The FES Mourns the Death of Thomas Oppermann

The SPD Parliamentarian and Vice President of the German Bundestag, Thomas Oppermann, died unexpectedly during the night of October 26, aged 66.


Picture: As a former scholarship holder and member of the association, Thomas Oppermann had a special bond with the FES. Photo by picture alliance / Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa

Always a welcome guest in Washington, DC. Here seen with Knut Dethlefsen in September 2019. Picture by Michael Czogalla

As Chairman of the SPD Parliamentary group, Thomas Oppermann was its energetic leader while shaping the parliamentary work and the role of the party in the governing grand coalition during the 18th legislative period of the Bundestag (2013-2017). In 2017, the members of the Bundestag elected Oppermann to one of the Parliamentary Vice President posts, an office he held until his death. 

Thomas Oppermann was born on April 27, 1954 in Freckenhorst, Germany. He graduated from the Goetheschule Einbeck in 1975, and then studied German and English literature at the Eberhard-Karls-University Tübingen. In lieu of military service, <link news-list e we-strongly-believe-that-the-european-american-partnership-especially-the-german-american-partnership-is-a-cornerstone-of-our-basic-values-thomas-oppermann-on-german-foreign-policy external-link>he completed a year of civil service with the Action Reconciliation Service for Peace in the United States. Upon his return to Germany, he began his studies in law at the Georg-August-University Göttingen, completing his studies in 1983 with the first state law exam. Following a clerkship, he completed the second state law exam in 1986 with distinction.

In his legal career, he worked as a judge at the Hanover administrative court, and then at the Brunswick administrative court. He was also a delegate to the Department of Legal Affairs in the municipal government of Hannoversch Münden.

Oppermann joined the Social Democratic Party of Germany in 1980. In 1989 he assumed the chairmanship of the SPD party organization in Göttingen. From 1989 to 2005 he was a member of the State Parliament of Lower Saxony and was from 1990 to 1998 legal affairs speaker and from 2003 to 2005 economic affairs speaker of the SPD state group. He won four consecutive elections in his Göttingen constituency and served as the Minister for Economics and Culture in the Lower Saxony state government from 1998 to 2003.

In the 2005 federal parliamentary election, Oppermann shifted his political focus to federal politics. As a member of the Bundestag, he was speaker of the SPD Parliamentary Group from 2006 to 2007, and chairman for the SPD to the Parliamentary Committee on Secret Service Investigations. In 2007 he was elected First Parliamentary Secretary of the SPD Parliamentary Group, and from 2007 to 2013 was Chair of the Parliamentary Control Panel responsible for the democratic control of Germany’s intelligence services.

On December 16, 2013 he was elected by over 90% of the votes of the SPD Parliamentary Group to the Chair of the group, succeeding Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Thomas Oppermann further distinguished himself through his great social-political engagement. He was – among other roles – vice-chairman of the German-Israeli Parliamentary Group, and was from September 2019 Chair of the Ethics Commission of the German Soccer Federation.

And Thomas Oppermann was particularly bound to the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. A former scholarship recipient and member of the governing board of the foundation, he followed the work of the FES with great interest.

The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung will hold Thomas Oppermann in memory and in great esteem. We mourn his passing with his family and friends.

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