Wolfgang Thierse
Wolfgang Thierse is a German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

A politician, political leader, or political figure is an individual who is involved in influencing public policy and decision making...

Social Democratic Party of Germany
The Social Democratic Party of Germany is a social-democratic political party in Germany...


Early years in the GDR

Thierse was born in Breslau (Wrocław in present-day Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

). He is a Roman Catholic and grew up in East Germany. After his A-levels he first worked as a typesetter in Weimar. Then he studied German language and literature at Humboldt University in Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

, where he was an active member of the Catholic Student Community. He also became a research assistant in the university's Department of Cultural Theory / Aesthetics. In 1975 / 1976 he was employed by the Ministry of Culture of the German Democratic Republic. But when he joined the protests against the expulsion of singer-songwriter and dissident Wolf Biermann
Wolf Biermann
Karl Wolf Biermann is a German singer-songwriter and former East German dissident.-Early life:Biermann's father, who worked on the Hamburg docks, was a German Jew and a member of the German Resistance....

 from the GDR he lost his job.

From 1977 to 1990 Thierse worked as a research assistant at the Central Institute of the History of Literature in the Academy of Arts and Sciences of the GDR. He was one of the editors of the "Historical Dictionary of Aesthetic Concepts".

Thierse and the SPD

Although his father had been a member of the Centre Party
Centre Party
There are several self-described centrist political parties with the name Centre Party.Nordic Agrarian parties most typically use this name.-Active parties:: Åland Centre: Estonian Centre Party: Centre Party: Centre Party: German Centre Party: Centre Party: Center Party: Lithuanian Centre Party:...

 in the Weimar Republic and later of the Christian Democratic Union (East Germany)
Christian Democratic Union (East Germany)
The Christian Democratic Union of Germany ) was an East German political party founded in 1945. It was part of the National Front with the Socialist Unity Party of Germany until 1989....

, Wolfgang Thierse did not belong to any political party before 1990. That did not mean that he was not interested in politics. His father regularly listened to the West Berlin radio station RIAS
Rundfunk im amerikanischen Sektor
RIAS was a radio and television station in the American Sector of Berlin during the Cold War. It was founded by the US occupational authorities after World War II in 1946 to provide the German population in and around Berlin with news and political reporting and was initially only broadcast on...

, so Wolfgang had a chance to hear speeches from debates in the West German parliament. He was particularly impressed by Carlo Schmid
Carlo Schmid (German politician)
Carlo Schmid was a German academic and politician of the Social Democratic Party of Germany .Schmid is one of the most important authors of both the German Basic Law and the Godesberg Program of the SPD...

, Herbert Wehner
Herbert Wehner
Herbert Richard Wehner was a German politician. A former member of the Communist Party, he joined the Social Democrats after World War II...

, and later Willy Brandt
Willy Brandt
Willy Brandt, born Herbert Ernst Karl Frahm , was a German politician, Mayor of West Berlin 1957–1966, Chancellor of West Germany 1969–1974, and leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany 1964–1987....


In October 1989 Wolfgang Thierse joined the opposition group New Forum
New Forum
New Forum was a political movement in East Germany formed in the months leading up to the collapse of the East German state. It was founded in September 1989 and was the first independent political movement to be recognised by the Socialist Unity Party of Germany-led state on 8 November 1989...

 and in January 1990 the Social Democratic Party in the GDR
Social Democratic Party in the GDR
The Social Democratic Party in the GDR was a Social Democratic Party existing during the last phase of the East German state...

, whose leader he became in June.

With regard to German reunification
German reunification
German reunification was the process in 1990 in which the German Democratic Republic joined the Federal Republic of Germany , and when Berlin reunited into a single city, as provided by its then Grundgesetz constitution Article 23. The start of this process is commonly referred by Germans as die...

 Thierse was in favour of a gradual process, but he realized soon that the majority of the population of the GDR wanted to join the West German state as quickly as possible.

When the East German SPD merged with the West German SPD Thierse became the SPD's deputy leader, an office he held until 2005. Until 2009 he belonged to the SPD's national executive. He also belonged to various party commissions, which dealt with subjects like the party's basic values, or the special problems of East Germany. He was elected as a member of the East German parliament in 1990, and since German reunification he has been a member of the Bundestag
The Bundestag is a federal legislative body in Germany. In practice Germany is governed by a bicameral legislature, of which the Bundestag serves as the lower house and the Bundesrat the upper house. The Bundestag is established by the German Basic Law of 1949, as the successor to the earlier...

