Myth of the 20th Century Episode 49: Konrad Adenauer – First Chancellor of West Germany

Social Matter
December 23, 2017

Welcome to the Myth of the 20th Century. The podcast airs on Fridays.

— Brought to you by —

Adam Smith, Nick Mason, Hank Oslo, Hans Lander and Alex Nicholson

Notes:

Emerging from the ruins of World War II, West Germany elected Konrad Adenauer as Chancellor in 1949, noting his capable management as Mayor of Cologne during the first World War on through 1920s. Having maintained a good working relationship with British occupation forces in 1919 and being cast out of government during the Nazi regime, Adenauer was also viewed favorably by Western Allies during the 1950s – so much so that the United States under the Marshall Plan slowed the rate of German de-industrialization and allowed the creation of the new Budeswehr army to be incorporated into NATO. Seeking to ease tensions with former rivals, Adenauer formed a strong relationship with Charles DeGaulle, working with France to create the European Coal and Steel Community, precursor to the EU, and negotiated the return of 10,000 German POWs from the USSR. By the time of his death in 1967, Germany had enjoyed a sharp economic resurgence from the depths of starvation, and Germans viewed him as one of their greatest leaders of all time, having restored their place among the community of European nations following the Second World War. Bigger questions remained, however – particularly surrounding German independence. Absent the Cold War and greater geopolitics of the time pitting the Western Powers against the Soviet Union – would Germany have ever been allowed to rise as it had?

Timeline: 

1876 – Konrad Hermann Joseph Adenauer born in Cologne, Germany.
1906 – Adenauer elected to the Cologne city council.
1917 – After election to the mayoral office of Cologne, Adenauer begins economic and infrastructure development campaign, quickly transforms it into economic powerhouse.
1919 – Pushes for Rhennish Republic and scaling down the Prussian state, growing his public persona in the Rhineland and across Germany.
1923 – Adenauer once again pushes for a decentralization of the German state and promotes more autonomy for the Rhineland, pursiing a relationship with France.
1926 – Adenauer joins the Centre Party, a staunchly Catholic political party in Germany.
1929 – The financial fortunes of the Adenauer family are nearly destroyed by the 1929 Crash, and are only saved with the help of Deutschebank.
1944 – As the internal dynamics of Germany deteriorate and the war begins coming to a close, Adenauer is thrown into a concentration camp for suspected subversive activities against the Third Reich
1955 – The era of Bezatsungzeit, also known as the “Occupation Period”, is declared over by Adenauer, who reasserts West Germany’s sovereignty.
1963 – Adenauer resigns as Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany after having served 14 consecutive years.
1966 – Still maintaining a prominent role in German politics up to this point, Adenauer finally relinquishes control over the Christian Democratic Union party.
1967 – Konrad Adenauer dies in his remote villa surrounded by his loved ones.

References: 

– Practical Idealism, Kalergi (1925)
– Günter Gaus im Gespräch mit Konrad Adenauer (1965) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90EVIH4KZsc
– The Economic Development of Postwar Germany, Dinan (1993) – http://www.socialstudies.org/sites/default/files/publications/se/5704/570405.html
– Konrad Adenauer: A German Politician and Statesman in a Period of War, Revolution and Reconstruction : From the German Empire to the Federal Republic, 1876-1952 (Vol 1), Schwarz (1995)
– Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947, Clark (2009)
– For Further Reading on Germany History and the legacy of the HRE: Heart of Europe: A History of the Holy Roman Empire, Wilson (2016)
– Weimerica Weekly – Episode 44 – Three Comrades, Landry (2016) – http://www.socialmatter.net/2016/10/26/weimerica-weekly-episode-44-three-comrades/
– Germany’s Postwar Growth: Economic Miracle or Reconstruction Boom?, Reichel – https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/4413/74be516c25ed2e9e2e8ae71bf0dec2ad9db8.pdf
– American Journalists interview Chancellor Konrad Adenauer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rHqsO1mIbA
– Adenauer – Germany Reborn – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cK1r4Xw4LQo
– German Economic Miracle, Henderson – http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/GermanEconomicMiracle.html
– Morgenthau Plan, Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morgenthau_Plan
– Marshall Plan, Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_Plan

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