KONRAD ADENAUER (1876-1976) German
The statesman who paved the way for Germany to play a stellar role in the post-War European politics began his career as a municipal official at the age of 69 (The Chief Mayor of Cologne). The United States, which liberated Cologne, appointed Adenauer mayor again, but he was dismissed soon afterwards by the British military government. Adenauer set about forming a new political party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). In 1948, he was made president of the parliamentary council, which drew up a constitution for the three western zones occupied by the French, British and Americans. The Soviets occupied the eastern zone of Germany and installed a Communist government.
Adenauer was elected chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany on 15 September 1949. His main aim was to ensure West Germany’s transition to a sovereign, democratic state. Military occupation of West Germany ended in 1952 and in 1955 West Germany was recognised internationally as an independent nation. It joined NATO in 1955 and the European Economic Community in 1957.
Adenauer put an end of 100 years of hostility that existed between his country and France. He opened diplomatic relations with the USSR and eastern European communist nations, but refused to recognize the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). Adenauer also negotiated a compensation agreement with Israel in recognition of the crimes perpetrated against Jews by the Nazis. Ironically this invited an assassination attempt* against him.
He was the oldest chancellor ever to serve Germany, beginning his first ministry at the age of 73 and leaving at the age of 87.
Adenauer retired as chancellor in 1963, remaining head of the CDU until 1966. He died near Bonn on 20 April 1967.
On 27 March 1952, a package addressed to Chancellor Adenauer exploded in the Munich Police Headquarters, killing one Bavarian police officer. Investigations led to people closely related to the Herut Party and the former Irgun armed organization. The West German government kept all proof under seal in order to prevent antisemitic responses in his country. Five Israeli suspects were identified by French and German investigators.
One of the participants, Eliezer Sudit, later revealed that Menachem Begin (who would later become the Prime Minister of Israel) was the mastermind. Begin had been the former commander of Irgun (disbanded in 1948) and at that time headed Herut and was a member of the Knesset. His goal was to put pressure on the German government and prevent the signing of the Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany, which he vehemently opposed.
David Ben-Gurion, Prime Minister of Israel, appreciated Adenauer’s response in playing down the affair and not pursuing it further, as it would have burdened the relationship between the two new states.