Konrad Adenauer

Konrad Adenauer
Konrad Adenauer in 1952
Chancellor of Germany
In office
15 September 1949 – 16 October 1963
Preceded by Position established
Allied military occupation, 1945–1949
Count Lutz Schwerin von Krosigk (1945)
Succeeded by Ludwig Erhard
Foreign Minister of Germany
In office
15 March 1951 – 6 June 1955
Preceded by Count Lutz Schwerin von Krosigk (1945)
Succeeded by Heinrich von Brentano
Mayor of Cologne
In office
Preceded by Ludwig Theodor Ferdinand Max Wallraf
Succeeded by Günter Riesen
In office
Preceded by Robert Brandes
Succeeded by Willi Suth
Personal details
Born 5 January 1876(1876-01-05)
Died 19 April 1967(1967-04-19) (aged 91)
Bad Honnef
Political party Centre Party (1906–1945)
CDU (1945–1967)
Spouse(s) Emma Weyer
Auguste (Gussie) Zinsser
Alma mater University of Freiburg
University of Munich
University of Bonn
Occupation Lawyer, Politician
Religion Roman Catholicism

Konrad Hermann Joseph Adenauer (German pronunciation: [ˈkɔnʁaːt ˈhɛɐman ˈjoːzɛf ˈaːdənaʊɐ]; 5 January 1876 – 19 April 1967) was a German statesman who led his country from the ruins of World War II to a powerful and prosperous nation that had forged close relations with old enemies France, the United States and Israel. In his years in power Germany achieved prosperity, democracy, stability and respect.[1] He was the first chancellor (head of government) of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, called West Germany), 1949–63. He was the founder and leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), a coalition of Catholics and Protestants. Under his leadership and beyond, his party was the most dominant in Germany.

"Der Alte" ("the old one") belied his age as the oldest elected leader in world history by his intense work habits and his uncanny political instinct. He displayed a strong dedication to a broad vision of democracy, capitalism, and anti-Communism. A shrewd politician, Adenauer was deeply committed to a Western-oriented foreign policy and restoring the position of West Germany on the world stage. He worked to restore West German economy from the destruction in World War II to central position in Europe, rebuilt its army and came to terms with France, helped make possible Western European unification, opposed rival East Germany, and made his nation a member of NATO and a firm ally of the United States.

He began the German reconciliation with the Jews and Israel after the Holocaust, while ending denazification of West Germany; and reintegrated former Nazi party members to political life. More than anyone else Adenauer set the direction and policies that shaped Germany since 1950. He is regarded as one of the most prominent German leaders, and is acknowledged as the "Father of the New Germany."[2] While he is generally regarded as one of the most notable leaders of Germany, his later years remain somewhat controversial, because of his unwillingness to abdicate despite his high age,[3] his support for restricting the freedom of the press (Spiegel scandal)[4] and his apologetic attitude towards former Nazis, which contributed to a certain animosity among the German left.[5] His strong anti-Communist policy kept relations with eastern Europe frozen until the opposition came to power and Chancellor Willy Brandt introduced his Ostpolitik in the late 1960s.

A devout Catholic, he was a leading Centre Party politician in the Weimar Republic, he served as Mayor of Cologne (1917–1933) and president of the Prussian State Council (1922–1933).



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, Rhenish Prussia. His siblings were August (1872–1952), Johannes (1873–1937), Lilli (1879–1950) and Elisabeth, who died shortly after birth in c. 1880. 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 in Bonn. He finished his studies in 1901 and afterwards worked as a lawyer at the court in Cologne.

Leader in Cologne

In Wilhelmshaven in 1928, when a new cruiser was given the name of Adenauer's (centre, with left hand visible) town Köln

As a devout Catholic, he joined the Centre Party in 1906 and was elected to Cologne’s city council in the same year. In 1909, he became Vice-Mayor of Cologne, an industrial metropolis with a population of 635,000 in 1914. Avoiding the extreme political movements that attracted so many of his generation, Adenauer was committed to bourgeois common-sense, diligence, order, Christian morals and values, and was dedicated to rooting out disorder, inefficiency, irrationality and political immorality.[6] From 1917 to 1933, he served as Mayor of Cologne.

Heinrich Hoerle: Zeitgenossen (contemporaries). An expressionist painting with mayor Adenauer (in grey) together with artists and a boxer.

Adenauer headed Cologne during the First World War, working closely with the army to maximize the city's role as a rear base of supply and transportation for the Western Front. He paid special attention to the civilian food supply, as the city financed large warehouses of food that enabled the residents to avoid the worst of the severe shortages that beset most German cities during 1918–1919. He set up giant kitchens in working-class districts to supply 200,000 rations per day.[7] In the face of the collapse of the old regime and the threat of revolution and widespread disorder in late 1918, Adenauer maintained control in Cologne using his good working relationship with the Social Democrats.

He was mayor during the postwar British occupation. He established a good working relationship with the British military authorities, using them to neutralize the workers' and soldiers' council that had become an alternative base of power for the city's left wing.[8] He 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.

