Franz Josef Strauss, a right-wing state governor who upstaged federal chancellors and left his mark on world affairs, died Monday at age 73.
"He was one of the architects of the Federal Republic (West Germany)," Bavarian radio said during a break in somber music it broadcast to mark the governor's death. He had collapsed during a weekend hunting trip.Strauss was a formidable power for decades and weathered a 1962 scandal that forced his resignation as federal defense minister. He led the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Helmut Kohl's national Christian Democrats.
Kohl's office said the chancellor was breaking off a trip to the Far East to return to West Germany.
Spokesman Herbert Schmuelling said the government was "deeply affected" by the death of Strauss. Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher called him "one of the most important personalities of German postwar history" and declared: "His political achievements deserve the respect of all citizens."
His influence was particularly strong during the last decade, when he was governor of Bavaria, and Kohl needed approval from the burly boss of Munich for major domestic programs.
It was in foreign affairs, however, that Strauss insisted on making his influence felt and his name known.
He visited communist East Germany in 1983 to deliver a credit line of 1 billion marks, then worth $400 million, in return for concessions that included removal of some guns and mines from the border.
In 1983, Strauss visited Poland and Czechoslovakia for talks with the leaders of those Soviet-bloc states.