German politicians reacted with shock and dismay to the death of Nelson Mandela. The South African ex-president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate will be forever linked with the struggle against apartheid.
Hero, statesman, idol: the condolence messages from around the world express great sadness after the passing away on Thursday (5.12.2013) of South Africa's first black president, Nelson Mandela.
They also express great respect for Mandela, a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, who fought against apartheid and paid a high price for his struggle.
In a letter to Mandela's widow, Graca Machel, German President Joachim Gauck was full of praise for the freedom fighter.
Despite spending 27 humiliating years in prison, including 18 years spent in the infamous Robben Island prison, "he found the courage and the strength to lead his country on a non-violent path to democracy," Gauck wrote.
For her part German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, "Mandela’s name will be forever linked with the struggle against the oppression of his people and the overcoming of the apartheid regime."
Mandela's "shining example and his political legacy of non-violence and the rejection of all forms of racism will long remain an inspiration for people around the world."
Sigmar Gabriel, party chairman of the Social Democrats (SPD) recalled how the anti-apartheid icon "stretched out his hand to his former tormentors" upon his release from prison by President F. W. de Klerk. "He thereby laid the foundation for the 'Rainbow Nation' South Africa," Gabriel said.
Frank Walter Steinmeier, the chairman of the SPD parliamentary group, said Nelson Mandela had changed the world. "The world has lost a hero."
'Oppressors must also be liberated'
On the occasion of the International Day for Human Rights on Friday (6.12.2013), a visibly moved President Gauck spoke of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up by Mandela to investigate politically motivated crimes perpetrated under the apartheid regime.
"He was convinced that not only the oppressed but also the oppressor must be liberated," said Gauck. "The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was an important step in this direction. Despite the humiliating years in prison, Mandela "found the courage and strength not to follow the path of hatred."
Gauck asked the audience present to observe a moment of silence in honor of Mandela, whose life and work would remain "a source of inspiration and encouragement."
Guido Westerwelle, Germany's foreign minister, said Mandela had become a symbol "for the fight against inequality and racism, and for overcoming hatred, in short for a better world."
Mandela's political visions of peace and freedom were a cause for "hope and inspiration for people in Africa and around the world," Westerwelle said.
The chairman of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), Nikolaus Schneider, praised Mandela as "an ambassador of conscience "who had pursued religious tolerance and dialogue between religions and who rejected all forms of human discrimination. The world has lost "its most humble leader," he said.