Years under Nazi regime

Adenauer in 1951, reading in his house in Rhöndorf he build in 1937. It is now a museum.

Election gains of Nazi party candidates in municipal, state and national elections in 1930 and 1932 were significant. Adenauer, as mayor of Cologne and president of the Prussian State Council, still believed that improvements in the national economy would make his strategy work: ignore the Nazis and concentrate on the Communist threat. He was "surprisingly slow in his reaction" to the Nazi electoral successes,[9] and even when he was already the target of intense personal attacks, he thought the Nazis should be part of the Prussian and national governments based on election returns. Political maneuverings around the aging President Hindenburg then brought the Nazis to power on January 30, 1933.

By early February Adenauer finally realized that all talk, all attempts at compromise with the Nazis were futile. Cologne's city council and the Prussian parliament had been dissolved; on April 4, 1933 he was officially dismissed as mayor and his bank accounts frozen. "He had no money, no home and no job."[10] After arranging for the safety of his family, he appealed to the abbot of the Benedictine monastery at Maria Laach for a stay of several months. His stay at this abbey, which lengthened to a full year, was cited by the abbot after the war when Adenauer was accused by Heinrich Böll and others of collaboration with the Nazis. According to Albert Speer in his book Spandau: The Secret Diaries, Hitler expressed admiration for Adenauer, noting his civic projects, the building of a road circling the city as a bypass, and a "green belt" of parks. However, both Hitler and Speer concluded that Adenauer's political views and principles made it impossible for him to play any role in Nazi Germany.

He was imprisoned briefly after the Night of the Long Knives in mid-1934. During the next two years, he changed residences often for fear of reprisals against him, while living on the benevolence of friends. With the help of lawyers in August 1937 he was successful in claiming a pension; he received a cash settlement for his house which had been taken over by the city of Cologne, his unpaid mortgage, penalties and taxes were waived. With reasonable financial security he managed to live in seclusion for some years. After the failed assassination attempt on Hitler in 1944, he was imprisoned for a second time as an opponent of the regime. He fell ill and credited Eugen Zander, a former municipal worker in Cologne and communist, with saving his life. Zander, then a section Kapo of a labor camp near Bonn discovered Adenauer's name on a deportation list to the East and managed to get him admitted to a hospital. Adenauer was subsequently rearrested (also his wife), but in the absence of any evidence against him was released from prison at Brauweiler in November 1944.

Shortly after the war ended the American occupation forces installed him again as Mayor of heavily bombed Cologne. After the transfer of the city into the British zone of occupation the Director of its Military Government, General Gerald Templer, dismissed Adenauer for what he said was his alleged incompetence.

Post World War II 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), which he hoped would embrace both Protestants and Roman Catholics in a single party. In January 1946, Adenauer initiated a political meeting of the future CDU in the British zone in his role as doyen (the oldest man in attendance, Alterspräsident) and was informally confirmed as its leader.

Adenauer worked diligently at building up contacts and support in the CDU over the next 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 preferred to stress the dignity of the individual, and he considered both communism and Nazism materialist world views that violated human dignity.[11]

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 vaulted from this position to being chosen as the first head of government once the new "Basic Law" had been promulgated in May 1949.

Chancellor of West Germany

Election poster, 1949: "With Adenauer for peace, freedom and unity of Germany, therefore CDU"
Adenauer speaking in the Bundestag, 1955.

After the German federal election, 1949 at age 73,[12] Adenauer was elected the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (German: Bundeskanzler) after World War II with the support of his own CDU, the Christian Social Union and the liberal Free Democratic Party. Due to his age, it was initially thought he would only be a caretaker. However, he held this position from 1949 to 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 election to the Bundestag of West Germany was held on 15 August 1949, with the Christian Democrats emerging as the strongest party. Theodor Heuss was elected the first President of the Republic (head of state), and Adenauer was elected Chancellor (head of government) on 16 September 1949. In the controversial selection for a "provisional capital" of the Federal Republic of Germany Adenauer championed Bonn over Frankfurt am Main. The British had agreed to detach Bonn from their zone of occupation and convert the area to an autonomous region wholly under German sovereignty; the Americans were not prepared to grant the same for Frankfurt.[13]

At the Petersberg Agreement in November 1949 he achieved some of the first concessions granted by the Allies, such as a decrease in the number of factories to be dismantled, but in particular his agreement to join the International Authority for the Ruhr led to heavy criticism. In the following debate in parliament Adenauer stated:

The Allies have told me that dismantling would be stopped only if I satisfy the Allied desire for security, does the Socialist Party want dismantling to go on to the bitter end?[14]

The opposition leader Kurt Schumacher responded by labeling Adenauer "Chancellor of the Allies."[15] (See also the Industrial plans for Germany).

When a rebellion in East Germany was harshly suppressed by the Red Army in June 1953, Adenauer took full advantage of the situation and was handily re-elected to a second term as Chancellor.[16] The CDU/CSU came up one seat short of an outright majority. Adenauer could have governed alone without the support of other parties, but retained the support of nearly all of the parties in the Bundestag that were to the right of the SPD.

