Remembering Roman Herzog

The DGAP mourns the Federal Republic of Germany's seventh president



Roman Herzog’s death marks the loss for Germany of a dedicated politician who did much to stimulate the discussion of foreign policy values and interests. In particular, he made a very important contribution to improving Germany’s relationship with Poland, more than any other German Federal President. He served in that office from 1994 to 1999.

We warmly recall the visionary speech he delivered here in 1995, six years after the end of the Cold War, on the occasion of our fortieth anniversary.

In that speech he noted that the shape of the new world order was not yet clear, even as the bipolar system no longer existed. Social, ecological, and cultural inequality, he said, are additional security risks that will hardly be inferior to military security risks in the long term. This calls neither for gloomy realism nor dreamy idealism but, rather, for pragmatism – a pragmatism able to grasp that risk-averse inactivity can in the long term be more dangerous than preparedness to take risks.

This includes the understanding that, “in foreign policy, it is sometimes more helpful to win partners over than to confront them; that it can be more important to uphold the dignity of others than to insist on one’s own dignity; that it is sometimes more effective to prove somebody else right than to be proven right. One thing is important above all else: gaining greater knowledge about a greater number of states.”

Federal President Herzog concluded his remarks by calling on his audience to “mobilize your analytical capacity, use your institutional memory, achieve trust through international networks, open up your forum to fair dialogue.” It is a rallying call that we continue to hear very clearly today.

It is with respect and gratitude that we will uphold the memory of this great president of the Federal Republic of Germany.