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Konrad Hermann Joseph Adenauer ( ), 5 January 1876 – 19 April 1967) was a Germanmarker statesman.

Although his political career spanned sixty years, beginning as early as 1906, he is most noted for his role as the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (then known as West Germanymarker) from 1949–1963 and chairman of the Christian Democratic Union from 1950 to 1966. He was the oldest chancellor ever to serve Germany, beginning his first ministry at the age of 73 and leaving at the age of 87. His 14-year tenure was the second-longest for a German Chancellor (behind Otto von Bismarck) until Helmut Kohl passed him in 1996.

As a Catholic Centre Party politician in the Weimar Republicmarker, he served as Mayor of Cologne (1917–1933) and president of the Prussian State Council (1922–1933). As such he was one of the most prominent politicians of interwar Prussia and a leading democratic adversary of Prime Minister Otto Braun.


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 Prussiamarker. 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, Munichmarker and Bonnmarker. 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. Afterwards he worked as a lawyer at the court in Cologne.

Early political career

As a devout Roman 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. From 1917 to 1933, he served as Mayor of Cologne. He had the unpleasant task of heading Cologne in the era of Britishmarker occupation following the First World War and lasting until 1926. He managed to establish faithful relations with the British military authorities and flirted with Rhenish separatism (a Rhenish state as part of Germany, but outside Prussia). During the Weimar Republicmarker, 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 came to power in 1933, the Centre Party lost the elections in Cologne and Adenauer fled to the abbey of Maria Laachmarker, threatened by the new government after he refused to shake hands with a local Nazi leader. His stay at this abbey, which lasted for a year, was cited by its abbot after the war, when 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 building of a road circling the city as a bypass, and of a “green belt” of parks. However, both Hitler and Speer felt that Adenauer’s political views and principles made it impossible for him to play any role within the Nazi movement or be helpful to the Nazi party.

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 by the Nazis, while living on his pension. In 1937, he was successful in claiming at least some compensation for his once confiscated house and 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, the communist Kapo of the camp near Bonn, with saving his life by getting him transferred to a hospital. He was then re-arrested, but in the absence of any evidence against him was released from Brauweiler Abbeymarker in November.

Shortly after the war ended the Americansmarker installed him again as Mayor of Cologne, but the British Director of Military Government in Germanymarker, Gerald Templer, dismissed him 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.

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 Germanymarker. 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.

Adenauer was reportedly critical of the Catholic hierarchy for not criticizing the Nazis loudly enough, and he is cited for this in the book Constantine's Sword by John Cornwell.

Chancellor of West Germany

Adenauer speaking in the Bundestag, 1955
After the German federal election, 1949 at age 73, Adenauer was elected the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany ( ) 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 Germanymarker (West Germany) and the German Democratic Republicmarker (East Germany). The first elections to the Bundestagmarker of West Germany were held on 15 August 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 16 September 1949. He also had the new "provisional" capital of the Federal Republic of Germanymarker established at Bonnmarker, which was only 15 kilometers away from his hometown, rather than at Frankfurt am Mainmarker. 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?
The opposition leader Kurt Schumacher responded by labeling Adenauer "Chancellor of the Allies." (See also the Industrial plans for Germany).

When the rebellion within the Soviet sector of Germany "was unceremoniously and brutally suppressed by the Red Army" in June 1953, "Adenauer quickly appreciated [that the event] strengthened his electoral hand" and he was handily reelected to a second term as Chancellor. The majority was large enough that his CDU/CSU party coalition could dispense with the FDP as a partner in government.

The election of 1957 essentially dealt with national matters and would "revolve around the question [of] whether Germany and Europe remain Christian or become Communist." Adenauer's recent accomplishment in pension reform, which "was enormously popular," and again his assurance of "no experiments" allowed him to gain reelection to a third term as Chancellor with the CDU/CSU winning convincingly — "the first time that a single party had won an outright majority in German electoral history" in a free election. "His personal position could no longer be seriously challenged. At the age of eighty-one, he was almost the un-crowned king of Germany."

The temper had changed by election time in September 1961. 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 came to the realization that his vision of a much more powerful presidency conflicted with the Basic Law and the precedent established by the departing and respected Theodor Heuss. The construction of the Berlin Wallmarker in August of 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 judgment." 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.

Adenauer’s achievements include the establishment of a stable democracy in defeated Germany, a lasting reconciliation with Francemarker, a general political reorientation towards the West, recovering limited but far-reaching sovereignty for West Germany by firmly integrating the country with the emerging Euro-Atlantic community (NATOmarker 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. 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 Republicmarker) — 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 NATOmarker.

However, contemporary critics accused Adenauer of cementing the division of Germany, sacrificing reunification and the recovery of territories lost in the westward shift of Polandmarker and the Soviet Unionmarker. "In his view, he said with the greatest emphasis, full integration into Western Europe was a precondition of the reunification of Germany." 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," 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." 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," 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.

Others criticize his era as culturally and politically conservative, which sought to base the entire social and political make-up of West Germany around the personal views of a single person, one who bore a certain amount of mistrust towards his own people. His re-election campaign centered around the slogan "No Experiments."

As chancellor, Adenauer tended to arrogate most major decisions to himself, treating his ministers as mere extensions of his authority. While this tendency has become somewhat less pronounced under subsequent chancellors, Adenauer established the tradition of West Germany (and later reunified Germany) as a "chancellor democracy."

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 Communist 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.