Signing the NATO treaty in Paris, 1954 (Adenauer at the left)

The election of 1957 essentially dealt with national matters.[17] Riding a wave of popularity from the return of the last POWs from Soviet labor camps, as well as an extensive pension reform, Adenauer led the CDU/CSU to the first—and as of 2011, only—outright majority in a free German election.[18]

In 1959, Adenauer for a couple of weeks considered leaving the chancellorship and becoming Federal President. He initially believed that the office could be fulfilled in a more politically active way than president Heuss did. Adenauer reconsidered, among other reasons, because he was afraid that Ludwid Erhard would become the new chancellor of whom Adenauer thought little.

The temper had changed by election time in September 1961. Over the course of 1961, Adenauer had his concerns about both the status of Berlin and US leadership confirmed, as the Soviets and East Germans built the Berlin Wall. Adenauer had come into the year distrusting the new US President, John F. Kennedy. He doubted Kennedy's commitment to a free Berlin and a unified Germany and considered him undisciplined and naïve.[19]

For his part, Kennedy thought Adenauer was a relic of the past, stating "The real trouble is that he is too old and I am too young for us to understand each other." Their strained relationship impeded effective Western action on Berlin during 1961.[20] Adenauer had tarnished his image when he announced he would run for the office of federal president in 1959, only to pull out when he discovered that under the Basic Law, the president had far less power than he did in the Weimar Republic. Additionally, the departing and respected Theodor Heuss had established the precedent that the president be nonpartisan, which clashed with Adenauer's vision.[21] The construction of the Berlin Wall in August 1961 and the sealing of borders by the East Germans made his government look weak. His "reaction was ... lame;" he eventually flew to Berlin, but he appeared to have "lost his once instinctive, ultra-swift power of judgement."[22] After failing to keep their majority in the general election 36 days after the wall went up, the CDU/CSU again needed to include the FDP in a coalition government. To strike a deal, Adenauer was forced to make two concessions: to relinquish the chancellorship before the end of the new term, his fourth, and to replace his foreign minister.[23]


By 1949 the U.S. and Britain agreed that West Germany had to be rearmed in order to strengthen the defenses of Western Europe against a possible Soviet invasion. What was needed was a viable democratic German Army, free of the militarism and outlook of its wartime predecessor. The idea was that it would be essential for the defense of Germany and indeed all of Western Europe. Adenauer was able to overcome grave French objections and created the non-nuclear "Bundeswehr" based on democratic principles and practices that met the Allies' criteria.[24]

Criticisms of Adenauer's chancellorship

The famous election poster of 1957: "No experiments"

However, contemporary critics accused Adenauer of cementing the division of Germany, sacrificing reunification and the recovery of territories lost in the westward shift of Poland and the Soviet Union. "In his view, he said with the greatest emphasis, full integration into Western Europe was a precondition of the reunification of Germany."[25] During the Cold War, the United States was "aiming for a West German armed force, after their [U.S.] costly experience in the Korean War,"[26] and Adenauer linked this rearmament concept to West German sovereignty and entry into NATO. In 1952, the Stalin Note, as it became known, "caught everybody in the West by surprise."[27] It offered to unify the two German entities into a single, neutral state with its own, non-aligned national army to effect superpower disengagement from Central Europe. Adenauer and his cabinet were unanimous in their rejection of the Stalin overture, they shared the Western Allies’ suspicion about the genuineness of that offer and supported the Allies in their cautious replies.

Adenauer’s flat rejection was, however, out of step with public opinion; he then realized his mistake and he started to ask questions. Critics denounced him for having missed an opportunity for German reunification. The Soviets sent a second note, courteous in tone. Adenauer by then understood that "all opportunity for initiative had passed out of his hands,"[28] and the matter was put to rest by the Allies. Given the realities of the Cold War, German reunification and recovery of lost territories in the east were not realistic goals as both of Stalin's notes specified the retention of the existing "Potsdam"-decreed boundaries of Germany. His re-election campaigns centered around the slogan "No Experiments."[12]

As chancellor, Adenauer tended to make most major decisions to himself, treating his ministers as mere extensions of his authority.

The German student movement of the late 1960s was essentially a left-wing protest against the conservatism Adenauer—by then out of office—had personified. Radical student protesters and Marxist groups were further inflamed by strong Anti-Americanism fueled by the Vietnam War and opposition to the conservative Nixon administration.[29]

Ending of denazification and the introduction of "Wiedergutmachung"

During the early years of his chancellorship and with a broad consensus within the West German establishment in favor of amnesty and integration, Adenauer pressed for the ending of denazification efforts. The denazification process was viewed by the United States as counterproductive and ineffective, and its demise was not opposed.[30] Adenauer’s intention was to switch government policy to reparations and compensation for the victims of NS rule (Wiedergutmachung), stating that the main culprits had been prosecuted.[31][32]

