Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Adenauer, Konrad (1876–1967)

Title: Konrad Adenauer
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German politician, mayor of Köln (Cologne) from 1917 to 1933, chancellor of the Prussian State Council from 1922 to 1933, and first chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, West Germany) from 1949 to 1963. Born 5 January 1876 in Köln, Konrad Adenauer studied law in Freiburg, Munich, and Bonn. In 1897 he began his long career in government service in the Prussian justice administration before spending a brief time as an attorney in private practice. Sponsored by the Catholic Center Party, he was elected to the Köln city council in 1906; by 1909, he had become deputy lord mayor of the city. After being assigned oversight for Köln's food supplies from 1914 to 1917, he moved on to assume the post of lord mayor of the city in 1917, a post he held until the advent of Nazi rule in 1933.

Adenauer flirted with the idea of a separate Rhenish state during the early troubled years of the Weimar Republic. But he subsequently adopted a position similar to that of Gustav Stresemann, who viewed Weimar Germany as a "republic of convenience." Adenauer added the post of chancellor of the Prussian State Council to his portfolio in 1922. In 1933, he was imprisoned by the Nazi regime for his opposition activities and narrowly escaped death.

Returned as mayor of Köln by British authorities in March 1945, Adenauer clashed with them over priorities, and the British dismissed him from that post in October 1945. This freed him to take a leading role in national politics, and he became a cofounder and the leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Elected the first chancellor of the FRG in September 1949 by the Bundestag (lower house of parliament) by a majority of one vote, he was largely responsible for facilitating its recovery and reconstruction efforts and for moving the new state into the Western orbit during the formative years of the Cold War. His credentials as a strong opponent of the Nazi regime allowed him to resist the pressures to reunify Germany as a neutral, socialist state.

Adenauer was already convinced of the need for cooperation if Germany were to avoid renewed political chaos. At the same time, he maintained tight control over his new party and refused to enter a "Grand Coalition" with the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) after the 1949 elections elevated him to the chancellorship. He chose instead to bring the smaller Free Democratic Party and the more conservative Bavarian counterpart of the CDU, the Christian Social Union, into his cabinet. When the Western powers decided to allow the FRG to establish its own Ministry for Foreign Affairs in 1951, Adenauer took that position himself.

This combination proved stable enough to survive the initial challenges of statehood. To the dismay of many in Germany, Adenauer supported the rejection of the Soviet note proposing that Germany be neutralized and reunified in 1952. His statecraft and the growing threat of the Soviet Union eventually reconciled France to the idea of an independent West Germany. The FRG was allowed to rearm and join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1955. Adenauer also played a key role in ending the long-standing animosity between Germany and France. At the same time, he was able to maintain reasonable and effective relations with the Soviet Union and the rest of the Eastern bloc. He successfully negotiated the return of the last prisoners of war from the Soviet Union even as the FRG entered NATO. Adenauer always insisted, however, that the FRG was the only legitimate German state, a policy later formalized as the Hallstein Doctrine. He also supported German aid for Israel.

Adenauer's increasingly autocratic rule, however, eventually led to turmoil. In 1962, several journalists were arrested on charges of treason on orders from Adenauer's cabinet. The resulting scandal, known as the Spiegel Affair, led Adenauer to promise to step down as chancellor in 1963. Yet Adenauer still managed to retain a great deal of influence in the government of the FRG. He remained chairman of the CDU, and Ludwig Erhard, his loyal lieutenant, was chosen from the party ranks to succeed him as chancellor. Erhard had served in Adenauer's cabinet from the outset and followed fundamentally similar policies during his term as chancellor.

Adenauer died in Rhöndorf, near the West German capital of Bonn, on 19 April 1967 with his legacy as one of Germany's greatest politicians essentially intact. Erhard and the CDU lost the elections of 1969, handing power over to the SPD, but the foundations of an independent, pro-Western FRG had been firmly established.

Timothy C. Dowling

Further Reading
Döring-Manteuffel, Anselm, and Hans-Peter Schwarz, eds. Adenauer und die deutsche Geschichte. Bonn: Bouvier, 2001.; Granieri, Ronald. The Ambivalent Alliance: Konrad Adenauer, the CDU/CSU, and the West, 1949–1966. New York: Berghan, 2003.; Irving, Ronald. Adenauer. New York: Longman, 2002.; Legoll, Paul. Charles de Gaulle et Konrad Adenauer: La cordiale entente. Paris: Harmattan, 2004.; Williams, Charles. Adenauer: The Father of the New Germany. London: Little, Brown, 2000.

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