After serving as both President of the German Bundesrat (during the early 1980s) and Minister-President of North Rhine-Westphalia (from the late 1970s until the late 1990s), this Social Democratic Party politician took office as President of Germany and led his country from 1999 until 2004.
He began his political career as a member of the Wuppertal City Council and went on to serve as the city's mayor. He was later elected to North Rhine-Westphalia's regional Landtag parliament.
Under the administration of President Heinz Kühn, he served as German Minister of Science and Education.
While growing up in Wuppertal, Rhine Province, Germany, he belonged to a Nazi resistance movement within the German Protestant Church. He later married Christina Rau and raised three children.
Like his political mentor, West German President Gustav Heinemann, Rau belonged to the All-German People’s Party before transferring his allegiance to the Social Democratic Party.