As result, Germany started negotiations with Israel for restitution of lost property and the payment of damages to victims of the Nazi persecutions. In the Luxemburger Abkommen, Germany agreed to pay compensation to Israel. Jewish claims were bundled in the Jewish Claims Conference, which represented the Jewish victims of Nazi Germany. Germany then paid initially about 3 billion Mark to Israel and about 450 million to the Claims Conference, although payments continued after that, as new claims were made.[33] Israel was divided in accepting the money.The agreement was condmened by some Israelis as simply an expedient whereby Germany would buy off Jewish survivors to regain credibility on international stage, and Adenauer was criticised for being too lenient towards politically compromised individuals whose past treatment of Jews was at best questionable.[34] But ultimately the fledgling state unter David Ben Gurion agreed to take it, opposed by more radical groups like Irgun, who were against such treaties. Those treaties were cited as a main reason for the assassination attempt by the radical Jewish groups against Adenauer.[35]

For a legal backup, the German German Restitution Laws (Bundesentschädigungsgesetz) were passed in 1956, allowing individuals and other ethnic groups than Jews to lay claims for compensation from the German state, if they were victims of Nazi prosecution.[36] Aside from that, other global treaties for compensation were made with other European states in the following decades, to compensate for the Nazi crimes.[33]

By 1951 laws were passed by the Bundestag ending denazification. Officials were allowed to retake jobs in civil service, with the exception of people assigned to Group I (Major Offenders) and II (Offenders) during the denazification review process.[32][37] The amnesty legislation had benefited 792,176 people, among them:

  • 3,000 functionaries of the SA, the SS, and the Nazi Party who participated in dragging victims to jails and camps
  • 20,000 other Nazi perpetrators sentenced for "deeds against life" (presumably murder);
  • 30,000 sentenced for causing bodily injury
  • 5,200 charged with "crimes and misdemeanors in office."[38]

Adenauer was prepared to tolerate ex-Nazis in his administration provided their membership in the party had been inactive,[39] or necessary for them to keep their job.[39][40] Despite these claims he nominated people active under Nazi Germany to top ministerial positions, including Hans Globke, Director of the Federal Chancellory of West Germany between 1953 and 1963 and one of the closest aides to Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. It was a policy that attracted criticism, however, Adenauer started his administration from absolute zero, and “it would have been folly to deprive the fledgling republic of the services of [these civil servants and professionals] for that reason alone.”[41] He made it clear for all, if they stepped out of line, they could expect a case for de-Nazification to be reopened. To construct a “competent Federal Government effectively from a standing start was one of the greatest of Adenauer’s formidable achievements.”[41]

Achievements of Adenauer's chancellorship

Konrad Adenauer with minister of economics Ludwig Erhard, 1956. Adenauer acted more leniently towards the trade unions and employers' associations than Erhard.
Konrad Adenauer with Israeli President Zalman Shazar, 1966.

Adenauer’s achievements include the establishment of a stable democracy in West Germany and a lasting reconciliation with France, culminating in the Élysée Treaty. His political commitment to the Western powers achieved a limited, but far-reaching sovereignty for West Germany by firmly integrating the country with the emerging Euro-Atlantic community (NATO and the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation). Adenauer is closely linked to the implementation of an enhanced pension system, which ensured unparalleled prosperity for retired persons. Along with his Minister for Economic Affairs and successor Ludwig Erhard, the West German model of a "social market economy" (a mixed economy with capitalism moderated by elements of social welfare and Catholic social teaching) allowed for the boom period known as the Wirtschaftswunder ("economic miracle") that produced broad prosperity. The Adenauer era witnessed a dramatic rise in the standard of living of average Germans, with real wages doubling between 1950 and 1963. This rising affluence was accompanied by a 20% fall in working hours during that same period, together with a fall in the unemployment rate from 8% in 1950 to 0.4% in 1965.[42] in addition, an advanced welfare state was established.[43]

Adenauer ensured a truly free and democratic society which had been almost unknown to the German people before — notwithstanding the attempt between 1919 and 1933 (the Weimar Republic) — and which is today not just normal but also deeply integrated into modern German society. He thereby laid the groundwork for Germany to reenter the community of nations and to evolve as a dependable member of the Western world. It can be argued that because of Adenauer’s policies, a later reunification of both German states was possible; and unified Germany has remained a solid partner in the European Union and NATO.

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,[44] but even with some of today’s left-wing intellectuals, who praise his unconditional commitment to western-style democracy and European integration.[45]

