Roman Herzog

Roman Herzog

Roman Herzog in 2006
President of Germany
In office
1 July 1994  30 June 1999
Chancellor Helmut Kohl
Gerhard Schröder
Preceded by Richard von Weizsäcker
Succeeded by Johannes Rau
President of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany
In office
16 November 1987  30 June 1994
Preceded by Wolfgang Zeidler
Succeeded by Jutta Limbach
Personal details
Born (1934-04-05) 5 April 1934
Landshut, Bavaria, Germany
Nationality German
Political party Christian Democratic Union
Spouse(s) Christiane Krauß
(m. 1958–2000; her death)
Alexandra Freifrau von Berlichingen
(m. 2001)
Children 2
Alma mater Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
Profession Lawyer
Religion Lutheranism

Roman Herzog (born 5 April 1934) is a German politician, who served as President of Germany from 1994 to 1999. A member of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), he was the first President of Germany to be elected to office after the reunification of Germany. Prior to his election to the presidency of Germany, he served as a judge of the Federal Constitutional Court, and he was the President of the Constitutional Court from 1987 to his election as President of Germany.

Early life and career

Roman Herzog was born in Landshut, Bavaria, Germany, in 1934 to a Protestant family.

He studied law in Munich. In 1958, he completed his doctoral studies and worked as an assistant at the University of Munich until 1964, where he also passed his second juristic state exam. For his paper Die Wesensmerkmale der Staatsorganisation in rechtlicher und entwicklungsgeschichtlicher Sicht ("Characteristics of State Organization from a Juristic and Developmental-Historical Viewpoint"), in 1964 he was awarded the title of professor, a title of academic distinction in Germany, and taught at the University of Munich until 1966. From 1966 he taught constitutional law and political science as a full professor at the Free University of Berlin (FUB). In 1969, he accepted a chair of public law at the German University of Administrative Sciences and served as university president from 1971 to 1972.

Political career

Election poster for the state election of Rhineland-Palatinate with Roman Herzog, 1975

In 1973, Herzog’s political career began as a representative of the state (Land) of Rhineland-Palatinate with the Federal government in Bonn. He was State Minister for Culture and Sports in the Baden-Württemberg State Government led by Minister-President Lothar Späth from 1978. In 1980 he was elected to the Landtag of Baden-Württemberg and took over the State Ministry of the Interior.

Roman Herzog has also always been active in the Evangelical Church in Germany. Until 1980, he was head of the Chamber for Public Responsibility of this church, and, since 1982, he has been a member of the synod.

In 1983 Herzog was elected a judge at the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany (Bundesverfassungsgericht) in Karlsruhe, replacing Ernst Benda. From 1987 until 1994, he also served as the president of the Court, this time replacing Wolfgang Zeidler. In September 1994, he was succeeded in that office by Jutta Limbach.

President of Germany, 1994–1999

Already in 1993, Chancellor Helmut Kohl had selected Herzog as candidate for the 1994 presidential election, after his previous choice, the Saxon State Minister of Justice, Steffen Heitmann, had to withdraw because of an uproar about statements he made on the German past, ethnic conflict and the role of women.[1] By early 1994, however, leaders of the Free Democrats, the junior members of Kohl's coalition government, expressed support for Johannes Rau, the candidate whom the opposition Social Democrats nominated.[2] German media also speculated that other potential candidates included Kurt Masur and Walther Leisler Kiep.[3] The former Foreign Minister, Hans Dietrich Genscher refused to run.[4]

Herzog was elected President of Germany by the Federal Assembly (Bundesversammlung) on 23 May 1994. In the decisive third round of voting, he won the support of the Free Democrats.[5] Their decision was taken as a sign that the coalition remains firm.[6]

Herzog took office as Federal President on 1 July 1994.