, the parliament of Germany.

President and Vice-President of the Bundestag

After the SPD's victory in the 1998 general elections, Thierse was elected President of the Bundestag on October 26. That was "a historic date", as he called it, because it was the first time that a citizen of the former GDR became Germany's second highest representative. He had not been a life-long resistance fighter against the rule of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany
Socialist Unity Party of Germany
The Socialist Unity Party of Germany was the governing party of the German Democratic Republic from its formation on 7 October 1949 until the elections of March 1990. The SED was a communist political party with a Marxist-Leninist ideology...

 nor had he ever identified with that rule, he said, but he represented a large majority of the East German population in that. Journalists call him "the advocate of the East".

He has never given the impression "to be in the sole possession of truth". It is most important to him that you "include" your opponents, the "other" person, the "other" opinion. Therefore it is necessary for speakers to put aside their manuscripts sometimes and to enter into a real dialogue with the speakers before them.

Thierse passionately promoted the idea that the Bundestag should move to Berlin, thereby underlining the process of reunification. It was highly satisfactory for him when he was able to open its first meeting there in 1999.

As president of the Bundestag, Thierse visited numerous countries. He has always shown a great interest in inter-cultural dialogue. In his speeches he addressed a variety of questions such as the consequences of globalization on the one hand and increasing individualization on the other, or problems of the environment.
He served for two terms until October 2005, when he was succeeded by Norbert Lammert
Norbert Lammert
Norbert Lammert is a German politician . He has been the President of the Bundestag, the German parliament, since 2005.-Early Life:...

. Thierse was subsequently elected vice president of the Bundestag.

A large number of organizations are supported by him. They promote historical research or cultural and religious events, work for the restoration of historical buildings, or help the victims of torture and poverty.

Thierse is especially involved in the fight against right-wing extremism. He takes part in discussions, campaigns and demonstrations. He visits neo-Nazi strongholds, particularly in East Germany, and encourages people to stand up for democracy.

Private life, honours

Wolfgang Thierse is married with two children.

He lives in Prenzlauer Berg
Prenzlauer Berg
Prenzlauer Berg is a locality of Berlin, in the borough of Pankow.Until 2001, Prenzlauer Berg was a borough of Berlin; in that year it was included in the borough of Pankow....

, a north-eastern part of Berlin.

Thierse has published several books, especially about the situation in East Germany.

Among the honours Thierse received are an honorary doctorate (awarded by the Philosophical Faculty of the University of Münster
University of Münster
The University of Münster is a public university located in the city of Münster, North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany. The WWU is part of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, a society of Germany's leading research universities...

) and the Federal Cross of Merit.

In 2003 a CD was published with Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Carol is a novella by English author Charles Dickens first published by Chapman & Hall on 17 December 1843. The story tells of sour and stingy Ebenezer Scrooge's ideological, ethical, and emotional transformation after the supernatural visits of Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of...

" read by Wolfgang Thierse. The proceeds were for the "Green Berets", a charity that helped young Muslims and Christians to rebuild destroyed areas like Bosnia or Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...


"Peter and the Wolf
Peter and the Wolf
Peter and the Wolf , Op. 67, is a composition written by Sergei Prokofiev in 1936 in the USSR. It is a children's story , spoken by a narrator accompanied by the orchestra....

" is another fairy tale read on CD by Wolfgang Thierse. Again the profit is for charity.


Michael F. Feldkamp
Michael F. Feldkamp
Michael F. Feldkamp, is a German historian and journalist.-Career:Feldkamp was born in Kiel. After completing his high school studies at the Gymnasium Carolinum in Osnabrück, he studied history, Catholic theology, teaching, and philosophy at the Rhineland Friedrich-Wilhelms University in Bonn...

 (ed.), Der Bundestagspräsident
President of the Bundestag
The President of the Bundestag presides over the sessions of the Bundestag, the parliament of Germany, with functions similar to that of a speaker in other countries. In the German order of precedence, his office is ranked second after the President and before the Chancellor...

. Amt - Funktion - Person.
16. Wahlperiode, München 2007, ISBN 978-3-7892-8201-0

External links

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