Konrad Adenauer

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Reconstruction and Basic Law

Chancellor Konrad Adenauer making a press statement on the terrace of Villa Hammerschmidt, the official residence of the President of Germany

Konrad Adenauer making a press statement

Photo: Bundesregierung/Unterberg

Konrad Adenauer (CDU) was elected as the first Federal Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany in September 1949. He held office for 14 years and shaped Germany in its founding years.

The reconstruction of democratic and economic structures in West Germany after the Second World War is inextricably linked with the name of Konrad Adenauer.

Even before the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany, Konrad Adenauer had an important role to play in the drafting of the Basic Law (Grundgesetz): He was the president of the “Parliamentary Council”.

Reconciliation with France and founding of the EEC

Chancellor Konrad Adenauer (left) and Charles de Gaulle, the President of France, after the signing of the Elysée Treaty

The signing of the Elysée Treaty

Photo: Bundesregierung/Schwahn

Konrad Adenauer made sure that the newly founded nation was firmly embedded within the community of free countries in the West. When, shortly after the end of the Second World War, confrontation between the West and the East seemed inevitable, it was Adenauer who integrated West Germany into the Western democracies.

One of his most important foreign policy projects was reconciliation with France. This was a historic feat given the three wars that had been waged between the two neighbours in the period since 1870.

It was during Adenauer’s period in office that West Germany and France became founding members of the European Economic Community (EEC), out of which today’s European Union has arisen. West Germany joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in 1955. Admission to this military alliance was accompanied by the founding of the Bundeswehr.

Integration into the Western community

Children standing directly beneath an aeroplane that is coming in to land, 1948

"Rosinenbomber" over Berlin

Photo: Deutsches Historisches Museum

Konrad Adenauer was also responsible for cementing the good, friendly relations with the United States of America that had already been in evidence during what became known as the Berlin Blockade. In 1948 the Soviet Union blocked all access routes to Berlin, as a result of which the United States and the United Kingdom launched the Berlin Airlift.

For nearly a year they flew in all the supplies the city needed – from coal to bread – in planes that were dubbed “Rosinenbomber” (literally “raisin bombers”, also known as “Candy Bombers”). The close partnership between the United States and the Federal Republic of Germany that emerged was to be one of the key conditions for Germany’s reunification in peace and freedom.

Together with the Israeli Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, Konrad Adenauer laid the foundations for German-Jewish reconciliation – virtually an insoluble problem following the murder of millions of Jews by National Socialist Germany.

Expellees and prisoners of war

Chancellor Konrad Adenauer (centre) with returning German prisoners of war

Adenauer talking to returning German prisoners of war

Photo: Bundesregierung/Unterberg

During Adenauer’s chancellorship nearly eight million expellees and war refugees were integrated into West Germany: After the Second World War Germany had to relinquish nearly one quarter of its territory – and accommodate most of the Germans living there on the remaining territory.

In 1955 Chancellor Adenauer travelled to Moscow to take up diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union. As a result the last German prisoners of war were brought back to Germany from the Soviet Union.

In addition, it was during Adenauer’s period in office that the undreamt-of economic upswing began. By introducing dynamic pensions, legal protection for expectant and nursing mothers, and paid sick-leave the government also ensured that many people were covered against risks and were able to share in the economic upturn.