Mr. Roth, who had a second home in Vancouver, British Columbia, told the Sächsische Zeitung newspaper in Dresden on June 1 that he was hoping to take on a guest professorship in Vancouver in September to pursue what he called “my current theme: intellectuality and resistance.”
It was in that interview that Mr. Roth revealed publicly the cause of a marked weight loss: cancer. Without specifying the exact nature of his disease, he said it had been discovered during a routine checkup on his return to Germany from London. He had undergone radiation therapy, he said, but was determined to keep working.
A statement from the German foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, said Mr. Roth is survived by his wife and three adult children. In keeping with German privacy laws, the statement did not identify them by name. Mr. Gabriel called Mr. Roth “a cultural visionary and a true fighter for tolerance and openness to the world.”
Monika Grütters, the German government’s most senior figure for culture, said in a statement that the German and international museum worlds had lost “one of their most striking and most controversial personalities.”
Mr. Roth was born in Stuttgart on Jan. 16, 1955, and grew up in southwest Germany. He studied cultural sciences at the University of Tübingen, where he earned his master’s degree and a doctorate specializing in the history of museums and cultural institutions in the Third Reich.
He went to Paris for further studies before joining the German Historical Museum in 1989. From there, he became one of the first West German curators to move to the former Communist East after reunification, joining the German Hygiene Museum in Dresden as director in 1991.
Among a series of important posts, he was president of the German Museums Association from 1995 to 2003 and helped design the Expo 2000, a world’s fair in Hanover. He also served, from 2001 to 2011, as director-general of the Dresden State Art Collections, which includes 12 museums.
Mr. Roth’s multiple international activities included a major exhibit on the Enlightenment mounted in Beijing, from 2011 to 2012, combining works from the Dresden collections, the extensive Prussian…