A new German president will be sworn in on Sunday following the recent resignation of Christian Wulff.
It is a largely ceremonial role but comes at a time when Germany’s influential role in Europe is increasingly under scrutiny.
Barring a major surprise, the country’s 11th postwar president will be Joachim Gauck. A protestant pastor, he made his name castigating the communist regime in the former East Germany.
At 11-years-old, he had witnessed his father being carted off by the secret police to four years in Siberia.
Gauck has a very high approval rating, perhaps because he has never held political office.
His opponent devoted much of her life taking on not the Stasi, but tracking down Nazis, including Klaus Barbie the so-called Butcher of Lyon. Beate Klarsfeld made her name back in 1968 when she slapped the then German chancellor at the party conference and called him a Nazi.
Although the German president is supposed to stay above politics, the last two have both resigned in controversial circumstances.
Hörst Kohler made some ill-advised comments about Germany’s role in Afghanistan. Christian Wulff stepped down amid a corruption scandal.
The ceremony marking Wulff’s departure did not signal the end of the protests. Germans have been outraged by various perks he may enjoy for life as a former president – not to mention a pension of 200,000 euros a year.