's millionth sponsored child of the children's aid organization Plan International . He had taken over the honorary sponsorship from his predecessor Roman Herzog . He was also the patron of the German Foundation for Monument Protection and the Balver Höhle Festival . Johannes Rau was committed to the Museum Schloss Moyland Foundation , of which he was Chairman of the Board of Trustees until 1998. In 2000 he also took over the patronage of the citizens' initiative Show your face! who fights against hatred of foreigners and so-called no-go areas in Germany .

From 1965 to 1999 Johannes Rau was a member of the regional synod of the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland and was a deputy member of the church leadership of the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland; Rau was closely associated with the German Evangelical Church Congress ; from 1966 to 1974 he was a member of the Presidium and also took part regularly in the Kirchentag in an official capacity and as a private citizen.

Johannes Rau was for many years Deputy Chairman of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and co-editor of the Protestant magazine Zeitzeichen . In 2000 he set up his own foundation, the Johannes Rau Foundation .

Memberships and initiatives

Commemoration and awards

Memorial in front of the former State Chancellery
Tombstone of Johannes Rau

Federal President Horst Köhler ordered a state ceremony after the service in Berlin Cathedral on February 7, 2006, eleven days after his death, in memory of the former Federal President Rau .

On March 2, 2006, Deutsche Post issued a special stamp on the occasion of the death of Johannes Rau.

In front of the former state chancellery, the Villa Horion in Düsseldorf, a bronze statue was erected as a gift from the Rau family in May 2008, which was designed by the British sculptor Anne Lacey-Weers on behalf of Rau's widow.

In 2000, Johannes Rau founded the Johannes Rau Foundation , which primarily promotes Wuppertal projects. After his death, Christina and Anna Rau sit on the board of the family.

On the fifth anniversary of his death, the SPD founded the Johannes Rau Society , which awards an annual research grant of 15,000 euros on a topic of social importance . The foundation funds of around 30,000 euros are raised by the SPD's own companies. Christina Rau is also on the board here.

Several schools bear his name, including two in Wuppertal. In Düsseldorf the square in front of the former State Chancellery (Villa Horion) and in Wuppertal the town hall forecourt is named after Rau, as is another square in Eschweiler.

In April 2014, the Johannes Rau Research Association was founded by 13 scientific institutes and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, represented by the Ministry of Science .

2018 was in Cologne-Deutz of Johannes Rau square named after him.

Honorary doctorates

Johannes Rau received an honorary doctorate from:

Honorary citizenships

Johannes Rau became an honorary citizen of:

Other awards

See also

Speeches and writings


  • Uwe Birnstein: Johannes Rau the Reconciler. A portrait . Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-88981-203-1 .
  • Scott Gissendanner, Dirk Vogel: Johannes Rau. Morally impeccable failure . In: Daniela Forkmann, Saskia Richter (Ed.): Failed Chancellor Candidates . From Kurt Schumacher to Edmund Stoiber . VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2007, ISBN 978-3-531-15051-2 .
  • Christian G. Irrgang (photos), Martin E. Süskind (text): Johannes Rau - Portrait of a President . Photo documentation. Propylaen / Econ, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-549-07151-5 .
  • Jürgen Mittag, Klaus Tenfelde (ed.): Reconciling instead of dividing. Johannes Rau . Oberhausen 2007, ISBN 978-3-938834-28-2 .
  • Martin Florack: Johannes Rau . In: Sven Gösmann (ed.): Our Prime Ministers in North Rhine-Westphalia. Nine portraits from Rudolf Amelunxen to Jürgen Rüttgers . Droste, Düsseldorf 2008, ISBN 978-3-7700-1292-3 , p. 154-181 .
  • The cabinet minutes of the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia 1966 to 1970 (sixth electoral period) . In: Christoph Nonn, Wilfried Reininghaus, Wolf-Rüdiger Schleidgen (eds.): Publications of the North Rhine-Westphalia State Archives 8 . a. u. edit by Andreas Pilger. Siegburg 2006, ISBN 3-87710-361-8 .
  • The cabinet minutes of the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia 1970 to 1975 (seventh electoral period) . In: Frank Michael Bischoff, Christoph Nonn, Wilfried Reininghaus (eds.): Publications of the State Archive of North Rhine-Westphalia 27 . a. u. edit (Photos) by Martin Schlemmer. Düsseldorf 2009, ISBN 978-3-9805419-7-8 .

