Fischer, ‘last rock’n’roller of German politics’, leaves parliament

During his term of office as foreign minister from 1998 to 2005 he was the most popular politician in Germany, admired for his ravenous intellect and rapier wit.

Fischer served as vice chancellor under Schroeder, another charismatic member of the first German generation that had no memory of World War II but urged an honest reckoning with the Nazi past.

He led Germany’s large pacifist majority into the first military action since the war, to stop Serb atrocities in Kosovo in 1999.

But he drew the line with the US-led invasion of Iraq, famously facing down US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with the words "Excuse me, I am not convinced" to question Washington’s justification for the war just weeks before its outbreak.

He has largely steered clear of German politics since the September general election, devoting his time to writing and enjoying home life with his fifth wife, 30-year-old filmmaker Minu Barati, the daughter of an Iranian dissident.

Fischer said last autumn he wanted to trade "power for freedom" after making the opposite choice when he joined parliament in 1983. With characteristic bravado, he conceded he would be a tough act to follow.