2016 saw the deaths of several prominent Germans, many of whom lived into their 90s. Former president and foreign minister Walter Scheel, who served under Chancellor Willy Brandt, passed at age 97. Mr. Scheel played a role in normalizing West Germany’s relationship with the communist bloc.
His colleague from the Free Democratic Party, Hildegard Hamm-Brücher, Germany’s first woman presidential candidate in 1994, died in December, also age 97. Hans-Dietrich Genscher, the former foreign minister and vice chancellor credited with helping bring about reunification in 1990, also passed.
Two prominent East German actors left the stage. Gisela May was a 30-year protagonist in Bertolt Brecht’s theater group in East Berlin, the Berliner Ensemble. She starred in “The Threepenny Opera” and sang for international audiences from the Milan Scala to Carnegie Hall.
Manfred Krug, a popular television and film actor, found fame first in East Germany and then, after being thrown out by the communist regime, in West Germany. He became famous for his leading role in the 1986 East German drama “Spur der Steine” (Trace of Stones) by East German director Frank Beyer, which boldly examined the corruption of the communist regime and was banned as anti-Socialist. In the West, he started in the German version of “Sesame Street” and the ongoing crime series “Tatort,” as well as in commercials for Deutsche Telekom.
David Bowie was British-American, not German, but citizens were still deeply affected by the performer’s passing in January, thanks to brief but seminal period when he lived in Cold War West Berlin. The late singer-songwriter lived from 1976 to 1978 in Berlin-Schöneberg, avoiding tabloid exposure but recording three influential albums known as the Berlin Trilogy. In August, a plaque was placed outside the modest apartment he once shared with punk rocker Iggy Pop on Hauptstrasse.