Former German President Richard von Weizsaecker, who urged his country to confront the Nazi past, promoted reconciliation and denounced far-right violence, has died at the age of 94.Richard_von_Weizsaecker_2009_Koeln

Weizsaecker, president from 1984 to 1994, raised the profile of the largely ceremonial presidency and established himself as a moral conscience for the nation.

His May 1985 speech marking the 40th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s defeat in the Second World War cemented his reputation.

It won widespread praise as an effort to bring fellow Germans to terms with the Holocaust.

Weizsaecker, who served as a regular soldier in Adolf Hitler’s army, said: “All of us, whether guilty or not, whether young or old, must accept the past. We are all affected by its consequences and liable for it. Anyone who closes his eyes to the past is blind to the present.”

In 1985, Weizsaecker made the first visit to Israel by a West German head of state.

His Israeli counterpart, Chaim Herzog, said the comments had won Weizsaecker “a special place in the history of your people”.