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Franz Josef Strauss ( ) ( ) (6 September 1915 – 3 October 1988) was a Germanmarker politician. He was the leader of the Christian Social Union, a one-time member of the federal cabinet, and long-time minister-president of the state of Bavariamarker.

During his political career Strauss was something of a divisive figure, even on the political right, where his party, the CSU, was located. As a younger man he served in several positions in the federal cabinet, and had some brushes with scandal during this time. After the 1969 federal elections, West Germany's right wing political alliance found itself out of power for the first time since the founding of the Federal Republic. At this time, Strauss became even more identified with the regional politics of Bavaria. While he ran for the chancellorship at the head of the CDU/CSU ticket in 1980, for the rest of his life Strauss never again held federal office. From 1978 until his death in 1988, he was the head of the Bavarian government.

His last two decades were also marked by a fierce rivalry with CDU leader Helmut Kohl.


Early years

Born in Munichmarker, as the second child of a butcher, Strauss studied German letters, history and economics at the University of Munichmarker from 1935 to 1939. On 1 Nov 1937 he is alleged to have become a member of the NSDStB (Nationalsozialistischer Deutscher Studentenbund, National Socialist German Students' League), but this has not been proven.. In World War II, he served in the German Wehrmacht on the Western and Eastern Fronts. While on furlough, he passed the German state exams to become a teacher. After suffering from severe frostbite on the Eastern Front at the end of 1942, he served as an Offizier für wehrgeistige Führung (political officer) at the antiaircraft artillery school in Altenstadtmarker, near Schongaumarker. He held the rank of Oberleutnant at the end of the war. In 1945 he served as translator for the US army and especially for Ernest F. Hauser, who was first lieutenant in CIC military intelligence. He called himself Franz Strauss until soon after the war when he starts using his middle name as well. Strauss married Marianne Zwicknagl in 1957. They had three children: Max Josef, Franz Georg, and Monika, who became a Bavarian minister and member of the Bavarian parliament.

Political life

After the war, he was appointed deputy Landrat (county president) of Schongau by the American occupiers and was involved in founding the local party organization of the Christian Social Union of Bavaria (CSU). He became a member of the first Bundestagmarker (Federal Parliament) in 1949 and, in 1953, Federal Minister for Special Affairs in the second cabinet of Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, in 1955 Federal Minister of Nuclear Energy, and in 1956 defence minister, charged with the build-up of the new Bundeswehr the youngest man to hold this office at the time. He became chairman of the CSU in 1961.

Lockheed bribery scandals

Former Lockheed lobbyist Ernest Hauser told Senate investigators that Minister of Defence Strauss and his party had received at least $10 million for West Germany's purchase of 900 F-104G Starfighters in 1961, which later became part of the Lockheed bribery scandals. The party and its leader denied the allegations, and Strauss filed a slander suit against Hauser. As the allegations were not corroborated, the issue was dropped.

Der Spiegel scandal

Strauss was forced to step down as defence minister in 1962 in the wake of the Spiegel scandal. Rudolf Augstein, owner and editor-in-chief of the influential Der Spiegel magazine, had been arrested on Strauss's request and was held for 103 days. Strauss was forced to admit that he had lied to the parliament and was forced to resign, complaining that he was treated like a "Jew who had dared appear at a Nazi party convention".

Rivalry between Kohl and Strauss

Strauss was appointed minister of the treasury again in 1966, in the cabinet of Kurt Georg Kiesinger. In cooperation with the SPD minister for economy, Karl Schiller, he developed a groundbreaking economic stability policy; the two ministers, quite unlike in physical appearance and political background, were popularly dubbed Plisch und Plum, after two dogs in a 19th century cartoon by Wilhelm Busch.