In 1994, as President of Germany, Herzog participated in the commemorations of the 50th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising during the Nazi occupation of Poland. In a widely commended speech, he paid tribute to the Polish fighters and people and asked Poles for "forgiveness for what has been done to you by the Germans".[7] In 1995, Herzog was one of the few foreign dignitaries taking part in the observances on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp who chose to attend a Jewish service at the site of the camp rather than the official opening ceremony in Cracow sponsored by the Polish Government.[8]

In January 1996, Herzog declared 27 January, the anniversary of the 1945 liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, as Germany's official day of remembrance for the victims of Hitler's regime.[9]

In April 1997, Herzog caused a nationwide controversy when he, in a speech given at the Hotel Adlon in Berlin, portrayed Germany as dangerously delaying social and economic changes. In the speech, he rebuked leaders for legislative gridlock and decried a sense of national "dejection," a "feeling of paralysis" and even an "unbelievable mental depression." Compared with what he called the more innovative economies of Asia and America, he said that Germany was "threatened with falling behind."[10]

In a major step for Germany officially recognizing the murder and suffering of the Roma and Sinti under the Nazis, Herzog said in late 1997 that the persecution of the Roma and Sinti was the same as the terror against the Jews.[11]

In November 1998, Herzog’s office formally moved to Berlin, becoming the first federal agency to shift from Bonn to the redesignated capital city.[12]

Herzog retained his position until 30 June 1999 and did not seek reelection. Upon the end of his five-year term as Head of State, Herzog was succeeded by Johannes Rau.


Between December 1999 and October 2000, Herzog was chair of the European Convention which drafted the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

Alongside former central bank President Hans Tietmeyer and former federal Judge Paul Kirchhof, Herzog led an independent commission to investigate a financing scandal plaguing the CDU between January and March 2000.[13]

Amid a German debate over the ethics of research in biotechnology and particularly the use of embryos for genetic inquiry and diagnosis in 2001, Herzog argued that an absolute ban on research on embryonic stem cells – which have the ability to develop into the body's different tissues – would be excessive: I am not prepared to explain to a child sick with cystic fibrosis, facing death and fighting for breath, the ethical grounds that hinder the science which could save him, Herzog said.[14]

In response to Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s "Agenda 2010" presented in 2003, then-opposition leader and CDU chairwoman Angela Merkel assigned the task of drafting alternative proposals for social welfare reform to a commission led by Herzog. The party later approved the Herzog Commission's package of reform proposals which recommend, among other things, decoupling health and nursing care premiums from people’s earnings and levying a lump monthly sum across the board instead.[15]

Other activities (selection)

Recognition (selection)

Personal life

Herzog’s wife, Christiane Herzog, died on 19 June 2000. In 2001, he married Alexandra Freifrau von Berlichingen.

He is a member of the Evangelical Church in Germany.


  1. Craig R. Whitney (1 May 1994), German Coalition Is Divided Over Kohl's Choice for President New York Times.
  2. Craig R. Whitney (1 May 1994), German Coalition Is Divided Over Kohl's Choice for President New York Times.
  3. Craig R. Whitney (1 May 1994), German Coalition Is Divided Over Kohl's Choice for President New York Times.
  4. Craig R. Whitney (6 March 1994), Germans Campaign In President Race New York Times.
  5. Stephen Kinzer (24 May 1994), Kohl's Choice Is Named German President New York Times.
  6. Stephen Kinzer (24 May 1994), Kohl's Choice Is Named German President New York Times.
  7. Borodziej, Włodzimierz; Harshav, Barbara (2006), The Warsaw Uprising of 1944, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, p. 147.
  8. Stephen Kinzer (28 January 1995), Germans Reflect on Meaning of Auschwitz New York Times.
  9. Germany Observes Holocaust Memorial Day Los Angeles Times, 28 January 1996.
  10. John Schmid (30 April 1997), German President's Lament Rejected: Much Distress in Europe Over Talk, Talk, Talk International Herald Tribune.
  11. Catherine Hickley (24 October 2012), Holocaust Memorial for Roma, Sinti Opens After Delays Bloomberg News.
  12. Christopher S. Wren (24 November 1998), Germany: President Moves To Berlin New York Times.
  13. Kohl's Party Names Panel in Funds Probe Los Angeles Times, 15 January 2000.
  14. Roger Cohen (30 May 2001), Clash on Use of Embryos in Germany Stirs Echoes of Nazi Era New York Times.
  15. German Opposition Split Over Reforms Deutsche Welle, 8 October 2003.
  16. Roman Herzog: Lascher Aufseher Spiegel Online, 30 July 2001.
  17. Board of Trustees Dresden Frauenkirche.
  18. "Semakan Penerima Darjah Kebesaran, Bintang, dan Pingat Persekutuan.".
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Political offices
Preceded by
Richard von Weizsäcker
President of Germany
Succeeded by
Johannes Rau
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