- West German
- Birth Place
- Date of Birth
- 5 January 1876
- Date of Death
- 20 April 1967
Adenauer was born in Cologne; the third of five children of a minor civil servant. He grew up in a Roman Catholic family. Adenauer went on to study law at Freiburg, Munich, and Bonn before becoming a lawyer in Cologne.
He was elected to the Cologne City Council in 1906 before becoming the Lord Mayor of the city in 1917. Adenauer was a member of the Catholic Centre Party and held a seat on the provincial diet of Rhineland from 1917. In 1920 he became president of the Prussian State Council and German Council of Cities and chairman of the Rhineland Provincial Committee.
In early 1933 he refused to receive Hitler during a visit to Cologne and in March of that year the Nazis announced his removal from office. In 1934 he was arrested but two days later he was released. In September 1944 he was arrested by the Gestapo and accused of being involved in the July Plot against Hitler.
He was reinstated as Mayor of Cologne by the Americans in May 1945 but removed from office by the British in October when they took over control of the city. Adenauer then set to work forming a new political party the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) combining both Protestants and Catholics.
After the Western allies agreed to merge their occupation zones to form a new state, Adenauer was appointed president of the Parliamentary Council, which convened in Bonn on 1 September 1948, to hammer out a provisional constitution. After the first West German elections, when the CDU and its sister party, the Christian Social Union, won a minority of the seats, Adenauer became Chancellor on 15 September 1949, by one vote. By then he was 73.
In the next fourteen years as Chancellor, Adenauer's primary focus was to restore good relations with France and the United States. Der Alte [the old man], as he was known, used his strong will and political acumen to give himself great authority in West German public life. During his chancellorship West Germany recovered from the Nazi dictatorship and built up Europe's strongest economy. He oversaw German re armament, membership of NATO and the EEC as well as dealing with the rise of the Cold War and the East German construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961.
In 1961 his party lost its absolute majority in the Bundestag, and he formed a coalition cabinet with the Free Democrats. In 1962 a cabinet crisis arose over the government's raid of the offices of the magazine Der Spiegel. In a complicated political deal to hold his coalition together he agreed to step down as Chancellor in 1963. He resigned in October 1963.
After retiring, Adenauer traveled and finished his memoirs until his death at his villa in Rhöndorf near Bonn at the age of 91.
An infallible method of conciliating a tiger is to allow oneself to be devoured.
History is the sum total of things that could have been avoided.
In view of the fact that God limited the intelligence of man, it seems unfair that He did not also limit his stupidity.
Kennedy cooked the soup that Johnson had to eat.
Only the stupidest calves choose their own butcher.
The art of politics consists in knowing precisely when it is necessary to hit an opponent slightly below the belt.
The rare case where the conquered is very satisfied with the conqueror.
We all live under the same sky, but we don't all have the same horizon.
A thick skin is a gift from God.
All parts of the human body get tired eventually - except the tongue.
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