His style, often unrehearsed, comes across as heartfelt and has touched many in Germany as a man of the people. He is a former rights activist, whose father was sent to a labour camp when he was just a boy, and wants to invigorate Germans with a more positive sense of themselves, having declared his desire to ''free'' them of their ''angst''.
Freedom is his favourite word and one which he has repeated throughout his career as a preacher and, after the fall of the Wall, as the head of the archives of the communist secret police, the Stasi. (www.smh.com.au)
Joachim Gauch was born 24 January 1940. He is a former Lutheran pastor, and he came to prominence as an anti-communist civil rights activist in East Germany. In the years leading up the fall of the Berlin Wall he was a co-founder of the New Forum opposition movement in East Germany, which contributed to the downfall of the Soviet backed East Germany dictatorship.
He is referred to as the President of Hearts and his background lends itself to such a pastoral heart. Gauck's political life was strongly influenced by the fate of his family and his upbringing under communism. His father suffered five years in a Soviet Gulag and his family at home therefore suffered with much discrimination. Joachim Gauck accused the political left of ignoring communist crimes and his 2012 book Freedom A Plea calls for the defense of freedom and human rights, not only in Germany but across the world.
His father Joachim Gauck snr born in 1907 was an experienced ship's captain who after World War II worked as an inspector at the Neptun Werft shipbuilding company.
When Joachim Gauck was eleven years old, in 1951, his father was arrested by Soviet occupation forces, he was not to return. He was convicted by a Russian military tribunal of espionage for receiving a letter from the West and also of anti-Soviet demagogy for being in the possession of a western journal on naval affairs.
After one year in the Gulag where he was mistreated to the extent that he was considered physically disabled and for nearly three years, the family knew nothing about what had happened to him and whether he was still alive. He was freed in 1955, following the state visit of Konrad Adenauer to Moscow. Adenauer negotiated the release of thousands of German prisoners of war and civilians who had been deported. (en.wikipedia.org)
His son Joachim Gauch jnr (the new President) steadfastly refused to join the communist youth movement as a result of the treatment of his father. His primary intention was not to become a pastor, and his theology studies also offered philosophy. In his many years as a Pastor he was under constant observation and was harassed by the Stasi whose file described him an "incorrigible anti-communist". His memoirs noted that the fate of our father was like an educational cudgel. It led to a sense of unconditional loyalty towards the family which excluded any sort of idea of fraternisation with the system."
Well-Being Australia chairman Mark Tronson noted that Many Christians in East Germany similarly suffered under the authoritarian boot of the Communists as they did in each of the Eastern Bloc nations. Their experiences galvanised them into politics to an absolute right of freedom for Christians. We in Australia, who have never borne the brunt of such persecution for our faith in Jesus Christ, can but only wonder in awe of such commitment to Christ and to freedom.
Mark Tronson said that these matters have been on his own heart as in recent days, there have been a number of films on both SBS and the Christian Channel of Eastern Block persecutions by the Communists between the end of WWII and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Joachim Gauch noted on his way to the Presidency that a lack of accountability by the perpetrators remains. Time will tell whether he draws attention to this and whether the German legislator can act, or whether accountability and forgiveness once again gets confused by the politics.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html