Additional actions as Chancellor

Adenauer with the mother of a German POW brought home in 1955 from the Soviet Union, due to Adenauer's visit to Moscow
Plaque commemorating the restoration of relations between Germany and France, showing Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle.
  • Made a historic speech to the Bundestag in September 1951 in which he recognized the obligation of the German government to compensate Israel, as the main representative of the Jewish people, for The Holocaust. This started a process which led to the Bundestag approving a pact between Israel and Germany in 1953 outlining the reparations Germany would pay to Israel.
  • Opened diplomatic relations with the USSR, but refused to recognize East Germany and broke off diplomatic relations with countries (e.g., Yugoslavia) that established relations with the East German régime.[46]
  • Helped secure the release of the last German prisoners of war in 1955, (see Forced labor of Germans in the Soviet Union).
  • Reached an agreement for his "nuclear ambitions" with a NATO Military Committee in December 1956 that stipulated West German forces to be "equipped for nuclear warfare."[47] Concluding that the United States would eventually pull out of Western Europe, Adenauer pursued nuclear cooperation with other countries. The French government then proposed that France, West Germany and Italy jointly develop and produce nuclear weapons and delivery systems, and an agreement was signed in April 1958. With the ascendancy of Charles de Gaulle, the agreement for joint production and control was shelved indefinitely.[48] President John F. Kennedy, an ardent foe of nuclear proliferation, considered sales of such weapons moot since "in the event of war the United States would, from the outset, be prepared to defend the Federal Republic."[49] The physicists of the Max Planck Institute for Theoretical Physics at Göttingen and other renowned universities would have had the scientific capability for in-house development, but the will was absent,[17] nor was there public support. With Adenauer’s fourth term election in November 1961 and the end of his chancellorship in sight, his "nuclear ambitions" began to taper off.
  • Oversaw the reintegration of the Saarland into West Germany in 1957.
  • Briefly considered running for the office of Federal President in 1959. After his reversal he supported the nomination of Heinrich Lübke as the CDU presidential candidate whom he believed weak enough not to interfere with his actions as Federal 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, European cooperation and European peace.

In his last years in office, Adenauer used to take a nap after lunch and, when he was traveling abroad and had a public function to attend, he sometimes asked for a bed in a room close to where he was supposed to be speaking, so that he could rest briefly before he appeared.[50]

Adenauer found relaxation and great enjoyment in the Italian game of bocce and spent a great deal of his post political career playing this game. His favorite holiday place to do this was in Cadenabbia, Italy, in a rented villa overlooking Lake Como, which has since been acquired as a conference centre by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, the political foundation established by Adenauers political party Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

When, in 1967, after his death at the age of 91, Germans were asked what they admired most about Adenauer, the majority responded that he had brought home the last German prisoners of war from the USSR, which had become known as the "Return of the 10,000".

Assassination attempt

On 27 March 1952, a package addressed to Chancellor Adenauer exploded in the Munich Police Headquarters, killing one Bavarian 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 armed organization. The West German government kept all proof under seal in order to prevent antisemitic responses from the German public. Five Israeli suspects identified by French and German investigators were allowed to return to Israel.

One of the participants, Eliezer Sudit, later revealed that the alleged mastermind behind this assassination attempt was Menachem Begin who would later become the Prime Minister of Israel.[51] 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 put pressure on the German government and prevent the signing of the Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany, which he vehemently opposed.[52]

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

In June 2006 a slightly different version of this story appeared in one of Germany's leading newspapers, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, quoted by The Guardian. Begin had offered to sell his gold watch as the conspirators ran out of money. The bomb was hidden in an encyclopedia and it killed a bomb-disposal expert, injuring two others. Adenauer was targeted because of the Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany, signed at that time, which was violently opposed by Begin. Sudit, the story's source, explained that the "intent was not to hit Adenauer but to rouse the international media. It was clear to all of us there was no chance the package would reach Adenauer". The five conspirators were arrested by the French police, in Paris. They "were [former] members of the ... Irgun" (the organisation had been disbanded in 1948, 4 years earlier).[53]

Spiegel scandal and retirement

In October 1962, a scandal erupted when police arrested five Der Spiegel journalists, charging them with high treason for publishing a memo detailing weaknesses in the West German armed forces. Adenauer had not initiated the arrests, but initially defended the person responsible, Defense Minister Franz Josef Strauss, and called the Spiegel memo "Abgrund von Landesverrat" (abyss of treason). After public outrage and heavy protests from the coalition partner FDP he dismissed Strauss, but the reputation of Adenauer and his party had already suffered.[54][55]

Adenauer managed to remain in office for almost another year, but the scandal increased the pressure he was under to fulfill his promise to resign before the end of the term. Adenauer was not on good terms with his economics minister Ludwig Erhard and tried to block him from the chancellorship. Adenauer failed, and in October 1963 he turned the office over to Erhard. He did remain chairman of the CDU until his resignation in December 1966.[56]


Adenauer delivering a speech at the March 1966 CDU party rally, one year before his death
Funeral service for Adenauer in the Cologne Cathedral
Adenauer's grave

Adenauer died on 19 April 1967 in his family home at Rhöndorf. According to his daughter, his last words were "Da jitt et nix zo kriesche!" (Cologne dialect for "There's nothin' to weep about!")

Konrad Adenauer's state funeral in Cologne Cathedral was attended by a large number of world leaders, among them United States President Lyndon B. Johnson. After the Requiem Mass and service, his remains were brought upstream to Rhöndorf on the Rhine aboard Kondor, with Seeadler and Sperber as escorts, three Jaguar class fast attack craft of the German Navy, "past the thousands who stood in silence on both banks of the river."[57] He is interred at the Waldfriedhof [Forest Cemetery] at Rhöndorf.



