Konrad Adenauer – the name of Germany´s first chancellor is not known to most American citizens, and yet it is strongly connected with the change from Nazi Germany to the Federal Republic, with the country´s economic rise, but also with the Cold War.
Konrad Adenauer was born in Cologne, Germany, in 1876. After studying law and working in the legal field for some years, he joined the Catholic Central Party in 1906 and concentrated on the political profession in the following years. In 1917 he was elected the mayor of Cologne. However, Adenauer came into conflict with Hitler´s party, the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeitpartei (NSDAP), after their takeover in 1933, which ultimately led to him being dismissed.
After World War II Adenauer founded a new party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). In 1949 the party won the first elections of the German Federal Republic and Adenauer became the first Chancellor.
Adenauer stayed in office until 1963, four years before his death, and thus for the second longest period in the history of the GDR. But throughout this time his actions were highly controversial.
The decision on Germany´s rearmament evoked strenuous opposition among more left-orientated members of the society. The same type of criticism arose because of his relatively strong efforts to end denazification; some of the government´s members and his close advisers had a Nazi background. He opposed communists and even Social Democrats in a harsh way in general.
On the other hand, Adenauer simultaneously strove for a renewal of the German system and the society, with the goal of integration in a European community. The best way to achieve this seemed to be an economic one: The Montan Union, the European Economic Community and Euratom were founded. However, in times where the ideological gap between West and East was about to develop into the Cold War, this international orientation towards (alliance among) the USA, France, Great Britain and similar countries – which was especially furthered (enhanced) because of historical experiences – went along with a decision against the Soviet Union. This, in turn, eventually ended many Germans’ hopes for an undivided Germany.
Adenauer also put a lot of effort into Germany´s reconciliation with Israel and Jews in general.
Furthermore, a tremendous growth of the country´s economy could be achieved by setting up the system of the social market economy, strongly influenced by Adenauer´s successor as a chancellor, Ludwig Erhard.
As controversial as he is, whether you appreciate his actions or not, Konrad Adenauer said himself: “Take the human beings as they are, there are no others.”