Konrad Adenauer

Konrad Adenauer : Nazi Germany

Konrad Adenauer was born in Germany in 1876. He studied at Freiburg University before becoming a lawyer in Cologne. In 1917 Adenauer became Mayor of Cologne.

Adenauer, a member of the Catholic Centre Party, was elected to the Provincial Diet and in 1920 became President of the Prussian State Council. A strong opponent of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, Adenauer was imprisoned in 1934. He was released but was arrested by the Gestapo in September 1944 and accused of being involved in the July Plot.

After the war Adenauer was briefly Mayor of Cologne but was removed by the British authorities for alleged inefficiency. In 1945 he helped establish the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and in 1949 became the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). He held power for the next fourteen years and during that time played an important role in restoring good relations with France and the United States.

In 1950 Adenauer appointed Walter Hallstein as undersecretary of state and was leader of the German delegation at the Schuman Plan Conference. In this post he developed what became known as the Hallstein Doctrine. According to this doctrine, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) had exclusive right to represent the entire German nation. Except for the Soviet Union, the government refused to maintain diplomatic relations with states that recognized the German Democratic Republic (East Germany).

Konrad Adenauer, who retired from office in October 1963, died in 1967.

Primary Sources

(1) Konrad Adenauer, Memoirs 1945-53 (12th July, 1952)

At the end of September 1944 I was arrested again and sent to the Gestapo prison at Brauweiler, near Cologne, after a rather exciting escape from the concentration camp on the Cologne Fair Grounds where I had been taken during the aftermath of the attempt on Hitler's life of 20 July 1944. When I arrived, the commissar in charge of the prison asked me please not to take my own life as this would only cause trouble for him.

I asked him what made him think that I might take my life. He replied that as I was now nearly seventy years old and had nothing more to expect from life, it seemed reasonable to suppose that I would put an end to it. I told him not to worry: I would not cause him any trouble.

During the following weeks the Americans were approaching the Rhine from the West. All inmates of the prison, myself included of course, were led to a wall in the garden and told that we would be put against that wall and shot as soon as the Americans crossed the Erft, a small tributary of the Rhine about ten or fifteen miles from Brauweiler. No one would make much fuss about our deaths.

(2) Konrad Adenauer, speech in Cologne (October, 1945)

The winter ahead of us will be very hard. We must above all provide food, fuel, and housing. We - you and we - will do everything in our power to create conditions that are at least tolerable. It will not be possible to do this to the extent you and we would like. But - and I am now addressing myself not to this hall alone but to all the citizens of Cologne - I ask all our fellow-citizens always to remember this: the guilty, those responsible for this unspeakable suffering, this indescribable misery, are those accursed men who came to power in the fatal year 1933. It was they who dishonoured the German name throughout the world and covered it with shame, who destroyed our Reich, who, when their own well deserved perdition was certain, systematically and deliberately plunged our misguided and paralysed people into the deepest misery. They did this not, as is often assumed, so that the German people should perish with them - though that idea may also have influenced them in their decisions and actions; they intended something much more devilish: they wanted and they still want the thought of revenge and retribution to re-animate the German people against its wartime opponents.

(3) Konrad Adenauer, letter to the Oberburgermeister of Duisburg (31st October, 1945)

Russia holds the Eastern half of Germany, Poland, the Balkans, apparently Hungary, and a part of Austria. Russia is withdrawing more and more from cooperation with the other great powers and directs affairs in the countries dominated by her entirely as she sees fit. The countries ruled by her are already governed by economic and political principles that are totally different from those accepted in the rest of Europe. Thus the division of Europe into Eastern Europe, the Russian territory, and Western Europe is a fact.

Britain and France are the leading great powers in Western Europe. The part of Germany not occupied by Russia is an integral part of Western Europe. If it remains crippled the consequences for the whole of Western Europe, and that includes Britain and France, will be terrible. It is in the real interests not only of that part of Germany but also of Britain and France, to unite Europe under their leadership, and politically and economically to pacify and restore to health the part of Germany not occupied by Russia. The separation of the Rhineland and Westphalia from Germany does not serve this purpose; it would have the opposite effect. It would bring about a political orientation towards the East of the part of Germany not occupied by the Russians.