Adenauer was the main motive for one of the most recent and famous gold commemorative coins: the Belgian 3 pioneers of the European unification commemorative coin, minted in 2002. The obverse side shows a portrait with the names Robert Schuman, Paul-Henri Spaak and Konrad Adenauer.

Adenauer cabinets

First ministry

  • Konrad Adenauer (CDU) – Chancellor
  • Franz Blücher (FDP) – Vice Chancellor and Minister of Marshall Plan Affairs
  • Gustav Heinemann (CDU) – Minister of the Interior
  • Fritz Schäffer (CSU) – Minister of Finance
  • Thomas Dehler (FDP) – Minister of Justice
  • Ludwig Erhard (CDU) – Minister of Economics
  • Anton Storch (CDU) – Minister of Labour and Social Affairs
  • Wilhelm Niklas (CSU) – Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Forestry
  • Hans-Christoph Seebohm (DP) - Minister of Transport
  • Eberhard Wildermuth (FDP) – Minister of Construction
  • Hans Schuberth (CSU) – Minister of Posts and Communications
  • Hans Lukaschek (CDU) – Minister of Displaced Persons, Refugees, and War Victims
  • Jakob Kaiser (CDU) – Minister of All-German Affairs
  • Heinrich Hellwege (DP) – Minister of Bundesrat Affairs


  • 13 October 1950 – Robert Lehr (CDU) succeeds Heinemann as Minister of the Interior.
  • 15 March 1951 – Konrad Adenauer becomes Minister of Foreign Affairs as well as Chancellor when the Allies allow this post to be revived.
  • 19 July 1952 – Fritz Neumayer (FDP) succeeds Wildermuth (d.9 March) as Minister of Construction.

Second ministry

  • Konrad Adenauer (CDU) – Chancellor and Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Franz Blücher (FDP) – Vice Chancellor and Minister of Economic Cooperation
  • Gerhard Schröder (CDU) – Minister of the Interior
  • Fritz Schäffer (CSU) – Minister of Finance
  • Fritz Neumayr (FDP) – Minister of Justice
  • Ludwig Erhard (CDU) – Minister of Economics
  • Anton Storch (CDU) – Minister of Labour and Social Affairs
  • Heinrich Lübke (CDU) – Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Forestry
  • Hans-Christoph Seebohm (DP) – Minister of Transport
  • Viktor-Emanuel Preusker (FDP) – Minister of Construction
  • Franz-Josef Wuermeling (CDU) – Minister of Family Affairs
  • Franz Josef Strauss (CSU) – Minister of Special Tasks
  • Robert Tillmanns (CDU) – Minister of Special Tasks
  • Waldemar Kraft (GB/BHE) – Minister of Special Tasks
  • Hermann Schäfer (FDP) – Minister of Special Tasks
  • Siegfried Balke – Minister of Posts and Communications
  • Theodor Oberländer (GB/BHE) – Minister of Displaced Persons, Refugees, and War Victims
  • Jakob Kaiser (CDU) – Minister of All-German Affairs
  • Heinrich Hellwege (DP) – Minister of Bundesrat Affairs


  • 7 June 1955 – Theodor Blank (CDU) becomes Minister of Defense when that post is revived.
  • 8 June 1955 – Heinrich von Brentano (CDU) succeeds Adenauer as Minister of Foreign Affairs. Hans-Joachim von Merkatz (DP) succeeds Hellwege as Minister of Bundesrat Affairs.
  • 19 October 1955 – Franz Josef Strauss (CSU) becomes Minister of Atomic Affairs
  • 12 November 1955 – Tillmanns leaves the cabinet.
  • 16 October 1956 – Franz Josef Strauss (CSU) succeeds Blank as Minister of Defense. Hans-Joachim von Merkatz succeeds Neumayr as Minister of Justice. Kraft and Schäfer leave the Cabinet. Siegfried Balke (CSU) succeeds Strauss as Minister of Atomic Affairs.
  • 15 November 1956 – Ernst Lemmer (CDU) succeeds Balke as Minister of Posts and Communications.

Third ministry

  • Konrad Adenauer (CDU) – Chancellor
  • Ludwig Erhard (CDU) – Vice Chancellor and Minister of Economics
  • Heinrich von Brentano (CDU) – Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Franz Josef Strauss (CSU) – Minister of Defense
  • Gerhard Schröder (CDU) – Minister of the Interior
  • Franz Etzel (CDU) – Minister of Finance
  • Fritz Schäffer (CSU) – Minister of Justice
  • Theodor Blank (CDU) – Minister of Labour and Social Affairs
  • Heinrich Lübke (CDU) – Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Forestry
  • Hans-Christoph Seebohm (DP) – Minister of Transport
  • Paul Lücke (CDU) – Minister of Construction
  • Franz-Josef Wuermeling (CDU) – Minister of Family and Youth Affairs
  • Richard Stücklen (CSU) – Minister of Posts and Communications
  • Theodor Oberländer (CDU) – Minister of Displaced Persons, Refugees, and War Victims
  • Ernst Lemmer (CDU) – Minister of All-German Affairs
  • Hans-Joachim von Merkatz (DP) – Minister of Bundesrat and State Affairs
  • Siegfried Balke (CSU) – Minister of Nuclear Energy and Water
  • Hermann Lindrath (CDU) – Minister of Federal Economic Possessions


