A funeral service and an official ceremony were held on 11 February in memory of former Federal President Richard von Weizsäcker. Foreign Minister Steinmeier was one of the speakers in the Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral).
Around 1400 invited guests attended Richard von Weizsäcker’s funeral service on Wednesday (11 February). An official ceremony was held in the Berliner Dom on the orders of Federal President Joachim Gauck.
Richard von Weizsäcker died on 31 January at the age of 94. He was the sixth President of the Federal Republic of Germany (1984–1994), and thus the first Federal President of the reunited Germany. Prior to that, he served as Governing Mayor of Berlin from 1981 to 1984.
After the funeral service, Joachim Gauck, who gave the first speech at the official ceremony, paid tribute to the former Federal President “with great and heartfelt thankfulness”, describing him as “a great German and an outstanding Federal President” who “set a high standard for his successors to live up to”.
Gauck said that German history had helped shape the person von Weizsäcker was, and that the former Federal President had “certainly helped shape our country’s history”.
Speech by Federal Minister Steinmeier
Foreign Minister Steinmeier gave an address after Federal President Gauck’s speech. Steinmeier said that von Weizsäcker’s speech on German history on 8 May 1985 had “made history”: “When he spoke of a ‘day of liberation’, it had a liberating effect on our country.” Steinmeier’s address was followed by speeches by the former Vice-President of the German Bundestag, Antje Vollmer, and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble.
Steinmeier said that even after the day of parting, there was a duty to keep Richard von Weizsäcker’s memory and ideals alive. The Foreign Minister underlined how von Weizsäcker sought to resolve conflicts and build bridges between the generations:
In my mind’s eye, I can still see the lectern in Bonn: his stature – Federal President, a liberal aristocrat from a generations-old elite. How emphatic those words sounded in the ears of my generation, in my own ears: those of a left-wing student, the son of a carpenter, from a humble background!
Building trust in Germany and abroad
In his speech, Foreign Minister Steinmeier also described von Weizsäcker’s wide-ranging political achievements. He said that the former Federal President “did not only speak of reconciliation. He actively fostered trust among our neighbours – in Poland, in France. He did so consistently over decades. ... he also helped ensure the success of the Ostverträge, the series of treaties with Eastern bloc countries.”
Steinmeier said that at the end of his speech on 8 May 1985, Federal President Richard von Weizsäcker had called on young people to “learn to live together, not in opposition to each other.”
The Foreign Minister said “his words rang true to young and old, Germany and the world because they rang true to him!”
At the end of his address, Steinmeier emphasised that von Weizsäcker’s influence did not end with his death, and that “his memory would be revered for all time”. Steinmeier regards the trust created by former Federal President von Weizsäcker as extremely important.
Richard von Weizsäcker inspired new trust in our country around the world. This trust was vital on the road to reunification. Our country draws on it to this day.