Europe

Former West German president Walter Scheel dies at 97

  • FILE - In this May 24, 2007 file picture, Walter Scheel, former German President is photographed  in Berlin, Germany. Walter Scheel, who helped shape West Germany's policy of reconciliation with the communist bloc as foreign minister and later served as his country's president, died  his party says. He was 97. The president’s office told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper Scheel died Wednesday Aug. 24, 2016  after a long illness. Scheel’s Free Democratic Party confirmed the death.  (AP Photo/Michael Sohn,file)

    FILE - In this May 24, 2007 file picture, Walter Scheel, former German President is photographed in Berlin, Germany. Walter Scheel, who helped shape West Germany's policy of reconciliation with the communist bloc as foreign minister and later served as his country's president, died his party says. He was 97. The president’s office told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper Scheel died Wednesday Aug. 24, 2016 after a long illness. Scheel’s Free Democratic Party confirmed the death. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn,file)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this June 5, 2009 file picture, former German  President Walter Scheel is seen in Bad Krozingen, southern Germany.  Walter Scheel, who helped shape West Germany's policy of reconciliation with the communist bloc as foreign minister and later served as his country's president, died  his party says. He was 97. The president’s office told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper Scheel died Wednesday Aug. 24, 2016  after a long illness. Scheel’s Free Democratic Party confirmed the death. (AP Photo Winfried Rothermel.file)

    FILE - In this June 5, 2009 file picture, former German President Walter Scheel is seen in Bad Krozingen, southern Germany. Walter Scheel, who helped shape West Germany's policy of reconciliation with the communist bloc as foreign minister and later served as his country's president, died his party says. He was 97. The president’s office told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper Scheel died Wednesday Aug. 24, 2016 after a long illness. Scheel’s Free Democratic Party confirmed the death. (AP Photo Winfried Rothermel.file)  (The Associated Press)

Walter Scheel, who helped shape West Germany's policy of reconciliation with the communist bloc as foreign minister and later served as his country's president, has died, his party says. He was 97.

The president's office told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper Scheel died Wednesday after a long illness. Scheel's Free Democratic Party confirmed the death.

Born July 8, 1919, in Solingen, Scheel trained as a bank clerk before being drafted into Nazi Germany's air force during World War II.

After the war, he rose to become a leading figure in the FDP, the kingmaker in West German politics.

He served in many posts, including foreign minister and briefly as acting chancellor in 1974. Lawmakers that year elected Scheel as West German president, a job he held for five years.