In the long run the French and Belgian demand for security can only be met by the economic integration of Western Germany, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Holland. If Britain, too, were to decide to participate in this economic integration, we would be much closer to the ultimate goal of a Union of the States of Western Europe.

(4) Konrad Adenauer, speech in Berne (23rd March, 1949)

We live in disturbed times. New problems arise every day, developments never stand still. Despite the number and variety of problems, every responsible person must realize that for the present and coming generation there is now only one main problem, and it is this: the world has seen the formation of two power-groups. On one side there is the group of powers led by the United States of America and united in the Atlantic Pact. This group defends the values of Christian and Western civilization, freedom, and true democracy. On the other side there is Soviet Russia with her satellites.

The line dividing these two groups of powers runs right down the centre of Germany. Twenty million Germans live under Soviet rule, about 43 million in the orbit of the Atlantic bloc.

These 43 million Germans in the area of the Atlantic bloc possess the most important mineral deposits and the greatest European industrial potential. But this area, the three Western zones of Germany, is in a state of disorder that is in the long run untenable. Even today a very considerable part of these 43 million live in such abject housing conditions, such a state of legal bondage as may have been imaginable in the Balkans a hundred years ago but would hardly have been thought possible in central Europe for centuries.

It is impossible to understand the present condition of Germany without a brief survey of what happened after 1945. The unconditional surrender of the German armed forces in May 1945 was interpreted by the Allies to mean a complete transfer of governmental authority into their hands. This interpretation was wrong from the point of view of international law. By it the Allies in practice assumed a task which it was impossible for them to fulfil. I consider it to have been a grave mistake. They would have been unable to solve this task with the best will in the world. There was bound to be failure and this failure badly affected the prestige of the Allies in Germany. It would have been wiser if the Allies had, after a short intermediate state due to the confusion left by the war, let the Germans order their affairs and had confined themselves to supervision. Their attempt to govern this large disorganized country from outside, often guided by extraneous political and economic criteria of their own, was bound to fail. It brought about a rapid economic, physical, and psychological disintegration of the Germans which might have been avoided. It also seems that intentions such as had once been manifested in the Morgenthau Plan played their part. This continued until the Marshall Plan brought the turning point. The Marshall Plan will remain for all time a glorious page in the history of the United States of America. But the change was very slow and the economic, physical, moral, and political decline of Germany which had begun with the unconditional surrender took great efforts to reverse.

(5) Konrad Adenauer was interviewed by Joseph Kingsbury-Smith (7th March, 1950)

A union between France and Germany would give new life and vigour to a Europe that is seriously ill. It would have an immense psychological and material influence and would liberate powers that are sure to save Europe. I believe this is the only possible way of achieving the unity of Europe. It would cause the rivalry between the two countries to disappear.

(6) Konrad Adenauer was interviewed by Joseph Kingsbury-Smith (21st March, 1950)

A union such as I am suggesting is already coming into effect in the Benelux countries. The Scandinavian countries, as well as France and Italy, are contemplating similar measures. I therefore believe that these countries will welcome the union between France and Germany that I am proposing. They will surely be prepared to join such a union. If Great Britain really sees herself as a European power, she could occupy the place inside the framework of the United Nations of Europe that corresponds to her position and strength.

The union I am proposing would also provide an incentive to the Marshall Plan. France and Germany would be the first countries to reach the goals envisaged by the fathers of the Marshall Plan and would smooth a path for the other participants. In this way the American people would see some real returns for the billions of dollars they have given to Europe, because there would be a genuine and significant contribution from within to the reconstruction and unification of Europe.

The Council of Europe would likewise benefit from a union between France and Germany. The Council's effectiveness has been limited by the absence of a real understanding between France and Germany. It seems to me that no sensible person can fail to recognize that the union here proposed will give new strength and new life to the idea of European unification.

I am firmly convinced that the union of the two nations will considerably raise the standard of living of both parts. The bigger an economic area is, the better it can be developed. The United States of America proves that. As I see it, this union could save the civilization of the West from decline. The cross-fertilization between France and Germany would undoubtedly give an extraordinary impetus to the cultural achievements of the two peoples. It would be another respect in which a Franco-German union would prove a signpost of our epoch.

