Vogel led the center-left Social Democratic Party in the 1980s and was Justice Minister during the rise of the RAF terrorist group. He was also key in bringing the 1972 Olympics to Munich as the city's mayor.
Vogel joined the SPD in 1950 and became Munich's youngest-ever mayor when he was elected to the post aged 34 in 1960. As mayor, he was instrumental in getting the hosting rights for the 1972 Summer Olympic Games.
After resigning as Munich's mayor in 1972, he became the Minister of Regional Planning, Construction and Urban Development in German Chancellor Willy Brandt's government. When Brandt was replaced by Helmut Schmidt in 1974, Schmidt made Vogel, a trained lawyer, Germany's Justice Minister, a post he held until 1981.
One of the challenges Vogel faced during his time in the Ministry of Justice was the Red Army Faction (RAF), a far-left commando unit active in West Germany. "The most difficult decision I was involved in was the decision after the abduction of Hanns Martin Schleyer and after the abduction of [the Landshut plane]," Vogel once said.
In 1981, Vogel was briefly mayor of West Berlin, taking charge of a deeply divided Berlin SPD. After a failed bid to become Germany's chancellor in 1982, Vogel became leader of the SPD faction in the Bundestag, Germany's parliament, in 1983 and party leader in 1987. He held both top jobs until 1991 and withdrew from active politics in 1994.
In 2014, he announced that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease two years prior. Despite his battles with the disease, he published a book in 2019 called Mehr Gerechtigkeit! ("More Justice!"), a book about affordable housing that advocated for land rights reform.