• Germany's news in English
 
Activist pastor takes office as president
Gauck (r), his partner Daniela Schadt and predecessor Christian Wulff.Photo: DPA

Activist pastor takes office as president

Published: 18 Mar 2012 14:49 GMT+01:00
Updated: 19 Mar 2012 11:09 GMT+01:00

Gauck, 72, claimed 991 votes out of 1,232 from a special assembly of MPs and other dignitaries who voted on Sunday - against prominent Nazi hunter Beate Klarsfeld, 73, who was nominated as a protest candidate by the socialist Left party.

"What a beautiful Sunday," Gauck said to enthusiastic applause from the chamber of the glass-domed Reichstag parliament building in central Berlin after the vote.

It was the third presidential election in three years for Germany after the abrupt resignations of Gauck's two predecessors.

Gauck helped drive the peaceful revolution that brought down communist East Germany and later fought to ensure that the public would be granted access to the vast stash of files left behind by the despised Stasi secret police after reunification in 1990. He oversaw the archive for the next decade.

In a short acceptance speech, he noted that his election fell on the 22nd anniversary of the first free elections in East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall the previous November.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who also grew up under communism, gave her backing to the plain-spoken Lutheran pastor in February after then president Christian Wulff stepped down amid a flurry of corruption allegations dating from his time as a state premier.

Wulff only served 20 months of his five-year term in office.

He had replaced Horst Köhler, a former head of the International Monetary Fund who bowed out after an uproar over comments he made appearing to justify using the military to serve Germany's economic interests.

Claudia Roth, co-leader of the opposition Greens party, which supported Gauck's candidacy along with the rest of Germany's mainstream parties, said the country was looking to Gauck to "give this badly damaged office dignity and respect again."

A poll for ARD public television released Saturday indicated that 80 percent of respondents consider him to be trustworthy.

The media and the public cheered his candidacy as an opportunity to remove some of the tarnish from the largely ceremonial office which serves as a kind of moral compass for the nation.

Expectations are outsized for Gauck, who has won a reputation across the country as an inspiring public speaker, albeit with a touch of vanity.

But as a staunch Protestant like Merkel, he is also keen to remind Germans that their hard-won freedoms carry weighty responsibilities with them - a lifelong theme he has said he will take to the presidential palace.

"From Gauck we can learn that democracy means thinking and acting for one's self rather than waiting for political redeemers," the influential news weekly Die Zeit said in its current issue.

Gauck himself warned scandal-weary Germans against seeing him as a redeemer, telling reporters the night he was nominated that they should not expect "Superman."

He said he would seek to relieve Germans of some of their angst as Europe grapples with its sovereign debt crisis and to reach out to immigrant groups to foster integration.

Gauck looked set to buck tradition from the start, as his longtime girlfriend Daniela Schadt said he had no plans to divorce his estranged wife of more than 50 years Gerhild and wed her.

"I see no reason to marry for reasons of protocol," the 52-year-old journalist who is now Germany's First Lady told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

"Considering the fact that not only Jochen and I but the whole family accepts our arrangement, I think the rest of society can live with it," she said, using Gauck's nickname.

AFP/bk

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

15:11 March 18, 2012 by klaus stoiber
"It was the third presidential election in three years for Germany after the abrupt resignations of Gauck's two predecessors.

"

This is precisely why we can never bring back a constitutional monarchy.
16:42 March 18, 2012 by marimay
Well, it should come as no surprise why your goverment loves to take from you and give to other people. They think nothing of it, its normal. lol
17:29 March 18, 2012 by deutscherMann
How come we never be able to elect our President?
18:53 March 18, 2012 by taxpayerrr
"Well, it should come as no surprise why your goverment loves to take from you and give to other people. They think nothing of it, its normal. lol "

Yes and it's normal for other people to tell the German as poor , but secretly they want to make a free ride to get some benefits that they themselves cannot afford it. So it's easy for other people to spend their money now because they think there are some other tax payers in this world who will provide the necessary needs of their offsprings . So the only person wh can bullied other countries people are those people who can afford to stand themselves until the end without help from other tax payers in other side of the world.
23:13 March 18, 2012 by lenny van
Whoever said that Germans are moral zombies?
11:31 March 19, 2012 by ChrisRea
Hamilton Nolan used this expression. However he was not referring to Germans, but to passive bystanders who would rather film with their cell phone camera than to try to stop a street fight (like to two women grabbing each other at the Giants' victory parade at the beginning of February). http://gawker.com/5883368/cell-phone-cameras-and-the-end-of-the-fair-fight
14:25 March 19, 2012 by Bravo2
Good man. But he has really bad teeth. Hopefully he'll get them fixed now that he will be representing Germany around the world. Granted, bad teeth don't seem to bother anyone here but in many other countries they are a reflection of basic personal hygiene.
Today's headlines
Germans hit back at anti-immigrant movement
Demonstrators protest against PEGIDA. Photo: DPA

