Senior German politician Hildegard Hamm-Bruecher dies at 95

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Posted: Dec 09, 2016 8:23 AM
Senior German politician Hildegard Hamm-Bruecher dies at 95

BERLIN (AP) — Hildegard Hamm-Bruecher, the "Grand Dame" of Germany's pro-business Free Democratic Party who made an unsuccessful bid for the country's presidency in 1994, has died, her party said Friday. She was 95.

The FDP's branch in Bavaria announced the death without providing further details.

Born in 1921 in Essen, Hamm-Bruecher's parents died when she was young and she was raised in Dresden by her grandmother, whose ancestors had converted to Protestantism from Judaism.

In a 2012 interview with the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, she said the family was discriminated against under the Nazis for being part-Jewish.

Under the looming threat of deportation to a concentration camp, her grandmother killed herself in 1942. In addition, friends and acquaintances she met as a student in Munich and who joined the anti-Nazi White Rose movement were executed by the Nazis.

"My grandmother's suicide and the execution of the White Rose students led me to the conclusion that if I survived this madness, I would fight my whole life so that something like it could never happen again," Hamm-Bruecher she told the newspaper.

Hamm-Bruecher entered politics with the Free Democratic Party, which became the kingmaker of post-war German politics, in 1948. She served as a member of the federal parliament from 1976 until her retirement in 1990.

She was the FDP's candidate for president in 1994, but lost to Roman Herzog of then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl's Christian Democrats.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany had lost "an outstanding democrat" who had helped rebuild the country politically after the war.

"Having experienced the war and violent dictatorship, freedom for her was a privilege, but also a responsibility," Merkel said.

"Democracy as a form of life meant for Hildegard Hamm-Bruecher a lifetime of opposing any form of ideology, extremism and anti-Semitism," the chancellor said.