Web links

Commons : Johannes Rau  - Collection of Images

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Story (s) from the WDG, 1579–2004, ed. by Elke Brychta on the 425th anniversary, Wuppertal 2004, personal greeting from the former president, page 6
  2. history. In: Retrieved April 25, 2020 . Johannes Rau was a student there from January 8, 1947 to September 30, 1948.
  3. the daily newspaper : Patrioterrorism by Wiglaf Droste , March 26, 2004
  4. Norbert Wallet: Reconciler, narrator, fisherman of men. In: Kölnische Rundschau . January 27, 2006, accessed August 1, 2019 .
  5. ^ Act of mourning for Rau, Federal Ministry of the Interior
  6. grave of Johannes Rau
  7. ^ Letter of October 21, 1997 from Johannes Rau to Werner Böwing, printed in the opening credits of the book by Werner Böwing: Memories of the attempt to change the wind direction with an air pump , self-published Solinger Geschichtswerkstatt eV, Solingen 1997, ISBN 3-9805443-2 -X
  8. ^ Johannes Rau at the state parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia
  9. ^ SPD in North Rhine-Westphalia: Rau made the race . In: The time . No. 28/1977 ( online ).
  10. The professor does the accounts. In: . June 27, 1996, accessed October 7, 2018 .
  11. ^ A timetable of the conjunctives (November 17, 1997) , dates
  12. ↑ The top of the SPD is committed: Rau is to become Federal President , Berliner Zeitung of November 1, 1998
  13. ^ Johannes Rau: Berlin Speech 2000 .
  14. Johannes Rau: Berlin Speech 2001 ( Memento from July 30, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  15. ^ Johannes Rau: Berlin Speech 2002
  16. ^ Johannes Rau: Berlin Speech 2003
  17. Johannes Rau: Berlin Speech 2004
  18. ^ Declaration by Federal President Johannes Rau on the implementation of the Immigration Act on June 20, 2002
  19. 2 Senate of the Federal Constitutional Court: Federal Constitutional Court - decisions - nullity of the immigration law: inconsistencies in the votes cast by Brandenburg - right of the President of the Federal Council to inquire. December 18, 2002, accessed June 4, 2019 .
  20. ^ Susann Kreutzmann ( of January 27, 2006): Johannes Rau. “Reconciling instead of dividing” , accessed on December 16, 2019.
  21. ^ Karl-Heinz Gehm ( of January 27, 2006): Johannes Rau. Or: mourning a political integrator , accessed on December 16, 2019.
  22. Pascal Beucker ( from December 20, 2012): In the Ruhr area things go steeply downhill. Where the sun collects dust , accessed December 16, 2019.
  23. of August 23, 2016: NRW - Land of Successes and Worries , accessed on December 16, 2019.
  24. Stefan Berg, Georg Bönisch, Thomas Darnstädt , Barbara Schmid: The red cash register of the comrades . In: Der Spiegel . No. 7 , 2000 ( online - Feb. 14, 2000 ).
  25. ^ The flight affair from the beginning , SPIEGEL of January 26, 2000
  26. ^ Birthday party settled through the State Chancellery , SPIEGEL of February 2, 2000
  27. Jochen Staadt: The SED in the federal election campaign 1986/87. in: Klaus Schroeder (Ed.): “History and Transformation of the SED State - Contributions and Analyzes” , Research Association SED State at the Free University of Berlin, Akademie Verlag, 1994, pp. 286–308.
  28. ^ Election campaign assistance from East Berlin , Focus No. 41 (1994), October 9, 1994
  29. WZ interview with Christina Rau. January 25, 2008, accessed January 2011.
  30. ^ Johannes Rau Society founded . In: Vorwärts , January 25, 2011, accessed January 2011.
  31. WZ Interview, 2008.
  32. In future under one roof: 13 institutes and the state found the Johannes Rau Research Association . Press release from the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Research, April 2, 2014.
  33. Central name archive. (pdf, 361 kB) In: Official Gazette of the City of Cologne. July 25, 2018, pp. 304/308 , accessed July 28, 2018 .
  34. European Craft Prize. North Rhine-Westphalian Crafts Day V., accessed on March 10, 2015 .
  35. List of all decorations awarded by the Federal President for services to the Republic of Austria from 1952 (PDF; 6.9 MB)
  36. Integration award . Apple Tree Foundation, accessed on October 30, 2016 .