  • 13 September 1959 - Werner Schwarz (CDU) succeeds Lübke as Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Forestry.
  • 5 April 1960 - Oberländer resigns as Minister of Displaced Persons, Refugees, and War Victims.
  • 4 May 1960 - Hans Wilhelmi (CDU) succeeds Lindrath (d. 27 February) as Minister of Federal Economic Possessions.
  • 27 October 1960 - Hans-Joachim von Merkatz (CDU) becomes Minister of Displaced Persons, Refugees, and War Victims.

Fourth ministry

  • Konrad Adenauer (CDU) - Chancellor
  • Ludwig Erhard (CDU) - Vice Chancellor and Minister of Economics
  • Gerhard Schröder (CDU) - Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Franz Josef Strauss (CSU) - Minister of Defense
  • Hermann Höcherl (CSU) - Minister of the Interior
  • Heinz Starke (FDP) - Minister of Finance
  • Wolfgang Stammberger (FDP) - Minister of Justice
  • Theodor Blank (CDU) - Minister of Labour and Social Affairs
  • Werner Schwarz (CDU) - Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Forestry
  • Hans-Christoph Seebohm (CDU) - Minister of Transport
  • Paul Lücke (CDU) - Minister of Construction
  • Franz-Josef Wuermeling (CDU) - Minister of Family and Youth Affairs
  • Elisabeth Schwarzhaupt (CDU) - Minister of Health
  • Walter Scheel (FDP) - Minister of Economic Cooperation
  • Heinrich Krone (CDU) - Minister of Special Tasks
  • Richard Stücklen (CSU) - Minister of Posts and Communications
  • Wolfgang Mischnick (FDP) - Minister of Displaced Persons, Refugees, and War Victims
  • Ernst Lemmer (CDU) - Minister of All-German Affairs
  • Hans-Joachim von Merkatz (CDU) - Minister of Bundesrat and State Affairs
  • Siegfried Balke (CSU) - Minister of Nuclear Energy and Water
  • Hans Lenz (FDP) - Minister of Federal Treasure


  • 19 November 1962 Ewald Bucher (FDP) succeeds Stammberger as Minister of Justice. Werner Dollinger (CSU) succeeds Lenz as Minister of Federal Treasure.
  • 14 December 1962 - Rolf Dahlgrün (FDP) succeeds Starke as Minister of Finance. Bruno Heck (CDU) succeeds Wuermeling as Minister of Family and Youth Affairs. Hans Lenz (FDP) enters the ministry as Minister of Scientific Research. Rainer Barzel (CDU) succeeds Lemmer as Minister of All-German Affairs. Alois Niederalt (CSU) succeeds Merkatz as Minister of Bundesrat and State Affairs. The Ministry of Nuclear Energy and Water is abolished, and Balke leaves the cabinet.
  • 9 January 1963 - Kai-Uwe von Hassel (CDU) succeeds Strauss as Minister of Defense.


