Immediately after World War II, Schröder worked for the provisional government in the North Rhine Province of the British military occupation government, but in 1947 he established himself as a lawyer in Düsseldorf. A member of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), he entered the Bundestag in September 1949. In his second cabinet, Chancellor Konrad Adenauer appointed Schröder minister of the interior in October 1953. He served in that post until November 1961. During his tenure, he pushed for a national emergency law, which was enacted only after acrimonious debates in 1968.
In Adenauer's fourth cabinet, Schröder became foreign minister in November 1961, a position he held until October 1966. An unabashed Atlanticist, he promoted closer ties with the United States, which was the major reason for his long-running quarrel with Adenauer. Schröder agreed, however, with both Adenauer and Chancellor Ludwig Erhard on the goals of enlarging the European Economic Community (EEC) and strengthening collaboration within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Regarding the Soviet bloc, Schröder showed some willingness to modify the Hallstein Doctrine and to allow a gradual thaw in relations with Eastern Europe in economic matters, which he described as the "policy of movement." West German industrial interests strongly supported Schröder's attempt to open relations with Soviet satellites, resulting in the opening of trade missions in four Eastern capitals during 1963–1964.
During December 1966–October 1969, Schröder served as minister of defense. During 1969–1980, he was chairman of the foreign committee of the Bundestag. Schröder died on 31 December 1989 in Kampen, Germany.
Banchoff, Thomas. The German Problem Transformed: Institutions, Politics, and Foreign Policy, 1945–1995. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999.; Eibl, Franz. Politik der Bewegung: Gerhard Schröder als Aussenminister, 1961–1966. Munich: R. Oldenbourg, 2001.; Gray, William Glenn. Germany's Cold War: The Global Campaign to Isolate East Germany, 1949–1969. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.; Schröder, Gerhard. Decision for Europe. London: Thames and Hudson, 1964.