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Heuss, Theodor (1884–1963)

Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, West Germany) politician and its first president (1949–1959). Born on 31 January 1884 in Brackenheim, Germany, Theodor Heuss was educated in cultural and economic studies at universities in Munich and Berlin. He received his doctorate in economics from Munich University in 1905 and taught political science during 1920–1933. He held a Reichstag seat for the leftist-liberal German Democratic Party (DDP) during 1924–1928 and again during 1930–1933. Highly critical of German Chancellor Adolf Hitler, Heuss was dismissed from his lectureship in 1933 and retreated into retirement in 1936, spending his time writing biographies.

In September 1945 Heuss became minister of cultural affairs in Württemberg-Baden but resigned after the November 1946 elections. A cofounder of a new liberal party in Württemberg, he was elected chairman of the regional Democratic People's Party (DVP) in 1946. At the national level, he became cochairman of the Democratic Party of Germany (DPD) in 1947, the major forerunner of the Free Democratic Party (FDP). A member of the Württemberg Diet during 1946–1949, he helped draft the new federal constitution. He also became a member of the Bundestag in August 1949 but resigned in September 1949 when the Federal Council elected him president of West Germany.

During his first term, Heuss was mainly concerned with domestic affairs. Although the office of federal president had minimal political power, he engaged himself in promoting democratic values and in reconciling different groups of German society. Following his 1954 reelection, he turned to foreign affairs and paid state visits to a number of Western nations. His major intentions were to draw a clear distinction between the Nazi state and West Germany and to enhance West Germany's international reputation. His generally cordial relationship with Chancellor Konrad Adenauer was shattered in 1959 when Adenauer, wishing to become the next president, indicated his intention to enhance the political power of the office. At the end of his second term in 1959, Heuss retired from politics and resumed writing. He died in Stuttgart on 12 December 1963.

Bert Becker


Further Reading
Heuss, Theodor. Preludes to Life: Early Memoirs. Translated by Michael Bullock. New York: Citadel Press, 1955.; Moeller, Robert G., ed. West Germany under Construction: Politics, Society, and Culture in the Adenauer Era. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997.
 

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