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Joachim Gauck

German politician

Joachim Wilhelm Gauck (German: [joˈʔaxiːm ɡaʊ̯k]; born 24 January 1940) is a German politician and civil rights activist who served as President of Germany from 2012 to 2017. A former Lutheran pastor, he came to prominence as an anti-communist civil rights activist in East Germany.During the Peaceful Revolution in 1989, he was a co-founder of the New Forum opposition movement in East Germany, which contributed to the downfall of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) and later with two other movements formed the electoral list Alliance 90. In 1990 he was a member of the only freely elected East German People's Chamber in the Alliance 90/The Greens faction. Following German reunification, he was elected as a member of the Bundestag by the People's Chamber in 1990 but resigned after a single day chosen by the Bundestag to be the first Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records, serving from 1990 to 2000. He earned recognition in this position as a "Stasi hunter" and "tireless pro-democracy advocate", exposing the crimes of the communist secret police.He was nominated as the candidate of the SPD and the Greens for President of Germany in the 2010 election, but lost in the third draw to Christian Wulff, the candidate of the government coalition. His candidacy was met by significant approval of the population and the media; Der Spiegel described him as "the better President" and the Bild called him "the president of hearts." Later, after Christian Wulff stepped down, Gauck was elected as President with 991 of 1228 votes in the Federal Convention in the 2012 election, as a nonpartisan consensus candidate of the CDU, the CSU, the FDP, the SPD and the Greens. A son of a survivor of a Soviet Gulag, Gauck's political life was formed by his own family's experiences with totalitarianism. Gauck was a founding signatory of the Prague Declaration on European Conscience and Communism, together with Václav Havel and other statesmen, and of the Declaration on Crimes of Communism. He has called for increased awareness of communist crimes in Europe, and for the necessity of delegitimizing the communist era. As President he was a proponent of "an enlightened anti-communism" and he has underlined the illegitimacy of communist rule in East Germany. He is the author and co-author of several books, including The Black Book of Communism. His 2012 book Freedom: A Plea calls for the defense of freedom and human rights around the globe. He has been described by Chancellor Angela Merkel as a "true teacher of democracy" and a "tireless advocate of freedom, democracy, and justice." The Wall Street Journal has described him as "the last of a breed: the leaders of protest movements behind the Iron Curtain who went on to lead their countries after 1989." He has received numerous honours, including the 1997 Hannah Arendt Prize.
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