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Konrad Adenauer

German statesman

Died when: 91 years 104 days (1095 months)
Star Sign: Capricorn

 

Konrad Adenauer

Konrad Hermann Joseph Adenauer (German: [ˈkɔnʁaːt ˈʔaːdənaʊɐ] (); 5 January 1876 – 19 April 1967) was a German statesman who served as the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) from 1949 to 1963.

From 1946 to 1966, he was the first leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), a Christian democratic party he co-founded, which under his leadership became the dominant force in the country.

A devout Roman Catholic and member of the Catholic Centre Party, Adenauer was a leading politician in the Weimar Republic, serving as Mayor of Cologne (1917–1933) and as president of the Prussian State Council (1922–1933).

In the early years of the Federal Republic he switched focus from denazification to recovery and led his country from the ruins of World War II to becoming a productive and prosperous nation that forged close relations with France, the United Kingdom and the United States.

During his years in power, West Germany achieved democracy, stability, international respect and economic prosperity ("Wirtschaftswunder", German for "economic miracle").

Adenauer belied his age by his intense work habits and his uncanny political instinct.He displayed a strong dedication to a broad vision of market-based liberal democracy and anti-communism.

A shrewd and strategic politician, Adenauer was deeply committed to a Western-oriented foreign policy and restoring the position of West Germany on the world stage.

He worked to restore the West German economy from the destruction of World War II to a central position in Europe, presiding over the German Economic Miracle together with his Minister of Economics, Ludwig Erhard, and a driving force in re-establishing national military forces (the Bundeswehr) and intelligence services (the Bundesnachrichtendienst) in West Germany in 1955 and 1956.

Adenauer opposed recognition of rival German Democratic Republic or the Oder-Neisse line, skillfully used in electoral campaigns against the SPD - more sympathetic to co-existence with the GDR and the post-war borders - and made West Germany a member of NATO.

Although also a proponent of European unity, Adenauer pursued strong Atlanticist links with the United States as counterbalance to France, a strong military and nuclear power by the end of his term.

Adenauer, who resigned as Chancellor at age 87 and remained head of the governing CDU until his retirement at 90, was often dubbed "Der Alte" ("the old one").

British politician and historian Roy Jenkins says he was "the oldest statesman ever to function in elected office." He remains the oldest head of government for a major country in modern European history.


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