Additional actions as Chancellor

[[Image:Kombi Pick Up Aço.jpg|thumb|right|270px|Adenauer, the VW T1 and the Chicken Tax

Adenauer was Chancellor of West Germany during a tense historic episode during the early 1960's, known as the Chicken War.

Francemarker and West Germanymarker had placed tariffs on imports of U.S. chicken. Diplomacy failed and in January 1964, two months after taking office, President Johnson imposed a 25 percent tax (almost 10 times the average U.S. tariff) on potato starch, dextrin, brandy, and light trucks. Officially, the tax targeted items imported from Europe as approximating the value of lost American chicken sales to Europe.

In retrospect, audio tapes from the Johnson White House, revealed a quid pro quo unrelated to chicken. In January 1964, President Johnson attempted to convince United Auto Workers's president Walter Reuther not to initiate a strike just prior the 1964 election and to support the president's civil rights platform. Reuther in turn wanted Johnson to respond to Volkswagen's increased shipments to the United States.

The Chicken Tax directly curtailed importation of German-built T1's in configurations that qualified them as light trucks — that is, commercial vans and pickups. "In 1964 U.S. imports of "automobile trucks" from West Germany declined to a value of $5.7 million—about one-third the valueimported in the previous year. Soon after, Volkswagen cargo vans and pickup trucks, the intended targets, "practically disappearedfrom the U.S. market."

Adenauer later reported that he and U.S. President John F. Kennedy had a great deal of correspondence over a period of two years, about Berlinmarker, Laosmarker, the Bay of Pigs Invasion, "and I guess that about half of it has been about chickens."

As of 2009, the Chicken tax remains in effect.]]
  • Made a historic speech to the Bundestagmarker in September 1951 in which he recognized the obligation of the German government to compensate Israelmarker, 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.
  • Helped secure the release of the last German prisoners of war in 1955, (see Forced labor of Germans in the Soviet Union).
  • Opened diplomatic relations with the USSRmarker, but refused to recognize East Germany and broke off diplomatic relations with countries (e.g., Yugoslavia) that established relations with the East German régime.
  • Reached an agreement with the USA in 1957 that gave West Germanymarker 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, which has however never been allowed by the formers Allies to any German successor state until present (2009).
  • Oversaw the reintegration of the Saarlandmarker into West Germany in 1957.
  • Briefly considered running for the office of Federal President in 1959. However, he instead chose a candidate (Heinrich Lübke) whom he believed weak enough not to interfere with his actions as Federal Chancellor of West Germany.

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 Aachenmarker 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.

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 Cadenabbiamarker, Italy, in a rented villa overlooking Lake Como, which has since been acquired as a conference centre by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, the German state-funded political foundation.

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 USSRmarker, 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 Munichmarker 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 Israelmarker. Begin had been the former commander of Irgun and at that time headed Herut and was a member of the Knessetmarker. His goal was to undermine the attempts of the German government to seek friendly relations with Israel.

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 newspaper, 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 Parismarker. They “were [former] members of the ... Irgun” (the organisation had been disbanded in 1948, 4 years earlier).

Political 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 the 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.Although Adenauer managed to remain in office for almost another year, this scandal increased the pressure he was under to fulfill his promise to resign before the end of the term, and he was eventually succeeded as Chancellor by Ludwig Erhard in October 1963. He did remain chairman of the CDU until his resignation from that position in December 1966.


Adenauer's grave
Adenauer died on April 19, 1967 in his family home at Rhöndorfmarker. 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 Cathedralmarker was attended by a large number of world leaders, among them United States President Lyndon B. Johnson on his only visit to a European country while in office. After the Requiem Mass and service, his remains were brought upstream to Rhöndorf on the Rhinemarker 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." He is interred at the Waldfriedhof [Forest Cemetery] at Rhöndorf.



Adenauer has left such a legacy behind, that he was the main motive for one of the most recent and famous gold commemorative coin: 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 ministries

First ministry

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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. Williams, Charles. Adenauer, The Father of the New Germany. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2000, p. 307
  2. Cornwell, John. Constantine's Sword, p. 515
  3. A Good European Time Magazine Dec. 05, 1949
  4. Hans-Peter Schwarz, "Konrad Adenauer", p.450 ( Google books)
  5. Williams, p. 406
  6. Williams, p. 444
  7. Williams, p. 445
  8. Williams, p. 464
  9. Williams, p. 492-493
  10. Williams, p. 494; Foreign Minister Heinrich von Brentano was considered too subservient to the Chancellor and Gerhard Schröder became foreign minister [Williams, p. 495]
  11. Williams, p. 375
  12. Williams, p. 373
  13. Williams, p. 376
  14. Williams, p. 378
  16. Williams, p. 403
  17. Williams, p. 450; this principle became known as the Hallstein Doctrine
  18. John Gunther: Inside Europe Today, Harper and Brothers, New York, 1961; Library of Congress catalog card number: 61-9706
  19. Interview with H. Sietz, investigator (German)
  20. Background history of assassination attempt (German)
  21. Menachem Begin 'plotted to kill German chancellor' | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited
  22. Williams, p. 537
  23. Konrad Adenauer Stiftung: Biographie, Orden und Ehrenzeichen.


  • "Konrad Adenauer" in Encyclopedia Britannica (Macropedia) © 1989
  • Tammann, Gustav A. and Engelbert Hommel. (1999). Die Orden und Ehrenzeichen Konrad Adenauers,

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