(7) Konrad Adenauer, Memoirs 1945-53 (12th July, 1952)

I am a German, but I am also, and always have been, a European and have always felt like a European. I have therefore long advocated an understanding with France; I did so, moreover, in the 1920s, during the severest crises, and also in the face of the Reich Government. I always urged a reasonable understanding that would do justice to the interests of both countries. After the First World War I advocated a plan for an organic integration of the French, Belgian, and German economies for the safeguarding of a durable peace. In my view parallel, unified economic interests are and always will be the healthiest and most lasting foundation for good political relations between peoples. Despite the misery prevailing in Europe I saw great possibilities for the future of Western Europe. The unification of Europe seemed far more feasible now than in the 1920s. The idea of international cooperation between peoples must succeed.

I thought a great deal about the problem of a United States of Europe with Germany as a part. In a future United States of Europe I saw the greatest and most lasting security for Germany's western neighbours. The French fear of German resurgence which caused France to press for a policy of dismemberment of Germany seemed to be altogether exaggerated. After 1945 Germany lay prostrate - militarily, economically and politically - and in my opinion this condition was a sufficient guarantee that Germany could not again threaten France. In the future United States of Europe I saw great hope for Europe and thus for Germany. We had to try to remind France, Holland, Belgium, and the other European countries that they were - as we were - situated in Western Europe, that they are and will forever remain our neighbours, that any violence they do to us must in the end lead to trouble, and that no lasting peace can be established in Europe if it is founded on force alone. General de Gaulle had recognized this in his speech at Saarbriicken in August 1945: "Frenchmen and Germans must let bygones be bygones, must work together, and must remember that they are Europeans." These words gave me great hope for Germany and for the realization of my hopes for a united Europe.

(8) Konrad Adenauer, speech (12th July, 1952)

It is my opinion and belief that the parliaments of the six European countries which will have to deal with this European Coal and Steel Community realise exactly what it is all about and that in particular they realise that the political goal, the political meaning of the European Coal and Steel Community, is infinitely larger than its economic purpose.

Something further has resulted during the negotiations, I believe that for the first time in history, certainly in the history of the last centuries, countries want to renounce part of their sovereignty, voluntarily and without compulsion, in order to transfer the sovereignty to a supranational structure.

(9) Konrad Adenauer, Memoirs 1945-1953 (1966)

In my opinion the European nation states had a past but no future. This applied in the political and economic as well as in the social sphere. No single European country could guarantee a secure future to its people by its own strength. I regarded the Schuman Plan and the European Defence Community as preliminary steps to a political unification of Europe. In the EDO Treaty there was a specific provision for a controlling body, the so-called Parliamentary Assembly - incidentally the same assembly that exercised the parliamentary controlling function in the Coal and Steel Community - to examine the questions arising from the parallelism of diverse existing or future organisations for European cooperation, with a view to securing their coordination in the framework of a federal or confederate structure.

The military aspect was only one dimension of a nascent Europe, or, more rightly at first, Western Europe. If a perfect partnership was to be achieved within Western Europe, one could not stop with defence.

After twelve years of National Socialism there simply were no perfect solutions for Germany and certainly none for a divided Germany. There was very often only the policy of the lesser evil.

We were a small and very exposed country. By our own strength we could achieve nothing. We must not be a no-man's-land between East and West for then we would have friends nowhere and a dangerous neighbour in the East. Any refusal by the Federal Republic to make common cause with Europe would have been German isolationism, a dangerous escape into inactivity. There was a cherished political illusion in the Federal Republic in those years: many people believed that America was in any case tied to Europe or even to the Elbe. American patience, however, had its limits. My motto was 'Help yourself and the United States will help you'. . .

There were those in Germany who thought that for us the choice was either a policy for Europe or a policy for German unity. I considered this 'either/or' a fatal error. Nobody could explain how German unity in freedom was to be achieved without a strong and united Europe. When I say 'in freedom' I mean freedom before, during and above all after all- German elections. No policy is made with wishes alone and even less from weakness. Only when the West was strong might there be a genuine point of departure for peace negotiations to free not only the Soviet zone but all of enslaved Europe east of the iron curtain, and free it peacefully. To take the road that led into the European Community appeared to me the best service we could render the Germans in the Soviet zone.