Hans-Dietrich Genscher (Political career)
In 1952, Genscher fled to West Germany, where he joined the Free Democratic Party (FDP). He passed his second state examination in law in Hamburg in 1954 and became a solicitor in Bremen.
In 1965, he was elected to the West German parliament for the first time from Bremen, a seat he would hold until his retirement in 1998. After serving in several party offices, he was appointed Minister of the Interior by Chancellor Willy Brandt, whose Social Democratic Party was in coalition with the FDP, in 1969; in 1974, he became foreign minister and Vice Chancellor).
In the SPD-FDP coalition, he helped shape Brandt's policy of deescalation with the communist East, commonly known as Ostpolitik, which was continued under Helmut Schmidt after Brandt's resignation in 1974.
Still, Genscher was one of the FDP's driving forces when, in 1982, the party switched sides from its coalition with the SPD to support the CDU/CSU in their Constructive Vote of No Confidence to have Helmut Schmidt replaced with Helmut Kohl as Chancellor. Despite the great controversy that accompanied this switch, he remained one of the most popular politicians in West Germany. He retained his posts as foreign minister and vice chancellor through German reunification and until 1992, when he stepped down for health reasons. Some believe his 18-year tenure as foreign minister made him the longest-serving holder of such an office anywhere in the world.