Konrad Adenauer

gigatos | July 15, 2023


Konrad Hermann Joseph Adenauer (Cologne, January 5, 1876-Rhöndorf, April 19, 1967) was a German politician, first Chancellor of West Germany and one of the “founding fathers of the European Union” along with Robert Schuman, Jean Monnet and Alcide De Gasperi, so named for his leading role in the emergence of the European Communities. He was also chairman of the Parliamentary Council, the body that drafted the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany.

On September 15, 1949, he was elected Bundeskanzler (Federal Chancellor) by the Bundestag (the Federal Parliament) and held this office until October 15, 1963.

Adenauer led his country from the ruins of World War II to become a productive and prosperous nation that forged strong relations with France, the United Kingdom and the United States. During his years in power, West Germany achieved democracy, stability, international respect and economic prosperity (the German economic miracle). He was the first leader of the Christian Democratic Union party, which he led to become one of the most influential political forces in his country.

A devout Catholic, Adenauer had been one of the leaders of the Center Party of the Weimar Republic, serving as mayor of Cologne (1917-1933) and as chairman of the Prussian Council of State (1928-1933). He was chancellor of Germany until the age of 87, something he himself attributed to the fact that he never stopped working hard and to his amazing political instincts. He showed great dedication to achieving a liberal democracy based on a social market economy and anti-communism. An astute politician, Adenauer was deeply committed to a foreign policy oriented toward the West and to restoring Germany’s preeminent place on the global stage. He worked to restore the West German economy from wartime destruction to a hegemonic position in Europe. He also re-established the German armed forces (Bundeswehr) in 1955 and signed several treaties with France that would allow the economic unification of Western Europe. Adenauer opposed his opponent, East Germany, and made his nation a member of NATO and a staunch ally of the United States.

After studying law at the University of Freiburg im Breisgau, as a Catholic he joined the ranks of the Center Party (Zentrum), developing an intense political activity that led him to serve uninterruptedly as mayor of Cologne from 1917 until Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in 1933. In the early 1920s, he flirted with the creation of a Rhenish state within Germany but separate from Prussia. From 1920 to 1933 he was a member and from 1928 to 1933 chairman of the Prussian Council of State.

Weimar Republic

A devout Catholic, he joined the Center Party (in German, Deutsche Zentrumspartei or simply Zentrum) in 1906 and was elected to the Cologne city council in 1908. In 1909, he became deputy 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 decency, diligence, order, morality and Christian values and dedicated himself to eradicating disorder, inefficiency, irrationality and political immorality. From 1917 to 1933, he served as Cologne’s first mayor and from 1920 to 1933 he became a member and chairman of Prussia’s Council of State (Staatsrat).

Adenauer headed Cologne during part of World War I, working closely with the army to maximize the city’s role as a rear supply and transportation base for the Western Front. He paid special attention to the civilian food supply, enabling residents to avoid the worst of the severe shortages that plagued most German cities during 1918-19. In fact, Adenauer is credited as the inventor of soy sausages, which replaced meat sausages during this time of shortage. Faced with 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. In a speech on February 1, 1919, Adenauer called for the dissolution of Prussia and for the Prussian Rhineland to become a new autonomous Land (state) in the Reich. Adenauer claimed that this was the only way to prevent France from annexing the Rhineland. Both the Reich and Prussian governments were completely against Adenauer’s plans to dismantle Prussia. When the terms of the Treaty of Versailles were presented to Germany in June 1919, Adenauer again suggested his plan for an autonomous Rhineland state to Berlin and again his plans were rejected by the Reich government.

He was mayor during the post-war British occupation. He established a good working relationship with the British military authorities, using them to neutralize the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Council, which had become an alternative power base for the left wing of the city. During the Weimar Republic, he was chairman of the Prussian State Council (in German, Preußischer Staatsrat) from 1921 to 1933, which was the representation of the Prussian provinces in its legislature. There had been a major debate in the Zentrum since 1906 regarding the question of whether the Zentrum should “leave the tower” (i.e., allow Protestants to unite to become a multi-confessional party) or “remain in the tower” (i.e., remain a Catholic party only). Adenauer was one of the main advocates of “leaving the tower,” which led to a dramatic clash between him and Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber at the 1922 Katholikentag, where the Cardinal publicly admonished Adenauer for wanting to take the Zentrum “out of the tower.”

In mid-October 1923, Chancellor Gustav Stresemann announced that Berlin would suspend all financial payments to the Rhineland and that the new Rentenmark, which had replaced the now useless Mark, would not circulate in the Rhineland. To save the Rhineland economy, Adenauer opened talks with French High Commissioner Paul Tirard in late October 1923 for a Rhineland republic in a kind of economic union with France that would achieve Franco-German reconciliation, which Adenauer called a “grand design.” At the same time, Adenauer clung to the hope that the Rentenmark could still circulate in the Rhineland. Adenauer’s plans came to naught when Stresemann, who resolutely opposed Adenauer’s “grand design,” which he considered a borderline betrayal, was able to negotiate an end to the crisis on his own.

In 1926, the Zentrum suggested that Adenauer become chancellor, an offer he was interested in but ultimately rejected when the German People’s Party insisted that one of the conditions for forming a coalition under Adenauer’s leadership was that Gustav Stresemann remain as foreign minister. Adenauer, who disliked Stresemann as “too Prussian,” rejected that condition, which marked the end of his chance to become chancellor in 1926.But while Adenauer was a staunch supporter of the West, advocating a Germany united with the democracies of Western Europe, his partner Gustav Stresemann


He was banned from all public activities by Nazism and imprisoned several times, and was involved in the preparation of the failed coup d’état of July 20, 1944, with the aim of overthrowing the Hitler regime. Imprisoned by the latter in the last months of the war, he was finally released and reinstated as mayor of Cologne by the Americans.

By the end of World War II in 1945, Adenauer was sixty-nine years old, a confederalist, and represented the polycentric Germany of the Holy Roman Empire, the possible alternative to the totalitarian regimes that prevailed between the two wars:

British occupation

The policy of the Allies consisted of reinstating in their posts those who had been dismissed by Nazism. Thus the Americans put him in charge of the municipality, but when Cologne was included in the British occupation zone, he resigned and was expelled for alleged incompetence in October 1945, in accordance with the policy of supporting the German social democrats, led by Kurt Schumacher, promoted by the British Labor government.

Despite the strict prohibition of the British military command to engage in political tasks, Adenauer concentrated all his efforts on bringing the newly created CDU – conceived along the same lines as the Zentrum, but with an extensive removal of its doctrinal outlines, to meet the new demands – to maturity, in the hope of attracting Protestants as well as Catholics into a single party. In 1946 Adenauer was elected head of the CDU in the British zone and also of the Bavarian branch of the CDU, the Christian Social Union (CSU). From September 1, 1948, he chaired the Parliamentary Council meeting in Bonn to draw up, as stipulated in the London agreements of 1948, the outlines of a future constitution for the whole of West Germany. The 1949 agreement would record the achievement of one of Adenauer’s greatest aspirations: the recognition of his people’s sovereignty – albeit not total and under Allied tutelage – and the triumph of his party in the general elections.

Federal Republic

Elected on September 15, 1949 as the first Chancellor of the new Germany by a single vote over his rival, Adenauer allied with the Liberals (FDP) to achieve the necessary majority in the Bundestag, thus renouncing the union with the Social Democracy (SPD), whose repudiation would constitute one of the cardinal principles of the policy deployed by the Chancellor during his time in government.

Adenauer was chancellor from 1949 to 1963, a period that spanned most of the preliminary stage of the Cold War. In this period, West Germany was politically separated from East Germany.

Adenauer initiated the reconstruction of West Germany and helped turn the nation into an economic powerhouse. Although the bleak horizon his country was facing in the years immediately after the war had partly disappeared, the traces of the war were still very deep in the torn Germany when Adenauer began to govern it. As the driving force behind the so-called German miracle, the results of his first years in office could not have been more positive in terms of material reconstruction and raising the standard of living. The following examples eloquently testify to this: by 1953, the German mark was already one of the most highly valued and strongest currencies in the world; the merchant fleet exceeded 1,500 units, while steel production was on a par with that of the British. The European Coal and Steel Community could be put on German rails.

But even more than at the national level, Adenauer’s governing action proved to be enormously effective and profitable at the level of international relations. In this field, Adenauer’s ability to maneuver and his political talent were the only reasons why he was able to win a place in the sun, after breaking through a siege of hatred and suspicion and joining the club of the greats. The choice of Bonn’s Germany, located like an accordion between the two blocs vying for hegemony at the end of World War II, was determined by its traditions and history:

Thus, Adenauer led Germany’s reconciliation with France and the other Allied powers. Under Adenauer, West Germany was allowed to rearm and join NATO. Adenauer also established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union and the rest of the Eastern Bloc. In 1955 he succeeded in securing the release of the last German prisoners of war. However, the incorporation of West Germany into the West did not happen overnight. The powers were wary of the Bonn Republic and feared the specter of German revitalization. Only the persistence of a revanchist approach and the misunderstanding of the realities facing free Germany could fuel this fear in some sectors of Western Europe. Adenauer – who from 1951 onwards had taken over the foreign affairs portfolio in his cabinet – did not fail to reiterate on every occasion and to every chancellery the great differences between the internal and external situation of the Weimar regime and that of Bonn. American pressure, the retreat of nationalist sentiment and Truman’s determined collaboration finally made the most recalcitrant spheres of the Fourth French Republic accept the validity of the argument, propagated by American diplomacy, that the fate of Germany was linked to Europe and that of Europe to Germany. But not before the German question had shattered the edifice of French parliamentarianism.

With such an asset in his favor, Adenauer’s reelection in 1953 was undisputed. As his party achieved a parliamentary majority, he was able to form a homogeneous government without seeking the alliance of any other political force. The new period was to find its high points in the reincorporation of Germany as a sovereign and independent nation on the international scene (May 5, 1955) and in the launching – largely thanks to the powerful German engine – of the European Coal and Steel Community, the Nuclear Community (Euratom) – the embryos of the European Economic Community (EEC) – at the same time as the material situation of the country reached levels similar to the highest in Europe. Re-elected once again in 1957, he was unable to achieve the ultimate goal of all his activity – the reunification of Germany – despite the unconditional help offered by the United States, although Adenauer’s work was able to lay a firm foundation for future European unity through his understanding with the France of the Fifth Republic.

In 1959 he briefly considered running for the post of president, but instead chose a candidate (Heinrich Lübke) whom he considered weak enough not to interfere in his affairs as chancellor.

The general elections of September 1961 sketched out a situation very similar to that of 1949. As the CDU did not achieve an absolute majority and Adenauer’s repudiation of the SPD persisted, the alliance with the Liberals was inevitable, despite the high price they had to pay to join the government: the Chancellor’s withdrawal before the end of 1963.

In 1962 the Spiegel scandal occurred, when the police arrested five journalists of the Spiegel on the orders of the cabinet, accusing them of treason, specifically for publishing a memorandum detailing alleged weaknesses in the German armed forces. The FDP cabinet members resigned from their posts in November 1962, and Defense Minister Franz Josef Strauß, leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU), was dismissed, as were cabinet members from the same party. Adenauer was forced to resign in 1963, but not before signing the historic Franco-German Friendship Treaty, and was succeeded by Ludwig Erhard, although he remained leader of the CDU until 1966. After his political retirement, Adenauer devoted himself to writing his memoirs. He died in Rhöndorf, a village in Bad Honnef, on April 19, 1967, of a heart attack.