After the SPD was able to form a government without the conservatives, in 1969, Strauss became one of the most vocal critics of Willy Brandt's Ostpolitik. On a journey to Chinamarker in 1975, where he was received by Mao Zedong, Strauss became a political sensation. After Helmut Kohl's first run for chancellor in 1976 failed, Strauss cancelled the alliance between the CDU and CSU parties in the Bundestag, a decision which he only took back months later when the CDU threatened to extend their party to Bavaria (where the CSU holds a political monopoly for the conservatives). In the 1980 federal election, the CDU/CSU opted to put forward Strauss as their candidate for chancellor. Strauss had continued to be critical of Kohl's leadership, so providing Strauss a shot at the chancellery may have been seen as an endorsement of either Strauss' policies or style (or both) over Kohl's. But many, if not most, observers at the time believed that the CDU had concluded that Helmut Schmidt's SPD was likely unbeatable in 1980, and felt that they had nothing to lose in running Strauss. Schmidt's easy win was seen by Kohl's supporters as a vindication of their man, and though the rivalry between Kohl and Strauss persisted for years, once the CDU/CSU was able to take power in 1982, Kohl was again their leader, where he remained until well after Strauss's death.

United States of Europe

Strauss was the author of a book called The Grand Design in which he set forth his views of the way in which the future unification of Europe should be decided.

Ever since the infamous Der Spiegel affair of the 1960s, he had also become the target of the broadcasting and publishing media blitz that Herbert W. Armstrong unleashed upon Europe through the daily offshore pirate radio station broadcasts by his son Garner Ted Armstrong, his magazine called The Plain Truth and his Ambassador College campus at Bricket Woodmarker in Hertfordshiremarker, Englandmarker. Strauss was portrayed as being the coming Führer who would lead a United States of Europe into a prophetic and victorious future World War III against the USAmarker and UKmarker at some time between 1972 and 1975. In 1971, Strauss played along with the prophetic interest shown in him as Herbert W. Armstrong recalled in a 1983 letter: "I entertained him at dinner in my home in Pasadenamarker, and he spoke to the faculty and students of Ambassador College. I have maintained contact with him." Strauss also appeared in an interview on The World Tomorrow television programme.
Strauss addressing the CDU in 1986, two years before his death

Final decade of life

From 1978 until his death in 1988, Strauss was minister-president of Bavaria, serving as President of the Bundesratmarker in 1983/84. After his defeat in the 1980 federal election, he retreated to commenting on federal politics from his safe seat in Bavaria. In the following years, he was the most visible critic of Kohl's politics in his own political camp, even after Kohl ascended to the Chancellorship. In 1983, he was primarily responsible for a loan of 3 billion Deutsche Mark given to East Germanymarker. This move was widely criticised even during Strauss's lifetime; it is today regarded by some as having artificially prolonged the life of the then-bankrupt communist state.

Visit to Albania

Strauss visited communist Albaniamarker on 21 August 1984, while Enver Hoxha, the absolute dictator from the end of World War II until his death in 1985, was still alive. Strauss was one of the few Western leaders, if not the only one, to visit the isolationist Albania in decades. This fuelled speculation that Strauss might be preparing the way for diplomatic links between Albania and West Germany but the visit did not result in anything concrete.


On 1 October 1988, Strauss collapsed while hunting with the Prince of Thurn and Taxis in the Thurn and Taxis forests, east of Regensburgmarker. He died in a Regensburg hospital on 3 October without having regained consciousness.


Strauss shaped post-war Germany and polarized the public like few others. He was a vocal figurehead for conservatives, involved in several large-scale scandals, a remarkable rhetorician, and as such was a red flag to the left. Still, most would agree that he was an extraordinary politician and managed to transform Bavaria from the once-agrarian state to one of the centers of technology in Germany that it is today.

As an aerospace enthusiast, Strauss was one of the driving persons to create Airbus in the 1970s. He served as Chairman of Airbus in the late 1980s, until his death in 1988; he saw the company win a lucrative but controversial (see Airbus affair) contract to supply planes to Air Canada just before his death. Munich's new airport, the Franz Josef Strauss Airportmarker, was named after him in 1992.


  • Franz Josef Strauss. The Grand Design: A European solution to German reunification. English translation: London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1965.


  1. "Ist Franz Josef Strauß Mitglied der NSDAP oder einer ihrer Gliederungen gewesen?"
  2. Bernt Engelmann 1986: "Ein Lesebuch", ISBN 3-373-00091-2 , Kapitel "Wer war Franz Josef Strauß", p 145ff
  3. FAQ Franz Josef Strauss from the Hanns Seidel Foundation
  4. Time magazine 13 September 1976
  6. Airbus Corporate Information - The Airbus story

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