Konrad Adenauer

Version française

Le Chemin de Mémoire Home

Born in January 1876, Konrad Adenauer, a devout Roman Catholic, became a lawyer in Cologne after graduating in law and politics in 1900. He began to move into politics, becoming Vice-Mayor of Cologne in 1909 and Mayor by 1917. During the First World War he worked hard to ensure that Cologne did not suffer the food shortages that affected many other cities in Germany.

After the war, as Mayor, Adenauer worked with the British who occupied Cologne, and he later looked after the interests of the Rhineland.

With the coming to power of the Nazis, Adenauer initially attempted to work with them but quickly realised that this was futile. He was then dismissed as Mayor and by the end of the Second World War he had been arrested three times.

After the war, Adenauer was reinstated by the Americans as Mayor of a much destroyed Cologne, only to be removed again when the British took over. However, this left him free to follow a different path and he created a new party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which included both Protestants and Catholics. Then in 1949, as leader of the CDU, he was appointed the first Chancellor of post-war Germany, a position he held until 1963.

Adenauer was key in integrating Germany with Western states as he believed that the greatest risk to Germany was communism. This included fighting for the end of denazification which he believed was holding the country back; for rearmament of Germany; and NATO membership to support the West in the Cold War. He is the author of Germany's recovery and of its Atlanticist and European anchorage. Together with General de Gaule, he was one of the main promoters of the reconciliation between France and Germany.

It was under Adenauer that the European Coal and Steel Community treaty, and on 24 March 1957, the treaty of Rome were signed which led to the creation of the European Union. He is considered one of the main founders of the European construction. In 2003, Adenauer was selected as the greatest German of all time in a contest organised by the German television broadcaster ZDF, in which more than 3,000,000 people voted.