Germans hit back at anti-immigrant movement

Business leaders, the political class and average Germans are pushing back against a growing anti-immigrant movement, saying it threatens the values and image the country fought hard to establish since the war. READ  

German president urges refugee compassion
Photo: DPA

German president urges refugee compassion

Germany's president appealed in a Christmas message for compassion and openness towards refugees coming to the country, which is grappling with a growing anti-Islam movement. READ  

Reward offered for €150k homing pigeon
A female homing pigeon. Photo: DPA

Reward offered for €150k homing pigeon

A breeder in Düsseldorf has offered a €10,000 reward after thieves stole a homing pigeon worth €150,000 from his aviary. READ  

Royal palace restored to glory after €4.5m refit
The vestibule of the Schloss Charlottenburg, which reopens on Boxing Day Photo: DPA

Royal palace restored to glory after €4.5m refit

The royal palace of Fredrick the Great in Berlin is to fully reopen to visitors on Boxing Day after a 4.5 million euro refit. READ  

Bertolt Brecht statue hit with potato salad
Bertolt Brecht and his salad. Photo: DPA

Bertolt Brecht statue hit with potato salad

Bertolt Brecht's statue in front of the Berliner Ensemble theatre was splattered with potato salad by pranksters early on Tuesday morning, in a protest against supposed gentrification of the capital by wealthy southerners. READ  

'Cursed' Christmas Market catches fire
The ferris wheel at Alexa Christmas Market where a man fell to his death last week Photo: DPA

'Cursed' Christmas Market catches fire

A blaze at one of Berlin's biggest Christmas markets has caused locals to wonder if the place is cursed. READ  

JobTalk Germany: Entrepreneur series
'Don’t be skimpy in rewarding top talent'
Taulia co-founder Bertram Meyer. Photo: DPA

'Don’t be skimpy in rewarding top talent'

In our weekly feature series, The Local looks into a successful entrepreneur's life - the story behind their successes, major challenges and how being an entrepreneur changed them forever. This week, Sparsh Sharma talks to Bertram Meyer, one of the four German co-founders of Taulia. READ  

Terror alert 'higher than in decades'
A police armed response unit (SEK) training in North Rhine-Westphalia in August. Photo: DPA

Terror alert 'higher than in decades'

A leaked government report shows that security authorities believe the threat of a terrorist attack in Germany is higher than at any time since the late 1970s. READ  

Wet, windy, stormy Christmas in store
Nobody's dreaming of a wet Christmas Photo: DPA

Wet, windy, stormy Christmas in store

Those hoping for a traditional white Christmas in Germany are going to be disappointed, with weathermen saying Tuesday the current wet, windy and stormy weather is set to stay. READ  

Merkel to have a chilly Ukraine Christmas
President Poroschenko of Ukraine greeting soldiers in a tank on December 6th. Photo: DPA

Merkel to have a chilly Ukraine Christmas

Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany agreed on new peace talks this week on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, Ukrainian President Petro Poroschenko announced on Monday evening. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
Top 12 German idioms
Willy Brandt at his inauguration in 1972. Photo: DPA
National
Willy Brandt: the man, the chancellor... the airport?
Dresden skyline and river by night. Photo: DPA
Politics
What does Dresden have against Muslims?
Sponsored Article
Why are these International Baccalaureate students cheering?
Germany's national football team lifts the World Cup trophy
Gallery
Germany's most-Googled words of 2014
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
Photo: DPA
National
This German was abducted and tortured by the CIA
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Sponsored Article
Top ten gifts for an expat Christmas
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
Photo: DPA
Culture
Stuff your face with these festive German cookies
Photo: DPA
Culture
What do beer, breakfast cereal and dildos have in common?
Culture
The Local's guide to German Christmas markets
Sponsored Article
Top five quirky Christmas jumpers
Photo: DPA
Culture
Get ready for Christmas like a German. We tell you how.
Photo: DPA
Munich
She did what with her dead mother?
Photo: DPA
National
Germany still paying for crisis fall out
Photo: DPA
Culture
Saxon wurst is the worst, Christmas market declares.
Photo: DPA
Politics
Can 'sorry' ever be enough for the Linke?
Photo: DPA
Berlin
The Local's series on 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall
Photo: DPA
Gallery
See how Berlin has changed in 22 photos
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,218
jobs available
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists.
Details and how to apply
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd