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Konrad Adenauer

[a' duh now' er] first Chancellor of West Germany

Konrad Adenauer

Konrad Adenauer was born in Cologne, Germany, on January 5, 1876, the son of a minor civil servant. He studied at the universities of Freiburg, Munich, and Bonn, and became a lawyer.

Adenauer began his career in politics as a member of the Cologne City Council. He became Lord Mayor of Cologne in 1917, and served in that capacity until 1933. He also became president of the Prussian State Council and German Council of Cities, as well as chairman of the Rhineland Provincial Committee.

During World War II, the Nazis, for whom Adenauer expressed nothing but contempt, imprisoned him several times. On May 9, 1945, one day after the Allies captured Cologne, the Americans asked Adenauer to be mayor again, but when the British took control of the city they dismissed him.

Entering into national politics, Adenauer helped form the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). After the Western occupying powers agreed to merge their zones to form a new state, Adenauer was appointed president of the Parliamentary Council, in which capacity he played an important role in the drafting of a West German constitution. When the CDU and its sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), won 139 of 402 seats, Adenauer became Chancellor of West Germany by one vote, on September 15, 1949.

As Chancellor, Adenauer helped bring West Germany into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Coal and Steel Community, and the European Common Market. He personally acknowledged Germany's responsibility for the crimes committed against the Jews during World War II, and West Germany paid war reparations to the Jewish state of Israel. The Paris and Bonn Conventions signed on October 23, 1954, normalized relations between West Germany and the Western powers, ending the period of occupation. He and French President Charles de Gaulle signed a Franco-German Treaty of Cooperation in 1963.

Adenauer's foreign and domestic policies earned his party increasing majorities until 1961, when the CDU-CSU had to form a coalition with the Free Democratic Party (FDP), which made Adenauer's retirement in 1963 a condition of the coalition.

Adenauer addresses a political rally at Lübeck during the 1961 election campaign.
Adenauer addresses a rally in 1961

After retiring, Adenauer traveled and finished his memoirs. He died on April 19, 1967.

See Also

World War II
West Germany
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Charles de Gaulle

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The Robinson Library >> Germany >> 1918-Present

This page was last updated on 09/05/2018.