Adenauer’s autocratic style created considerable political unrest, which contributed to the student revolts of the 1960s and the seizure of power through the SPD in 1969. His unrestricted control of the CDU ended when the CDU congress appointed a general administrator with the power to organize the party.

As for his foreign policy, as well as being one of the promoters of Franco-German reconciliation, he was among other heads of state such as Queen Elizabeth II, French President Charles de Gaulle, Emperor Hirohito of Japan and U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

An accident in 1917 had given Adenauer what Paul Johnson calls the impassivity of a mahogany statue of an Indian in a tent. Many of Adenauer’s conversations with selected journalists reveal the brilliant political knowledge he possessed. For example, he foresaw in detail how economic development would eventually initiate the fall of the communist regime in Eastern Europe.



  1. Konrad Adenauer
  2. Konrad Adenauer
  3. ^ Due to the division of Germany, Konrad Adenauer was not an all-German Chancellor, despite his legal title. The term West Germany is the common English name for the Federal Republic of Germany in the period between its formation on 23 May 1949 and the German reunification through the accession of East Germany on 3 October 1990.
  4. ^ E.g. Beji Caid Essebsi was Tunisian president (2014–2019) from age 88 to 92, and Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad (2018–2020) was in office aged 92 to 94; Italian president Giorgio Napolitano who turned 88 in 2013 and remained in office until 2015, age 89, was merely a titular leader and did not run the government of Italy).
  5. a b c d e Blume, Dorlis; Zündorf, Irmgard (4 de agosto de 2016). «Konrad Adenauer». En Stiftung Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Fundación Casa de la Historia de la República Federal de Alemania), ed. Lebendiges Museum Online (en alemán). Archivado desde el original el 9 de julio de 2021. Consultado el 9 de julio de 2021.
  6. Grundgesetz (Ley Fundamental), la constitución alemana, artículo 63, http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/englisch_gg/englisch_gg.html (versión inglesa)
  7. Paul Johnson, Tiempos modernos: el Lázaro europeo, página 716, cita de Terence Prittie, Konrad Adenauer 1876-1967, Londres, 1972.
  8. Schwarz Vol. 1, 1995, p. 94.
  9. Schwarz Vol. 1, 1995, pp. 97-99.
  10. 1 2 Konrad Adenauer // RKDartists (нидерл.)
  11. 1 2 Аденауэр Конрад // Большая советская энциклопедия: [в 30 т.] / под ред. А. М. Прохоров — 3-е изд. — М.: Советская энциклопедия, 1969.
  12. Vaclay Klaus. Renaissance: The Rebirth of Liberty in the Heart of Europe (англ.) (1997). — «you [Adenauer] was not only the initiator of the German postwar revival and of the economic miracle». Дата обращения: 26 декабря 2022. Архивировано 26 декабря 2022 года.
  13. Kanzler und Minister 1949 – 1998 / Udo Kempf, Hans-Georg Merz. — 2001. — doi:10.1007/978-3-322-80369-6.
  14. Materialien der Enquete-Kommission “Überwindung der Folgen der SED-Diktatur im Prozess der deutschen Einheit”: T. 1-3. Das geteilte Deutschland im geteilten Europa (англ.) (1999). — «Konrad Adenauer was not only a German politician , that (together with Ludwig Erhard) he was not only the initiator of the German post – war revival and of the economic miracle». Дата обращения: 26 декабря 2022. Архивировано 26 декабря 2022 года.
  15. Adenauer – architekt Republiki.
  16. a b Konrad Adenauer 1876 – 1967. [dostęp 2019-11-21]. (niem.).
  17. Adenauer, Konrad (Hermann Joseph). [dostęp 2019-11-22]. (niem.).
  18. a b c d e f Konrad Adenauer. [dostęp 2019-11-22]. (niem.).
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