  1. ^ Richard Hiscocks, The Adenauer era (1975) p 290
  2. ^ Williams, Charles (2000). Adenauer, The Father of the New Germany. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.. pp. 584. ISBN 0471407372. 
  3. ^ http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,4246535,00.html
  4. ^ Joachim Schöps: Die Spiegel-Affäre des Franz Josef Strauß. Rowohlt, Reinbek 1983
  5. ^ Norbert Frei, Vergangenheitspolitik. Die Anfaenge der Bundesrepublik und die NS-Vergangenheit Beck, München 1996
  6. ^ Hans-Peter Schwarz, Konrad Adenauer (1995) 1:94
  7. ^ Schwarz, Konrad Adenauer (1995) 1:97–99
  8. ^ Schwarz, Konrad Adenauer (1995) 1:128–31
  9. ^ Williams, p. 201.
  10. ^ Williams, p. 212.
  11. ^ Williams, p. 307
  12. ^ a b Frum, David (2000). How We Got Here: The '70s. New York, New York: Basic Books. p. 8. ISBN 0465041957. 
  13. ^ Williams, p. 340
  14. ^ A Good European Time Magazine Dec. 05, 1949
  15. ^ Hans-Peter Schwarz, "Konrad Adenauer", p.450 (Google books)
  16. ^ Williams, p. 406
  17. ^ a b Williams, p. 444
  18. ^ Williams, p. 445
  19. ^ Kempe, Frederick (2011). Berlin 1961. Penguin Group (USA). pp. 98. ISBN 0399157298. 
  20. ^ Kempe, Frederick (2011). Berlin 1961. Penguin Group (USA). pp. 101. ISBN 0399157298. 
  21. ^ Williams, p. 464
  22. ^ Williams, p. 492–493
  23. ^ Williams, p. 494; Foreign Minister Heinrich von Brentano was considered too subservient to the Chancellor and Gerhard Schröder became foreign minister [Williams, p. 495]
  24. ^ Daugherty, Leo J. (2011). "'Tip of the Spear': The Formation and Expansion of the Bundeswehr, 1949-1963". Journal of Slavic Military Studies 24 (1): 147–177. doi:10.1080/13518046.2010.549052. 
  25. ^ Williams, p. 375
  26. ^ Williams, p. 373
  27. ^ Williams, p. 376
  28. ^ Williams, p. 378
  29. ^ TIME Magazine, July 3, 1972, p. 37
  30. ^ The Nazi-ferreting questionnaire cited 136 mandatory reasons for exclusion from employment and created red-tape nightmares for both the hapless and the guilty; see New York Times, 22 February 2003, p. A7.
  31. ^ Steinweis, Alan E., Rogers, Daniel E. The Impact of Nazism: New Perspectives on the Third Reich and Its Legacy. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. 2003, p. 235
  32. ^ a b Art, David, The politics of the Nazi past in Germany and Austria, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005, p. 53-55
  33. ^ a b Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung - Wiedergutmachung
  34. ^ The Encyclopedia of the Arab-Israeli Conflict A Political, Social, and Military History, Spencer Tucker, Priscilla Mary Roberts, page 33, 2008
  35. ^ Harding, Luke (15 June 2006). "Menachem Begin 'plotted to kill German chancellor'". Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/jun/15/germany.lukeharding. 
  36. ^ Bundesgesetz zur Entschädigung für Opfer der nationalsozialistischen Verfolgung
  37. ^ Gesetz zur Regelung der Rechtsverhältnisse der unter Artikel 131 des Grundgesetzes fallenden Personen - 11 May 1951 (Bundesgesetzblatt I 22/1951, p. 307 ff.)
  38. ^ Jeffrey Herf in The New Republic, March 10, 2003; book review of Frei, Norbert, Amnesty and Amnesia, Adenauer's Germany and the Nazi Past: The Politics of Amnesty and Integration
  39. ^ a b Williams, p. 390
  40. ^ Ozment, Steven. A Mighty Fortress. A New History of the German People. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. 2004, p. 291
  41. ^ a b Williams, p. 391
  42. ^ Contemporary World History by William J. Duiker
  43. ^ The Emergence of the Welfare State in Britain and Germany, edited by W.J. Mommsen
  44. ^ http://unserebesten.zdf.de/
  45. ^ Williams, p. 403
  46. ^ Williams, p. 450; this principle became known as the Hallstein Doctrine
  47. ^ Williams, p. 442
  48. ^ Williams, p. 458
  49. ^ Williams, p. 490
  50. ^ John Gunther: Inside Europe Today, Harper and Brothers, New York, 1961; Library of Congress catalog card number: 61-9706
  51. ^ Interview with H. Sietz, investigator (German)
  52. ^ Background history of assassination attempt (German)
  53. ^ "Menachem Begin 'plotted to kill German chancellor'". The Guardian. 15 June 2006. http://www.guardian.co.uk/germany/article/0,,1797768,00.html. 
  54. ^ Eleanor L. Turk, The history of Germany (1999) p 154
  55. ^ Ronald F. Bunn, German politics and the Spiegel affair: a case study of the Bonn system (1968) pp 159-60
  56. ^ Ronald J. Granieri, The ambivalent alliance: Konrad Adenauer, the CDU/CSU, and the West, 1949-1966 (2004) p. 191 online
  57. ^ Williams, p. 537.
  58. ^ a b c d e f g Konrad Adenauer Stiftung: Biographie, Orden und Ehrenzeichen.

References and bibliography

  • Cudlipp, E. Adenauer (1985)
  • Granieri, Ronald J. The Ambivalent Alliance: Konrad Adenauer, the CDU/CSU, and the West, 1949-1966‎ (2004) 250 pages excerpt and text search
  • Heidenheimer, Arnold J. Adenauer and the CDU: the Rise of the Leader and the Integration of the Party (1960)
  • Hiscocks, Richard. The Adenauer Era (1966)
  • Rovan, Joseph. Konrad Adenauer (1987) 182 pages excerpt and text search
  • Schwarz, Hans-Peter. Konrad Adenauer: A German Politician and Statesman in a Period of War, Revolution and Reconstruction. Vol. 1: From the German Empire to the Federal Republic, 1876–1952.
  • Williams, Charles. Konrad Adenauer: The Father of the New Germany (2001), 624pp
  • "Konrad Adenauer" in Encyclopædia Britannica (Macropedia) © 1989
  • Tammann, Gustav A. and Engelbert Hommel. (1999). Die Orden und Ehrenzeichen Konrad Adenauers,

Primary sources

  • Adenauer, Konrad. Memoirs, (4 vols. English edition 1966–70)

See also

  • List of German inventors and discoverers

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Count Lutz Schwerin von Krosigk
(as Leitender Minister)
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

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