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Last Updated: Friday, 27 January 2006, 13:23 GMT
Germany's ex-president Rau dies
Johannes Rau and his wife Christina
Johannes Rau had suffered health problems before he died
The outspoken former German President, Johannes Rau, has died aged 75.

Mr Rau, a Social Democrat, stepped down in 2004 after provoking controversy several times during a five-year term.

In his farewell speech, he said Germany had fallen into a "collective depression" because people in authority kept talking the country down.

Mr Rau, who suffered health problems in recent years, died at his home in Berlin on Friday. He was succeeded as president by Horst Koehler.

Johannes Rau was born on 16 January 1931 in Wuppertal-Barmen, now North Rhine-Westphalia.

He worked as a journalist, after leaving school early, before launching his political career.

Have we put ourselves down so much that we don't believe in ourselves any more?
Johannes Rau

With the SPD, he became mayor of Wuppertal in 1969 and later was elected governor of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia in 1978.

He led the state - Germany's industrial heartland and most populous region - for 20 years, including an unsuccessful attempt to unseat Helmut Kohl as chancellor in 1986.

He lost a first bid for the presidency in 1994, but won at the second attempt in 1999.

Attack on greed

During his presidency, Mr Rau tried to encourage Germans to open up to foreigners. He travelled extensively in a bid "to make the image of Germany as a peaceful and democratic country better known".

In 2000, he became the first German leader to address the Israeli parliament, making an emotional plea for forgiveness for the Holocaust.

He was not averse to saying what he thought, however uncomfortable. In 2001, he sparked a national debate by saying Germans could not be proud of their nationality.

Three years later, in his farewell speech, he stunned the nation with a bitter attack on politicians and managers, calling them greedy and selfish.

"I don't know of any country where so many people in positions of responsibility take such pleasure in speaking so negatively about their own country," he said.

"Have we put ourselves down so much that we don't believe in ourselves any more? Are we sometimes getting to a kind of collective depression?"

He leaves his wife Christina and three children.


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