Konrad Adenauer

Konrad Adenauer in Europe

Life and Work of konrad Adenauer (1876-1967)

The Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union describes konrad adenauer (1876-1967) in the following terms: [1] In the chaos of post-war Germany Konrad Adenauer, in his 70s and with impeccable anti-Nazi credentials (having narrowly escaped death at the hands of the Gestapo), had the qualities of shrewdness, energy and unobtrusive determination that his country needed. He was known with affectionate respect as Der Alte (‘the old man’), a tribute to his connection to a pre-Hitler era, as well as to his authoritarian ways. As founder and chairman of the Christian Democratic Union, he helped to negotiate the constitution of the new Federal Republic of Germany and in 1949 he became the first federal chancellor, a position he held for 14 years.

Reconciliation with France was at the centre of Adenauer’s policy. In 1950 he informally suggested a complete union of France and Germany; in 1951 he signed the Treaty of Paris, under which French and German coal and steel production were placed under the common supranational authority of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) – a project on which he had collaborated closely with the French foreign minister Robert Schuman and with Jean Monnet, the arch-apostle of European integration. In 1957 he signed the Community’s founding Treaty of Rome; in 1959 he solved the vexed question of the Saarland, which lay in the French zone of occupied Germany, persuading France to allow it to be reincorporated into West Germany; and in 1963 he signed with Charles de Gaulle the Franco-German friendship treaty known as the Treaty of the Elysée.

All this time Germany’s economy was recovering dramatically under the guidance of Adenauer’s economics minister, Ludwig Erhard, while the Cold War placed the country in the Western front line against Soviet communism, easing international acceptance of its membership of NATO. In 1955, two years after Stalin’s death, Adenauer was able to negotiate the return of German prisoners of war from the Soviet Union. He cultivated good relations with the USA and the UK, the latter despite a bizarre episode in 1945, when the British had harshly dismissed him as Mayor of Cologne on a trivial pretext. His Christian capitalist creed made him an uncompromising opponent of communism and convinced him that the purpose of German strategy must be to anchor the country in the West and find rehabilitation through suppressing German nationalism within a unified Europe. Like his near contemporary Walter Hallstein and his later successor Helmut Kohl, he well understood the political dimensions of economic actions, describing the foundation of the ECSC in 1951 as ‘the beginning of a federal structure of Europe’.

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Notas y References

  1. Based on the book “A Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union from Aachen to Zollverein”, by Rodney Leach (Profile Books; London)

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