Konrad Adenauer

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Konrad Adenauer


In office
September 15, 1949 – October 16, 1963
Preceded by Count Lutz Schwerin von Krosigk
Succeeded by Ludwig Erhard

Born January 5, 1876
Died April 19, 1967
Bad Honnef
Political party Centre Party, CDU

Konrad Hermann Josef Adenauer (IPA: [kɔnrat hɛɐman jɔsɛf adɛnaʊɐ]) (January 5, 1876April 19, 1967) was a conservative German statesman. Although his political career spanned 60 years, beginning as early as 1906, he is most noted for his role as Chancellor of West Germany from 1949–1963 and chairman of the Christian Democratic Union from 1950 to 1966. He was the oldest chancellor ever.


[edit] Biography

[edit] Early life

Konrad Adenauer was born as the third of five children of Johann Konrad Adenauer (1833-1906) and his wife Helene (1849-1919) (née Scharfenberg) in Cologne. His siblings were August (1872-1952), Johannes (1873-1937), Lilli (1879-1950) and Elisabeth, who died shortly after being born. In 1894, he completed his Abitur and started to study law and politics at the universities of Freiburg, Munich and Bonn. He was a member of several Roman Catholic students' associations under the K.St.V. Arminia Bonn at Bonn. He finished his studies in 1901. Afterwards he worked as a lawyer at the court in Cologne.

[edit] Early political career

As a devout Roman Catholic, he joined the Centre Party in 1906 and was elected to Cologne's city parliament in the same year. In 1909, he became Vice Mayor of Cologne. From 1917 to 1933, he served as Mayor of Cologne. He had the unpleasant task of heading Cologne in the era of British occupation following the First World War and lasting until 1926. He managed to establish faithful relations with British military authorities and flirted with Rhenish separatism (a Rhenish state as part of Germany, but outside Prussia). During the Weimar Republic, he was president of the Prussian State Council (Preußischer Staatsrat), from 1922 to 1933, which was the representative of the Prussian cities and provinces.

When the Nazis rose to power in 1933, the Centre Party lost the elections in Cologne and Adenauer fled to the abbey of Maria Laach. He was imprisoned briefly after the Night of the Long Knives. During the next two years, he changed residences often. In 1937, he was successful in claiming compensation for his confiscated house and lived a life in privacy for some years.

According to Albert Speer in his Spandau: The Secret Diaries, Hitler expressed admiration for Adenauer, noting his building of a road circling the city as a bypass, and of a "green belt" of parks. However, both Hitler and Speer felt that due to Adenauer's political views and general stubbornness, he was of no use to the Nazi regime.

After the failed assassination attempt on Hitler, in 1944, he was imprisoned. Not believing in its success, he had not been part of the plot, even though some of the conspirators had asked him to participate. He was freed some weeks later. After the war, the Americans installed him again as Mayor of Cologne, but the British administration dismissed him for "incompetence" later.

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[edit] Post WWII and the founding of the CDU

After his dismissal as mayor of Cologne, Adenauer devoted himself to building a new political party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), a successor to the Catholic Center Party which hoped to embrace Protestants as well as Catholics in a single party. In January 1946, Adenauer started a political meeting of the future CDU in the British zone as its doyen (the oldest man in attendance, Alterspräsident) and was informally accepted as its leader. Adenauer worked diligently at building up contacts and support in the CDU over the next few years, and he sought with varying success to impose his particular ideology on the party. His was an ideology at odds with many in the CDU who wished to unite socialism and Christianity; Adenauer instead favored stressing more the dignity of the individual, and he considered both communism and Nazism as materialist world views that violated the dignity of the individual.

Adenauer's leading role in the CDU of the British zone won him a position at the Parliamentary Council of 1948, called into existence by the Western Allies to draft a constitution for the three western zones of Germany. He was the chairman of this constitutional convention, and like George Washington in the United States, vaulted from this position to being chosen first head of government once the new "Basic Law" was promulgated in May 1949.

[edit] First Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany

At the German federal election, 1949 Adenauer became the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany after World War II. He held this position from 1949-1963, a period which spans most of the preliminary phase of the Cold War. During this period, the post-war division of Germany was consolidated with the establishment of two separate German states, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). The first elections to the Bundestag of West Germany were held on August 15, 1949, with the Christian Democrats emerging as the strongest party. Theodor Heuss was elected first President of the Republic, and Adenauer was elected Chancellor on September 16, 1949.

Adenauer's achievements include the establishment of a stable democracy in defeated West Germany, a lasting reconciliation with France, a general political reorientation towards the West, recovering limited, but far-reaching sovereignty for West Germany by firmly integrating it with the emerging Euro-Atlantic community (NATO and the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation). Adenauer is also associated with establishing an efficient pension system, which ensured an unparalleled prosperity for retired persons, and - along with his Minister for Economic Affairs and successor, Ludwig Erhard - with the West German model of a "social market economy" (a mixed economy with capitalism moderated by elements of social welfare and Catholic social teaching), which allowed for the boom period known as the Wirtschaftswunder ("economic miracle") and produced broad prosperity.

On the other hand, contemporary critics accused him of cementing the division of Germany, sacrificing reunification and the recovery of territories lost to Poland and the Soviet Union for the sake of speedy integration with the West. In the Cold War, Adenauer advocated West German rearmament and mandatory conscription. The 1952 Stalin Note offered to unify the Germanies into a single, neutral, disarmed Germany to effect Superpower disengagement from Central Europe. Adenauer shared the Western Allies suspicion in regard to the truthfullness of that offer and supported the Allies in their cautious replies. Adenauer's critics, especially on the nationalist side, denounced him for having missed an opportunity for early German reunification. Adenauer's defenders claimed, and continue to argue, that given the realities of the Cold War, reunification and the recovery of lost territories were not realisitic goals.

Plaque commemorating the restoration of relations between Germany and France, showing Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle (Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, Berlin)

Others criticize his era as culturally and politically conservative, which sought to base the entire social and political makeup of West Germany upon the personal views of a single individual, one who bore a certain amount of mistrust towards his own people.

The West German student movement of the late 1960s was essentially a protest against the conservatism Adenauer had personified. Another point of criticism was that Adenauer's commitment to reconciliation with France was in stark contrast to a certain indifference towards Stalinist Poland. Like all other major West German political parties of the time, the CDU refused to recognize the annexation of former German territories given by the Soviets to Poland, and openly talked about regaining these territories after strengthening West Germany's position in Europe.

In retrospect, mainly positive assessments of his chancellorship prevail, not only with the German public, which voted him the "greatest German of all time" in a 2003 television poll, but even with some of today's left-wing intellectuals, who praise his unconditional commitment to western-style democracy and European integration.

[edit] Additional actions as Chancellor

  • Secured the release of the last German prisoners of war in 1955.
  • Opened diplomatic relations with the USSR and other Eastern bloc nations, but refused to recognise East Germany.
  • Reached an agreement with the USA in 1957 that gave West Germany possession of weapons capable of transporting nuclear warheads. Furthermore, Adenauer pursued nuclear cooperation with other countries with a goal of Germany being able to produce its own nuclear armament.
  • Oversaw the reintegration of Saarland with West Germany in 1957.
  • Briefly considered running for the office of President in 1959. However, he instead chose a candidate (Heinrich Lübke) whom he believed weak enough not to disturb his affairs as Chancellor.

For all of his efforts as West Germany's leader, Adenauer was named TIME magazine's Man of the Year in 1953. In 1954, he received the Karlspreis (English: Charlemagne Award), an Award by the German city of Aachen to people who contributed to the European idea and European peace.

When, in 1967, after his death at the age of 91, people were asked what they admired most about Adenauer, the majority responded that Adenauer brought home the last German prisoners of war from the USSR.

[edit] Assassination attempt

On March 27, 1952, a package addressed to Chancellor Adenauer exploded in the Police Headquarters in Munich killing one police officer. Two boys who had been paid to send this package by mail had brought it to the attention of the police. Investigations led to people closely related to the Herut Party and the former Irgun organization. The German government kept all proof under seal. Five Israeli suspects identified by French and German investigators were allowed to return to Israel.

One of the participants, Eliezer Sudit, later indicated that the mastermind behind the attempt was Menachem Begin who would later become the Prime Minister of Israel.<ref>Interview with H. Sietz, investigator (German)</ref> Begin had been the former commander of Irgun and at that time headed Herut and was a member of the Knesset. His goal was to undermine the attempts of the German government to seek friendly relations with Israel.<ref>Background history of assassination attempt (German)</ref>

David Ben-Gurion, Prime Minister of Israel, appreciated Adenauer’s response to downplay the affair and not to pursue it further as it would have burdened the relationship between the two new states.

[edit] Political scandals

Main article: Spiegel scandal

In 1962, a scandal erupted when police under cabinet orders arrested five Der Spiegel journalists, charging them with high treason, specifically for publishing a memo detailing alleged weaknesses in West German armed forces. The cabinet members, belonging to the Free Democratic Party, left their positions in November 1962, and Defense Minister Franz Josef Strauß, himself the chairman of the Christian Social Union, was dismissed, followed by the remaining Christian Democratic Union cabinet members. Adenauer managed to remain in office for almost another year, but was eventually forced to resign and was succeeded as Chancellor by Ludwig Erhard. He did remain chairman of the CDU until 1966.

[edit] Adenauer's First Ministry, September 20, 1949 - October 20, 1953


[edit] Adenauer's Second Ministry, October 20, 1953 - October 29, 1957


[edit] Adenauer's Third Ministry, October 29, 1957 - November 14, 1961


[edit] Adenauer's Fourth Ministry, November 14, 1961 - October 16, 1963


[edit] References


Political offices
Preceded by:
Count Lutz Schwerin von Krosigk
(as Reichskanzler)
Chancellor of Germany
Succeeded by:
Ludwig Erhard
Preceded by:
Count Lutz Schwerin von Krosigk
Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by:
Heinrich von Brentano di Tremezzo
Chancellors of Germany

Image:Flag of the German Empire.svg German Empire (1871–1918): Otto von Bismarck | Leo von Caprivi | Prince Chlodwig zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst | Bernhard von Bülow | Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg | Georg Michaelis | Georg von Hertling | Prince Maximilian of Baden • Image:Flag of Germany (2-3).svg Weimar Republic (1919–1933): Friedrich Ebert/Hugo Haase | Philipp Scheidemann | Gustav Bauer | Hermann Müller | Konstantin Fehrenbach | Joseph Wirth | Wilhelm Cuno | Gustav Stresemann | Wilhelm Marx | Hans Luther | Wilhelm Marx | Hermann Müller | Heinrich Brüning | Franz von Papen | Kurt von Schleicher • Image:Flag of Germany 1933.svg Nazi Germany (1933–1945): Adolf Hitler | Joseph Goebbels | Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk• Image:Flag of Germany.svg Federal Republic of Germany (1949–): Konrad Adenauer | Ludwig Erhard | Kurt Georg Kiesinger | Willy Brandt | Helmut Schmidt | Helmut Kohl | Gerhard Schröder | Angela Merkel

[edit] External links

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Konrad Adenauer

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